Blu-ray/DVD Review – GINGER SNAPS

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In 2001, the werewolf subgenre looked like it was about to go through a new renaissance, much like it almost did in 1981 with the arrival of classics like An American Werewolf In London and The Howling. Alas, like in 1981, the promise of a New Lycanthrope Revolution never panned out (unless you count the arrival of the Underworld franchise) but the year did produce a handful of modern classics: Neil Marshall’s soldiers-vs-monsters siege flick Dog Soldiers, the batshit insane French film Brotherhood of the Wolf and, finally, Ginger Snaps, John Fawcett and Karen Walton’s feminist take on the myth.

Despite making a major splash at the Toronto Film Festival the year prior, Ginger Snaps got short shrift theatrically when it came out. Fox Searchlight originally courted the film for a wide release– to be it’s first horror  release, which instead became 28 Days Later — but grew timid of the film’s menstruation-themed subject matter and inability to trim the film to a PG-13 to appeal to a teen audience. When Ginger Snaps bombed in its native Canada, it further scared away any more American distributors and the film eventually limped to a modest release, playing one theater in New York City before hitting the video racks a few weeks later. Ginger Snaps was relegated to the dust bins of  film history….

….Until a rave review by the New York Times’ Elvis Mitchell and heavy rotation on HBO began to change the tides. A cult audience steadily grew over the ensuing years, hip to its subversive, morbid and character-oriented take on monster material, and the film has blossomed into one of the greatest and most-revered horror films of the ‘aughts. And now Scream Factory has given, at long last, Ginger Snaps the home video release it’s long-deserved.

Gone is the grubby, full-screen transfer of the original DVD release. Scream has opted to rerelease the film in a gorgeous widescreen transfer with colors that pop against deep shadowy black. Rather than looking like the cheap direct-to-video film it was unfairly presented as, it now looks like the cinematic treasure it is. Fawcett expertly captured the stultifying atmosphere of suburban living and his autumnal color palette is alternately banal and lovely, and one can better appreciate the filmmaker’s restrained-yet-striking direction. It’s too bad we don’t hear from him much anymore, but when your follow-up is a dull Irish ghost story that counts an unintentionally funny sheep mass-suicide as its highlight, than that thing sorta happens.

GingerSnaps

The release comes with a raft of extras to make the curious happy, though the downside to this set is the fact that most of said extras are dry and only vaguely interesting. There are the usual trailers and TV spots and deleted scenes that were clearly deleted for a reason, as they would’ve added nothing to the film. The “Being John Fawcett” feature is  completely superfluous behind the scenes footage of the director goofing off with leads Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins during one scene, and the “Creating the Beast” segment detailing the make-up creation of the film’s albino werewolf doesn’t really actually tell you much about the creation of the beast.

Plenty of information about the conception, making and release of the film is conveyed—and re-conveyed—over the course of two commentaries (one each by writer Walton and Fawcett), an ancient, grimy-looking featurette and a new interview with the cast and crew — minus, sadly, Isabelle, who took over a decade to make good on the promise she showed in this film with last year’s excellent American Mary. Of all of those special features, the lengthier new interview is probably best, though it still comes off as slightly boring — everyone here is pleasant and has fond memories of the production, but fail to tell us anything interesting in an interesting manner.

The best, and most unique, extra on the set is a roundtable discussion on the role of women in horror with filmmaker Axelle Carolyn and horror journalists Rebekah McKendry, Heidi Honeycutt and Kristy Jett. It’s an interesting, honest discussion and none of these intelligent women pull punches discussing the feminist politics (and/or lack-thereof) in horror films, particularly those that are made by male filmmakers but made to skew from the perspective of (often teenage) women.

Still, while the extras could be slightly more entertaining or informative, its nice to see Ginger Snaps, one of the greatest genre films of the past twenty years, ignored and barely released at the  time and now grown into cult status, given the kind of grand treatment deserving of such a film.

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Johnny Donaldson

Johnny Donaldson is an actor, writer, foodie, and raconteur who’s been immersed in the geek world since childhood, especially when The X-Files changed his life. (Fox Mulder is his Han Solo.) A published film critic (his college-era movie reviews can be found in the archives of rottentomatoes.com) and a film producer with two films under his belt, Johnny likes kitty cats, coffee, the color purple (not the movie, the literal color purple), dark microbrews and good horror/scifi/fantasy and superhero movies. And occasionally long walks on the beach, when it’s not too hot.