Arguably one of the most important Canadian horror films, Ginger Snaps stands tall next to films like Bob Clark’s Black Christmas, any of David Cronenberg’s features or My Bloody Valentine and has had a lasting impact that has not only benefited the Canadian film industry but influenced filmmakers working in horror cinema today. Second Sight Films have packaged this original film with its two sequels in a limited edition box set that brings the trilogy to HD for the first time in the UK. Prior to checking this set out, I’d only seen the first film so join me as I dive into the world of Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald, two sisters with an unlikely bond.
Director: John Fawcett
Screenplay: Karen Walton
Starring: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Kris Lemche and Mimi Rogers
Running Time: 108 min
One of my best friends in the world is from Canada. His name is Brady (hi, if you’re reading this!) and for years, he recommended one film to me over and over from his country. That film was Ginger Snaps, a horror-comedy that his opinion on grew over time, more and more. What initially came off as a really good horror film has slowly morphed into one of his favourite Canadian films of all time and I can see why.
Director John Fawcett set out to create a film that took advantage of the werewolf genre, which outside of John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London, really hadn’t impressed him very much. So with the help of writer Karen Walton, he got to work on his second feature, entitled Ginger Snaps.
The film follows sisters Brigitte and Ginger Fitzgerald, two teenage outsiders that don’t really fit in at school and have an obsession with death and violence. When out one night during the eve of her first period, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) is attacked by a wild creature and over the course of the next few days, slowly begins to transform into a werewolf. Brigitte (Emily Perkins) does what she can to help Ginger out, by researching monkshood, a plant that could potentially stop the transformation.
The film is an utter delight, which feels strange to say about something so tonally dark, although it has its fair share of humour to go alongside it. A lot of people describe the film as campy, which I don’t know if I’d agree with, but there’s definitely a sense of humour on display from the team behind it and Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle are fantastic in the lead roles. Isabelle ended up becoming a scream queen after the film released, starring in features such as American Mary, Freddy vs. Jason and See No Evil 2.
While not as in love with it as most people out there, I really like Ginger Snaps and can see why it resonated and connected with so many people out there. It’s a film that takes the pains of puberty and turns it into an allegory of transforming into a literal werewolf, something that has influenced films such as Karyn Kusama’s cult favourite Jennifer’s Body as well as more recent works such as the PIXAR film Turning Red. It’s a film that while not as mainstream as many horror films out there, has had a hand in influencing more than you’d expect.
Fawcett and Walton were able to successfully redefine the werewolf story and turn it into a coming-of-age film with a hard edge, plenty of humour and a relationship between the two sisters that’s heartfelt, authentic and believable. If you’re a fan of horror that operates less on gore and more on compelling characters, you’ll have a great time with Ginger Snaps.
Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed
Director: Brett Sullivan
Screenplay: Megan Martin
Starring: Emily Perkins, Tatiana Maslany, Eric Johnson and Katharine Isabelle
Running Time: 94 min
After the first film garnered quite a bit of controversy but was unsuccessful at the box office, Lionsgate took a risk and greenlit two sequels that would be created back-to-back and released within six months of each other. The first film of that pair would be Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed and this time, it was helmed by the original film’s editor Brett Sullivan.
This might be one of the biggest shocks, it definitely was to me because Ginger Snaps 2 is not only a great horror sequel, but it’s one of the rare films that might actually work better for me than the original. After the tragic events of the first film where Brigitte was struck with the same curse as her sister, we follow Brigitte as she fights off the oncoming effects of turning into a werewolf. She does this by self-harming and keeping a journal of how quickly she heals from it. While the first film operated on the subtext of Ginger going through her period and the changes that came from that affecting her, this film delves into a darker subject matter and relates self-harm to the loss of people close to you.
