Ginger Snaps (Collector's Edition) Review
With the relentless barrage of 'Teen Horror who-done-it Scream' influenced movies that have flooded the market of late it is quite refreshing to see a monster based Horror movie. Taking it one step further though is Ginger Snaps from Director John Fawcett who has taken the Werewolf sub-genre and presented it from a whole new perspective and in doing so has treated us to the best film in the sub-genre since American Werewolf in London.
Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and Ginger (Katherine Isabelle) Fitzgerald are 15-year old sisters (Ginger is nearly 16 and is the dominant of the two), outcasts at their high school more or less by their own choosing they live via a strong bond that until now has never been so thoroughly tested. A wolf like creature has been brutally killing mans best friend (dogs) in the Fitzgerald sister's hometown of Bailey Downs when one night Ginger is attacked and barely escapes from this creature. It becomes immediately apparent that this was no normal creature and that Ginger has been infected as she begins to gradually change both physically and mentally leading the usually submissive Brigitte to also change (in a more normal manner!) so as to adapt to the situation at hand where Ginger is in need of her help. The reason Ginger Snaps works so well is the way in which the strong bond between the sisters is put under considerable strain, be it the natural strain of puberty or the supernatural strain of the changes Ginger is undergoing. What it all winds up to is an intense finale that will both please gore seeking horror fans while creating a sense of emotion all too rarely seen in films of this ilk.
From the off you can see Ginger Snaps will be both an aural and visual treat as we witness one of the most inspired opening title sequences seen outside of a David Fincher film. The mixture of the eerie visuals from the girls death project along with a consuming score sets the tone for a film that does not disappoint throughout its 108-minute running time. Emily Perkins and Katherine Isabelle are both superb as the Fitzgerald sisters especially when you consider the material they are handling at such a young age and through the delivery of the generally sharp dialogue (that contains lashings of devilishly funny black humour throughout) they set up the strong bond between the sisters within the films opening minutes with apparent ease. Support is strong with Mimi Rogers (Mrs Kensington!) in particular putting in a superbly comical performance and Kris Lemche portraying his quite unique role with relative ease.
The superb blend of an intelligent and original take on the werewolf sub-genre, the captivating visuals of the opening sequence and a stylised approach throughout, a haunting original score and the all round excellent performances from a relatively young cast is only let down by a couple of minor faults. These being the relative ease with which you can guess the victims, and in light of the deleted scenes the editing seems slightly jarring in certain scenes (especially those involving Sam). There is one other slight fault that I almost did not mention as it is most likely not even down to the filmmakers but I thought I should make note of it. In the post Scream era I find myself looking more and more for references to previous horror films within the current releases and certainly with Ginger Snaps there are many subtle references that work well but there are also what are possible nods (albeit very briefly) to both The Blair Witch Project (a few camera movements) and Scream (through the use of "I'll be right back" within the dialogue) that seem to stand out glaringly and go against everything that works so well in this film. With those slight niggles aside (hey, its my job!) I have to say this is by far the best monster movie I have seen in a long time and quite simply comes highly recommended.
The version of Ginger Snaps reviewed here is an R1 Canadian exclusive and can be picked up through the always reliable Amazon.ca. In comparison the R1 US release from Artisan features a 4:3 Pan & Scan transfer, DD2.0 English Audio and a Theatrical Trailer while a review of the recently released R2 disc can be found here (which includes an alternative look at the film) - Ginger Snaps R2 Review
Presented at its original 1:78:1 Aspect Ratio and featuring anamorphic enhancement this is a superb transfer of a print in sublime condition. Detail is consistently high while the unique colour palette looks quite superb, the only slight let down is the occasionally wavering quality of the blacks that can cause the occasional scene to be lacking in solidarity. It is worth noting that the films finale underwent a chemical process to create a more contrasted look that results in a far more grainier appearance that only stands out due to the film otherwise not suffering from a high level of grain. Due to this chemical process the finale looks slightly weaker in both colours and black level renditions but none-the-less this is still a transfer that stays true to the original vision of the director and should be applauded for doing so.
