Review Date: January 1, 2002
Released by: TVA International
Release date: 10/23/2001
MSRP: $33.95 (Canadian)
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen: 1.77:1 | 16x9: Yes
The Canadian film Ginger Snaps is one of the most talked-about horror films in recent years. What makes it so interesting is that the movie received little to no publicity in the United States; it's reputation has spread solely by word of mouth. Unfortunately, for those of us in the "Lower 48", we've been stuck with a less than adequate version of this movie on DVD by Artisan Entertainment. Many fans have obtained a Canadian version from TVA International in Toronto. This disc boasts a widescreen transfer, 5.1 Dolby Digital sound, and an amazing slew of extras. Is it worth tracking down this disc from the Great White North? The short answer is a resounding "Yes!" But for those who still aren't sure, read on…
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.
My first experience with Ginger Snaps was in a full-frame version. I was more than a little irked with that, knowing a widescreen anamorphic presentation existed. Now, I know that this film was shot open matte, but it's quite obvious that the cinematographer intended for this to be shown in a 1.77:1 ratio. You'll see proof of this in some of the supplemental features. But to make it clear, I've done screen shots of the exact same scene in both versions. Not only does the widescreen edition exhibit more information on the sides, but the composition improves without the needless information on the top and bottom. The proper ratio is the biggest draw here, but the anamorphic transfer also adds even more clarity, as well as sharper colors (or since this is a Canadian film, sharper COLOURS).
Seeing this movie in it's intended visual presentation was nice little improvement, so what's it like to see it in it's proper audio presentation? Absolutely amazing! The 5.1 Dolby Digital adds so much to Ginger Snaps. My favorite use of Dolby Digital is to add subtleties in the sound mix, and that's precisely what's done here. The surrounds get most of their use in the attack scenes. Check out the sequence where Ginger is attacked by the creature (Chapter 5). Clever use of the sound of footsteps enhance the sudden lonely and confused feeling Brigitte gets when her sister disappears. Again, I think this is a proper use of surround sound. In some ways, it was almost like seeing a completely different film, as sound is one of the ways we experience a movie.
In addition to this reference quality 5.1 track, there's a 5.1 track in French (remember, this IS Canada), as well as the 2.0 track heard on the Artisan disc (there's a French dub of this one too). Those of you who haven't made the jump to 5.1 Dolby Digital sound yet will be sorely missing a great audio experience.
OK, this is gonna take a while. TVA loaded this one up big time with the supplements. We'll tackle the biggest one first: Two separate commentaries, one from director John Fawcett, and one from screenwriter Karen Walton. Both of these are quite good, with Fawcett's a little more interesting. He avoids a lot of the typical "the guy third from the left is my second cousin's nephew…" prattle and mostly talks about what his intentions were with each scene. He says "This is my favorite scene…" a few times too many, but it's an informative commentary, active throughout, with very few quiet patches.
Walton's commentary is slightly more dry (and apparently high school wasn't a lot of fun for her). Still, it's enjoyable as well, as she gives a lot of insight into plot structure and character development. I'd highly recommend that any aspiring screenwriters give this a listen, as it's an exhaustive discussion of the writing and re-writing that goes into a motion picture
Next up are several deleted scenes, and both Fawcett and Walton give commentary on these as well. I definitely agree with almost all of these removals; most of the scenes bring up sudden new subplots or give unneeded backstory. Fawcett doesn't complain much about the deletion of the scenes, and that gives me a little more respect for him. I like a director who will admit he may have made a mistake. I wish more directors would develop a similar sense of self-censorship. Sometimes, less is more.
Emily Perkins and Katherine Isabelle are great of course, but how did they get their parts, and how did they prepare for the film? Well, you get all the answers here. There's audition tapes of both girls (nice 'do, Emily), as well as some very basic rehearsal footage (and if you look for it, you can find some rehearsal fun and games). These sections are great, as it shows how much time and effort the actors put into their roles. And besides, you can see that Emily Perkins can in fact smile.
The final bit of live action behind-the-scenes footage is a short featurette, and a brief documentary on the creation of the wolf creatures used for the film. The beast creation segment could have been a little longer, but I'm certainly not going to complain here - there's more than SEVEN HOURS of movie, deleted scenes, commentaries, and extras.
But that's still not all; next up are some photo galleries. The ones everyone will want to check out are the photos of Brigitte and Ginger's class project (these were the photos shown during the opening credits). There are production photos of some of the props used as well. Also worth viewing is a set of storyboard sketches for two scenes: The attack on Ginger from the beginning, and the final battle. But you'll have to search the disc to find these…
If you're not completely worn out by this time, you can view a few trailers and TV spots, as well as cast and crew biographies. To sum up, this is simply an amazing special edition, especially for a independent horror film that didn't exactly light up the box office (at least in the United States). You have to really look hard to find anything wrong with this disc. Probably the only complaint I have (and this to be sure is a minor complaint) is the slow animated menus that make navigating a time-consuming process. Again though, that's only if you put a gun to my head and forced me to find something wrong with this DVD.
Whew. There sure is a lot on this disc. I know of a lot of recent big-budget Hollywood films that didn't get this much attention on DVD. But despite the plethora of extras, what stands out most on this disc is the anamorphic widescreen presentation and the 5.1 Dolby Digital audio. Seeing all the love that went into this film and finally getting a proper presentation has actually increased my respect for the film, thus the higher rating. I'd also like to point out that in no way am I denigrating Artisan Entertainment, and I'm aware that they may not have had the access to the special features that TVA did. But I have to say that the Canadian release from TVA is just so many times better than Artisan's. Ginger Snaps is one of the more imaginative horror films to come out in the last few years, and is a worthy edition to everyone's collection. The high quality and wealth of extras make this a no-brainer: Buy TVA's release of Ginger Snaps.
Movie - B
Image Quality - A-
Sound - A
Supplements - A+
- Running Time - 1 hour 48 minutes
- Rated 18A
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- 5.1 English Dolby Digital
- 5.1 French Dolby Digital
- 2.0 English Dolby
- 2.0 French Dolby
- Audio Commentary by Director John Fawcett
- Audio Commentary by Writer Karen Walton
- Deleted Scenes with separate audio commentary by director and writer
- Cast Auditions and Rehearsals
- Creation of the Beast
- Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots
- Cast & Crew Biographies
- Photo Gallery
- Production Design Artwork