After having an encounter with a werewolf and passing out, Brigitte wakes up in a rehabilitation clinic and begs to be let free, as she wants to prevent her upcoming transformation but is unsuccessful. In the clinic, she meets a young girl named Ghost (played by She-Hulk’s Tatiana Maslany in an early role) who bonds with Brigitte and slowly becomes convinced that she’s indeed a werewolf. Ghost is obsessed with comic books, including ones about werewolves herself and has a fairly broken family life, with her grandmother being a burn victim at the very same rehab clinic so she turns to comic books as an escape, similar to Brigitte and in a sense, her self-harm.
The sisterly bond in the first film is reversed here, with Ghost feeling like a surrogate sister to Brigitte after the loss of Ginger, who she still sees in visions from time to time and it’s a really compelling and engaging narrative that I found effective. If I had to describe the tone or feel of this film in any way, it’s like the music genre nu-metal. It’s very of its time, in your face, grungy and while it won’t work for everybody, I really admired the feel of Ginger Snaps 2.
It’s easily the most dour film in the trilogy and has one of the most unfortunately tragic endings in any horror film I’ve watched recently, but if you can stomach some difficult subject matter and are in the mood for a sequel that expands on what the original created, but offering a fresh new spin, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed should hopefully satisfy fans of the original. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a film I enjoy even more than the original, with some excellent werewolf practical effects, a narrative that I found myself connecting to and great performances across the board. It’s a shame this film isn’t spoken about as much as the original, but hopefully now that this trilogy box set from Second Sight is available, more people will check this one out.
Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning
Director: Grant Harvey
Screenplay: Stephen Massicotte and Christina Ray
Starring: Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle
Running Time: 94 min
After how surprisingly great Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed was, I was excited to check out the third and final entry in the Ginger Snaps trilogy. Shot back-to-back with Unleashed and offering another new concept, the film had everything it needed to round out this trilogy in a satisfying manner. Unfortunately, Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning was a huge let-down for me and one of the most disappointing sequels I’ve watched in quite some time.
The film is a prequel to the first two features and takes place in the 19th century, following two ancestors of Brigitte and Ginger Fitzgerald called… Brigitte and Ginger Fitzgerald. They look identical, they’re played by the same actors, they have exactly the same characteristics but they’re different characters apparently. In the audio commentary track, director Grant Harvey jokes about how the original idea for this came about from making a remake of the original film where Ginger has a sword but honestly, that’s exactly what it comes across like.
Ginger Snaps Back virtually follows the same structure as the original film, but this time, it’s in a different location with a larger cast of characters, but a surprisingly lack of character. The sisters are living out in the wilderness until they come across a fort with numerous people living there. On their journey, they encounter Indigenous people that are constantly referred to as “Indians” who have mystical powers of healing and seeing into the future, which has aged incredibly poorly and I found to be really tasteless.
Honestly, the majority of the film is a snoozefest which really pains me to say, because I love these lead characters and the last two films are great horror features with tons of creativity, heart and charm. While the production design on display here is impressive, feeling larger in scale than the previous entries, and the change of location and setting helps a little, the end result is a lesser version of that original film in every conceivable way. The werewolves are neat and the last ten minutes of the film are entertaining in a schlocky manner, but it’s not enough to save the other 90% of the film from being dull, uninteresting and really poor in comparison to the films that came before it.
While the film does have a minor cult following, I’m unfortunately not one of those people. It’s too reliant on being the first film that it forgets to have an identity of its own and while watching it, I thought to myself “I wish I was watching the first Ginger Snaps right now” which is never a good sign when you’re only three films into your new horror franchise. It’s a disappointment that I can’t say I found much enjoyment out of, outside of the last couple of minutes and it’s a huge sadness to end the trilogy not with a bang, but a sad whimper.