That sublime main theme has been presented very kindly in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 formats for both the English and French languages. Using the English Dolby Digital 5.1 track you will be presented with a high quality soundtrack that presents the dialogue clearly and makes reasonable use of the surrounds but never really offers anything overly impressive even within the more action orientated sections of the film, certainly nothing that I can really think to mention of here. This is basically a very good representation of the original soundtrack that will make good but not great use of your Home Cinema set-up.
With the recent trend for 2-disc sets that tend to contain nothing more than pointless filler material it is refreshing to see a single disc release that is packed to the brim with interesting extra features. Providing the bulk of the information are two audio commentaries, the first of which features Director John Fawcett in what is his first commentary on a DVD and might a say what a great job he does. Never letting up throughout the entire running time Fawcett is easy to listen to as he recounts various stories regarding the casting and goes on to talk about the writing, the various actors, horror clichés and the attempts he made to get past them and of course in doing so recounts his original vision of Ginger Snaps on several occasions. Fans of Xena and the Survival Horror genre of videogames will also enjoy some interesting references while everyone else will take those nuggets of information as another addition to a highly informative and enjoyable track.
The second Audio Commentary features writer Karen Walton who gives an alternative insight to the film that rather unsurprisingly focuses more on the written aspect of the proceedings. Pleasingly Karen is just as engaging as John if not more so within the first hour as she also gives an interesting insight to women's views on horror movies, her own experiences of what was her first script to be produced as well as being genuinely funny with her honest and sincere thoughts. Sadly the last 40-minutes of this commentary, while still interesting sees a few pauses of silence as well as a slight decrease in information and an increase in the 'explaining the story' problem that other lesser commentary tracks suffer from. Despite this decrease in quality this commentary track still comes recommended to anyone who enjoyed the film and wishes to complete their knowledge regarding its creation.
Also featuring separate commentary tracks by both John Fawcett and Karen Walton are the 15 Deleted Scenes that run for a total of 25-minutes. There are several interesting cuts made here, some are obvious while others are not but it shows the director wanted a tighter final edit rather than letting it run into the 2-hour mark. Strangely these are presented in the 4:3 format although cropping seems negligible while picture quality on the whole is pretty decent. Both commentary tracks available here are again engaging and contain the kind of information you would expect including the reasons for the excision of these scenes with both parties offering some interesting insights as well as both agreeing on their favourite deleted scene (although unbeknownst to each other).
Another superb extra feature comes in the form of both Audition footage and Rehearsals footage. This is a rarely seen feature but one that proves to be very interesting as we initially see the two female leads sitting down reading lines (for the Auditions) and then we progress on to see the leads working together (including a brief appearance from Jesse Moss) as they run through several of the films key scenes. Running for just under 20-minutes this is an excellent (and sadly rarely seen) addition as you get to see just how good these actors are plus I am sure many of you will be in for a shock when you first see Emily Perkins!
Moving on into featurette territory we get a brief promotional featurette that is your typically shallow making of, far more interesting however is the Creating the Beast featurette. Running for just 5-minutes this is raw handheld camera footage that I think was shot by the Director (John Fawcett) where he basically hovers around the SFX studio looking at the beast creation in various stages of its design with an overall impressive look at the final creation (fully lit!!). Finally, before we get to the typical extra features found on any special edition DVD you will find a section entitled Brigitte & Ginger's School Project which contains a selection of photo's that were used for the films stunning title sequence that can be viewed here minus the various filters they underwent for the film presentation.
Rounding off the Extra Features section are the Original Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots and Cast and Crew Biographies. Of most interest here (other than a reasonably comprehensive Biographies section) is the Trailer that comes with optional English and French audio and is presented in Non-Anamorphic 2:35:1 Widescreen which, considering the film is presented at the 1:78:1 Aspect Ratio (as is the R4 DVD) certainly raises a few questions!
But wait, there is another section on the disc entitled Bonus Materials. Here you will find a small amount of original designs for the town of Bailey Downs, Illustrations and Logos seen within the film as well as fictitious Magazine Covers. This section is small but worth a look although I was initially disappointed to not find any of the storyboards John Fawcett mentions in his audio commentary but any disappointment was soon swept away when I opened up the included insert to discover two pages of storyboarded sequences for the films finale!
The monster movie has come of age in one of the best horror films to come out of America in a long, long time and thanks to this native Canadian edition Ginger Snaps has been superfluously presented on a feature packed Special Edition DVD.