As any of the previous entries for Horror Week has proven, there are multiple sub-genres and Body Horror surprisingly hasn’t been one of them. I only say surprisingly because as while one of our main writers is located in Montreal, everyone else lives in Toronto where David Cronenberg was not only born and raised but helped make some of the most important body horror films of all time. Another great body horror film was shot in Toronto and that film is Ginger Snaps.
I know what you’re thinking, Ginger Snaps is a werewolf film, but I’m here to argue it’s both. While typically I would consider Ginger Snaps (and other werewolf films) in their own genre, I’m making an exception because Ginger Snaps isn’t just a werewolf film just like The Thing isn’t just some alien film.
What makes horror films great is that the screenwriter and director can change their world a little or build a new one from scratch. Doing so, it allows them to have their own social commentary on the world or beliefs they have. In The Thing, John Carpenter tackles paranoia like no other film did. The characters in the film are left wondering who is the monster and even second guessing their own self. Carpenter’s They Live famously has glasses that allow you to realize things are not exactly how they seem. This is a comment on the Reagan revolution at the time of the release, and the greed of the 80’s. There are reasons behind some of these movies.
In Ginger Snaps, Emily Perkins and Katherine Isabelle star as Bridgette and Ginger Fitzgerald who are in the same grade even though Bridgette is a year younger at 15. The movie begins with someone screaming after finding their dog dead in the backyard which is later revealed that this isn’t the first time it’s happened in the neighborhood. A garage door opens and we are introduced to Bridgette who doesn’t seem phased. From this introduction to the Fitzgerald sisters, they are clearly unlike anybody else in their town. With an abnormal obsession with mortality that shines through in their photography and modelling. At one point at a family dinner, Ginger complains about stomach pains and it’s revealed that even at the age of 15 and 16, neither of the sisters have gotten their first period yet, and their mother is nearly jumping for joy in her seat at the possibility.
That night they leave their house after being told not to by their mother because of the unknown entity that keeps killing everybody else’s dogs. It’s here when walking through a playground (a reminder of a younger stage of herself) is when Ginger gets her first period. And before we can even begin to grasp what that means to her body changing in a realistic human way, she is then attacked and bitten by a werewolf and doubles down on a number of changes her body is about to go through.
It’s clear to both sisters at what happens next as Ginger’s wounds start recovering way too quickly and hair begins to grow in places they didn’t before, her body is changing in ways that don’t come with just going through puberty. And this film seems to capture what that is like for a woman to go through (I say seems because due to not being a woman who has gone through puberty, I can only go by how other women have reacted to this material). To me, that is fascinating that while Ginger Snaps is directed by a man, the strong script written by Karen Walton (who does have sole writing credit, but gets a story by credit that includes director John Fawcett) shines through and I can feel her voice on the entire film.
While the movie is about werewolves, it’s about these two sisters growing up and changing. In life, there is a lot of change that we have to deal with and there sure is a lot of that which occurs during our high school years, and to add having someone’s first period thrown in at that point does not make things simpler.
When the movie began, the Fitzgerald sisters were best friends (if not each other’s only friends) but by the end, they find themselves in facing each other to the death as rivals where Ginger clearly has an advantage in the situation. While both capturing human change and this fantastical change, and then having the juxtaposition together it’s clear that story-wise, not much would change minus the incredible werewolf prosthetics, give or take all the blood.