The Ginger Snaps Trilogy released on October 30th by Second Sight Films on Limited Edition Blu-ray. All three transfers seem to be old masters, similar to Second Sight’s release of Lucky McKee’s May, but they still look pretty good, all things considered. The films contain 2.0 and 5.1 English audio tracks, as well as English subtitles and the films all sound great. If you own prior releases such as the US Shout! Factory release, or some of the German/Australian trilogy box-sets out there, don’t expect brand new restorations but instead, an excellent array of bonus features. The following extras are included:
- New audio commentary by Mary Beth McAndrews and Terry Mesnard
- Audio commentary with Director John Fawcett
- Audio commentary with Writer Karen Walton
- Canadian Uncanny: Stacey Abbott on Ginger Snaps
- A Blood Red Moon: a new interview with Director John Fawcett
- What Are You Wereing?: a new interview with Producer Steve Hoban
- The Art of Horror: a new interview with Storyboard Artist Vincenzo Natali
- Ginger Snaps: Blood, Teeth and Fur
- Growing Pains: Puberty in Horror Films
- The Making of Ginger Snaps
- Cast Auditions and Rehearsals
- Deleted Scenes
- Deleted Scenes with Director’s and Writer’s commentaries
- Production Design Work
- Creation of the Beast
- Trailers and TV Spots
Ginger Snaps: Unleashed
- Audio commentary with Director Brett Sullivan
- Girl, Interrupted: a new interview with Director Brett Sullivan
- The Bloody Lunar Cycle: a new interview with Writer Megan Martin
- Behind the Scenes
- Deleted Scenes
- Deleted Scenes with Director’s commentary
- Audition Tapes
Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning
- Audio commentary with Director Grant Harvey
- Snap!: a new interview with Director Grant Harvey
- Girls on Film: an interview with Producer Paula Devonshire
- The Making of Ginger Snaps Back
- Deleted Scenes
- Deleted Scenes with Director’s commentary
- Grant Harvey’s Video Diaries
Limited Edition Contents
- Rigid slipcase with new artwork by Michael Dunbabin
- 112-page book with new essays by Meredith Borders, Kat Hughes, Mikel J Koven, Dr Rachel Knightley, Jolene Richardson, Zoë Rose Smith and Caelum Vatnsdal
- 5 collectors’ art cards
Ginger Snaps extras
Audio commentary by Mary Beth McAndrews and Terry Mesnard – A brand new commentary, exclusive to this Second Sight release with McAndrews and Mesnard, the co-hosts of the Scarred for Life podcast, who discuss their love for Ginger Snaps and they’re charming to listen to. They’re incredibly enthusiastic and their readings on the film and its themes are absolutely worth checking out. A great commentary track.
Audio commentary with director John Fawcett – This archival audio commentary with director John Fawcett is packed full of reminiscing about the production, anecdotes about the shoot and although it’s a little dry, it’s packed full of information that will fascinate fans of Ginger Snaps.
Audio commentary with Writer Karen Walton – An archival audio commentary with the film’s writer Karen Walton and it’s another solid track. Walton focuses on the feminist themes of the film and some of her original unused concepts for the film. It’s an engaging listen that I’d recommend.
Canadian Uncanny: Stacey Abbott on Ginger Snaps – A brand new video essay touching on how director John Fawcett breaks the established rules of horror and Canadian cinema and creates something fresh and unique. The audio quality on this is a little poor, but it’s still a good listen and Abbott’s perspective on the film is worth checking out.
A Blood Red Moon – A brand new 26 minute interview with director John Fawcett who gushes about his love for horror and influences on Ginger Snaps, such as Dead Ringers, Return of the Living Dead Part III, Carrie and The Fly as well as his passion for creating a film from the female perspective, referring to Ginger Snaps as a character-horror film. He talks about working on the screenplay with Karen Walton as well as the influence that An American Werewolf in London had on the feature in particular and how Fawcett found the werewolf genre lacking in truly great films outside of American Werewolf. He also discusses his working relationship with Vincenzo Natali, who created the storyboards for the film. It’s an excellent and informative interview that I’d highly recommend.
What Are You Wereing? – A brand new 25 minute interview with producer Steve Hoban who discusses the production of the film. He explains how Ginger Snaps was one of the most expensive local Canadian productions at the time. Hoban also talks about the unfortunate timing of producing the film around the same time as the Columbine massacre in the United States and the backlash to the teenage characters speaking like real teenagers, using explicit language. He touches on the casting process in Toronto too. The interview is packed full of interesting tidbits and it’s a solid watch.
