Review Date: December 9, 2001
Released by: Artisan
Release date: 10/23/2001
Region 1, NTSC
Full Frame 1.33:1
It really takes a discriminating taste to appreciate the finer things in life. I'm talking about 3-down football on 110-yard fields, The Tragically Hip, and ending every sentence with "eh?". Yes, Canada is indeed a cultural beacon. Their newest non-hockey related export is an update on the old werewolf movie: a film called Ginger Snaps. It's got fresh young faces, and pokes fun at some old horror genres. Uh oh…haven't we been here before? Well, yes, but sometimes it can be done right.
The Fitzgerald sisters, Brigitte and Ginger (Emily Perkins, Katherine Isabelle) aren't exactly the most popular girls in school. They're Gothic and moody, have suicidal tendencies, and delight in photographic essays in which they stage their own deaths. Who wouldn't want to be friends with them? Perhaps even more disturbing than the death fixation, though, is their mother's (Mimi Rogers) obsession with the girls' yet-to-appear menstrual cycles.
Well, much to Ginger's dismay (and you knew something was going to be up with this girl just by the title), she finally does begin her period, at the time the girls are playing a prank on their field hockey nemesis Trina (Danielle Hampton). Yet that's a minor problem. The major problem is the wolf-like creature that savagely attacks Ginger. Brigitte is able to pull her sister to safety, but not until the creature has nearly killed her.
Ginger's wounds heal quickly. REAL quickly. As in a matter of minutes. It's not long after that she begins to change dramatically. She's no longer the shy quiet girl whose only friend is her sister. She becomes sexy and popular. Now, everyone figures the change is due to Ginger finally reaching puberty, but Brigitte knows better. Ginger is rapidly developing characteristics not usually associated with womanhood (well, at least not human womanhood). Her teeth are growing sharper, her entire body is becoming hairy, and there's the unfortunate issue of her new tail…
Ginger soon begins to shred apart her enemies (both human and animal), and Brigitte helps cover up the remains, at least until she can find a cure for Ginger's malady. Local drug dealer Sam (Kris Lemche) lends a hand as well, coming up with possible chemical solutions. It's up to him and Brigitte to stop Ginger from turning the entire student body and faculty into shreds.
Ginger Snaps is an interesting film. It's sure not a great film; the middle section drags along quite a bit, and when Brigitte and Sam finally develop a possible cure, it takes them nearly forever to get it to Ginger. It seems like Brigitte is running around in circles, intentionally leaving Ginger (c'mon, you KNOW she's gonna get out and kill more people), rather than simply bringing her sister to Sam's to get the cure. OK, characters in horror movies are not usually known for their intelligent actions, but still…
But those are small complaints in what is overall a well made film. This movie could easily fall into the traps that so many of today's horror films do, but director John Fawcett manages to avoid that for the most part. One annoying facet of recent horror movies is the way everyone involved treats it so tongue-in-cheek. I think it takes a LOT more talent as an actor to convey believability of the plot, rather than poke fun at the cliches. Here, the actors do a great job without calling too much attention to themselves. Katherine Isabelle is great as Ginger, and realistically beautiful, as opposed to the unbelievably gorgeous starlets that appear in today's horror films. Emily Perkins (who horror fans may remember as the young Beverly Marsh in the TV miniseries IT) steals the show as the withdrawn younger sister. Her eyes get so wide in fear, Jessica Harper from Suspiria would be jealous.
I also like the update of the werewolf tale. Not too many directors attempt to resurrect this classic horror theme. You can expect a vampire re-working at least every year, Frankenstein gets re-done every two to three years, but werewolf films are few and far between. And it's pretty hard to improve on the two big 80s werewolf movies, The Howling and An American Werewolf in London. (And while good, Ginger Snaps is inferior to both). This one takes an interesting tack, comparing the change a girl goes through during puberty to a metamorphosis into a werewolf. Some of the aspects of that idea are a little too obvious (like Brigitte asking if "new hair" is normal with puberty), but I do like anyone trying to inject new life into a tired horror cliché.
Ginger Snaps is a big time sleeper film, getting a lot of "buzz" on Internet movie message boards. While I wouldn't assign the term "classic" to it, it's definitely a breath of fresh air in the genre. It sure has it's flaws (to be fair, it's the director's second full-length feature), but I hope that some people get a chance to see it. Maybe they'll get the message that fans want something more than cute actors and actresses from the WB poking fun at a genre that a lot of people really enjoy. And I'll bet Ginger Snaps cost a lot less than many of the recent big studio horror flops.
This is going to be a controversial facet of this release. Oh, the actual quality of the transfer is good. It's clear, though a bit soft and the colors are muted a little. A red tinge is apparent as well, and I think this is all due to original film elements. The controversy exists in that Artisan chose to use a non-anamorphic full frame print. To be honest, I'm not sure what the proper aspect ratio is. Artisan tells us the 1.33:1 ratio was the shooting ratio, but that's standard. Quite a few widescreen films are shot in that ratio and matted for theatrical release. That theatrical ratio is what fans (particularly those with 16x9 TVs) prefer. Now, since one of the companies that originally produced Ginger Snaps is the Canadian Television Fund, there's the possibility that this was originally intended to be made for television, which would explain the 1.33:1 ratio. I'll give Artisan the benefit of the doubt on this one, but if an anamorphic widescreen print is available, they should strive to preserve the original theatrical aspect ratio, especially since that's how it's presented on the Canadian DVD.
The sound on this disc is a very nice Dolby Digital 2.0. Dialogue is crisp and clear, music and effects are nice but not overbearing, and a fair amount of right/left panning is present. Unfortunately, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track on the Canadian disc has been omitted. That disc has both the 5.1 and 2.0 tracks. I'd like to have a choice. The track Artisan included is quite nice, but I'm curious about the 5.1 version.
I'm going to sound like a broken record here, but once again, the Canadian disc embarrasses this Artisan release. They provided two audio commentaries, deleted scenes, the works. Artisan just gave us a theatrical trailer. They didn't even provide a chapter selection menu. Now, I don't know what access Artisan had for the Ginger Snaps supplemental material, but it sure looks like they shortchanged the fans on this release. Perhaps they considered this a "lesser" title, not worthy of special edition status. Hopefully they'll revisit this title in the near future, otherwise United States fans will eschew this release and head north of the border.
Artisan has actually done a good job with a good movie, but I think they could have done a lot better. Ordinarily, this disc would get high ratings from me, but knowing there's an all-out special edition of this movie at practically the same price makes this disc hard to recommend. The lack of extras doesn't nearly bother me as much as the lack of a widescreen anamorphic print. Admittedly, I don't know why Artisan was unable to release a widescreen special edition, but that's what fans have come to expect. Artisan has done some fabulous DVDs in the past, I hope they get back with the program and re-release a better version of this interesting movie.
Movie - B-
Image Quality - C-
Sound - C-
Supplements - D
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- Dolby Digital 2.0