The Art of Horror – A brand new 20 minute interview with storyboard artist Vincenzo Natali who discusses his career up to the point where he took on the job as storyboard artist for Ginger Snaps. After his feature Splice had a troubled production, he took the project due to his friendship and working relationship with director John Fawcett and how he worked on John’s first short film. It’s an insightful interview and Natali is a great interviewee that I found absolutely delightful to listen to.
Ginger Snaps: Blood, Teeth and Fur – An archival 65 minute retrospective documentary created by Shout! Factory featuring interviews with John Fawcett, Emily Perkins, Jesse Moss, Steven Hoban and Brett Sullivan. They highlight all aspects of the production, talk about the legacy of the film and if they could go back and alter aspects, what they would have done. It’s a great documentary and one of the highlights of the set.
Growing Pains: Puberty in Horror Films – An archival panel discussion with Kristy Jett, Axelle Carolyn, Heidi Honeycutt, and Rebekah McKendry who touch on the portrayal of puberty in horror cinema. It’s a great discussion and hearing the group touch on their first experiences with puberty in horror films, such as De Palma’s Carrie and how Ginger Snaps tackles the subject. A highly recommended extra.
The Making of Ginger Snaps – An archival five minute featurette with the cast and crew that briefly discusses the making of the film, although Blood, Teeth and Fur covers everything here and more. The behind the scenes footage included is neat, but it’s a fairly inessential watch.
Cast Auditions and Rehearsals – 17 minutes of auditions and rehearsals with Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins, highlighting the pair testing out their chemistry together as well as their initial auditions. A fun inclusion.
Deleted Scenes – 25 minutes of deleted scenes from the film with optional director’s commentary or writer’s commentary, playable as separate choices. They’re sourced from lower quality prints of the film but they’re interesting to watch, with fifteen in total. A great addition for fans of the film.
Production Design Work – A photo gallery showcasing some of the artwork created for the film, such as cigarette brands, the monkshood herb and magazine covers.
Creation of the Beast – A five minute archival featurette showcasing the crew creating the werewolf in the film. A fascinating watch that I enjoyed.
A selection of trailers and TV spots are included.
Ginger Snaps: Unleashed extras
Audio commentary with director Brett Sullivan, executive producers John Fawcett and Noah Segal, and producer Paula Devonshire – This archival audio commentary with the crew behind Unleashed is a good listen. Fawcett touches on how he shot a lot of the footage in the opening credits with Sullivan editing, in a twist of déjà vu from their time working on the original film together. It’s an informative listen with the group recounting experiences on set and as a fan of the film, it was an engaging listen.
Girl, Interrupted – A brand new 24 minute interview with director Brett Sullivan and his experiences editing the original Ginger Snaps after the producer asked him to read over the screenplay. He touches on his love for the script for how it was based in science and didn’t have the traditional trope of people turning into a werewolf and then returning to a human state, as well as the menstruation angle being something rarely discussed in media. As both sequels were shot back to back, Sullivan recounts the hectic brainstorming sessions for concepts of both films and the surprising amount of freedom Lionsgate gave them to go wild. Sullivan discusses the amount of foreshadowing with Ghost’s character, in particular with the comic books that she reads as well as Sullivan and Grant Harvey’s insistence on getting a female writer for the film. It’s a stellar interview that I’d highly recommend checking out.
The Bloody Lunar Cycle – A brand new 20 minute interview with writer Megan Martin, who talks about her experiences in the film and television industry before she accepted the role to write the Ginger Snaps sequel. Her love for the original is great to hear and she discusses how important the film was for Canadian cinema, given how little well-respected mainstream Canadian horror is out there. She highlights how likening menstruation to a werewolf transformation was something that really felt new and fresh at the time and how it influenced future films that would discuss similar themes such as Turning Red. It’s an excellent interview and Martin’s interview offers one of the best extras in the entire package.
Behind the Scenes – Broken up into Beast is Built, Locations, Special Make-Up, Practical Special Effects, Stunts and Fun on Set, these behind the scenes featurettes are really fun to watch. Beast is Built runs for about a minute and shows some pre-vis designs for the werewolf, actors testing the costume out in public and more. Locations is a little lengthier at almost 6 minutes and consists of a mix of scale model and full-sized construction of what the house and hospital in the film will look like, as well as video diary footage from the team too. It’s a really insightful look into the production side of a feature like this and I really enjoyed this featurette in particular. Special Make-Up is five and a half minutes long and dives into the make-up utilised to show Brigette’s transformation throughout the film, as well as some of the gore sequences. The segment involving fake deer they created is great fun to watch. Practical Special Effects runs for almost two minutes and shows the team working on some of the blood squibs, the snow machine being set up and a look at the Crematorium set. Stunts is 4 minutes long and highlights the precautions put in place to keep the actors and stunt performers safe during some of the more intense sequences during the film. Similar to the locations featurette, it’s really great seeing how these moments are handled on set and it’s an insightful and fascinating viewing. And finally, Fun on Set is four minutes in length and consists of most of the goofs that took place on set and seeing the cast and crew have fun while making such a dour film is a delight to see.
Deleted Scenes – Presented with the option of audio commentary, these nine deleted scenes are a great inclusion and the commentary from Brett Sullivan, John Fawcett, Noah Segal and Paula Devonshire is worth checking out.
Audition Tapes – Twelve minutes of audition tapes fearing Tatianna Maslany, Eric Johnson, Patricia Idlette and Emily Perkins, presented in black and white. It’s a neat inclusion.
Storyboards – Four minutes of storyboards are included.
Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning extras
Audio commentary with director Grant Harvey, co-writer Steve Massicotte and editor Ken Filewych – They highlight how the concept intentionally came from creating a remake of the original film set in the 19th century. Harvey touches on his influences, such as the Lord of the Rings films and fun anecdotes about the lacklustre wigs on display. It’s a light, breezy commentary track that’s worth a listen.
Snap – A brand new 23 minute interview with director Grant Harvey. He talks about his working relationship with Ginger Snaps director John Fawcett, how he worked on that original film and what led him to helm Ginger Snaps Back. Hearing him talk about the cult audience the film garnered over time was charming. It’s a solid interview.
Girls on Film – A brand new 20 minute interview with producer Paula Devonshire. She discusses how she’s actually not a huge horror fan, outside of features like The Exorcist or Let the Right One In but details what attracted her to the Ginger Snaps sequels. She talks about both sequels and how they shot both back to back, as well as her working relationship with the directors. It’s a good interview.
The Making of Ginger Snaps Back – Comprised into five featurettes, this dive into the making of the film is a fun watch. Production Design runs for around five minutes and highlights the locations used to film. Costume Design is three minutes and features an interview with the costume designer herself. Blood, Guts and Fire is 8 and a half minutes and highlights the practical effects, the werewolf costumes and the blood squibs. It was my favourite of the bunch. Wolfboy runs under two minutes and shows the makeup transformation for the titular Wolfboy. Finally, Fun on Set is just under four minutes and highlights the cast and crew having a good time during production. These featurettes offer a great insight into the production and are worth a watch.
Deleted Scenes – Viewable with optional commentary by Grant Harvey, Steve Massicotte and Ken Filewych, these five deleted scenes are a fun inclusion, they run for around 13 minutes.
Grant Harvey’s Video Diaries – An archival 10 minute featurette highlighting director Grant Harvey’s on set video diaries. Seeing the team as they’re filming throughout the shoot was a delight.
I wasn’t provided with any of the physical extras, such as the art cards or the book, unfortunately.
Second Sight’s collection of the three Ginger Snaps films is a must own for fans of horror. While I didn’t care for the third film at all, the first two are excellent entries into the werewolf genre and Unleashed in particular is a sorely underrated feature that absolutely deserves your attention. As usual for Second Sight, there’s an excellent package of supplemental content that’ll give you hours of entertainment and it’s clear that the team really cared about producing the definitive release for these films.