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Ginger Snaps: Collector's Edition (Canadian release)

Pity the poor werewolf. Once upon a time he was a creature to be feared, a boogeyman of the night equal in stature to Dracula, The Mummy, and Frankenstein's monster. The very mention of his name inspired terror. A full moon was less a symbol of romance than a dire warning to "stay off the moors," for lycanthropes were afoot. But unfortunately, like his friend the vampire before him, the werewolf's reputation has become sullied in recent years. A number of mediocre-at-best cinematic offerings (including Teen Wolf, An American Werewolf in Paris, the Jack Nicholson ego-vehicle Wolf, and several other equally grievous offenders) have made the werewolf into a caricature of his former self. Whereas earlier generations once debated the best werewolf movie, the current generation is reduced to arguing over which semi-recent werewolf flick sucked the least amount of ass. (Depending on whom you ask, the consensus seems to be either An American Werewolf in London or The Howling.) John Fawcett's Ginger Snaps, then, is a desperately needed wake-up call, a return-to-roots monster flick that manages to combine some genuine chills with the mandatory self-aware "hipness" that's come to dominate the horror genre in the wake of the Scream franchise. But unlike a lot of the "friendly to the masses" fluff masquerading as "horror" these days, Ginger Snaps, despite its cutesy title, keeps its eye squarely focused on the story's drama and characters. By doing so, Fawcett reclaims the werewolf genre for his own — and in doing so, manages to transcend it. The story revolves around two teen sisters, the death-obsessed Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and her slightly more "normal" (but only just) sibling, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle). Although willingly ostracized from the cliques of beautiful people at their high school — led by the annoyingly preppy Trina (Danielle Hampton) — the sisters enjoy a fierce bond that goes far beyond simple love; they are kindred spirits, best friends, and connoisseurs of death (as evidenced by a morbidly hilarious school project, which we glimpse over the film's opening credits). One night, while engaging in a "payback" prank to Trina and her friends, Ginger is attacked by a large creature that appears to be a dog, but which Brigitte suspects may be something far more sinister — a lycanthrope. Although badly wounded, Ginger survives, and even manages a quick recovery. In the days following the attack, she actually feels better than she ever has in her life. Oozing sexuality and a new-found confidence, Ginger and Brigitte begin to drift apart, while this "new" Ginger is embraced by the same cliques that once ostracized her. With her new status as a popular gal, who cares if Ginger's starting to change in other, more physical, ways... like those pesky patches of fur that have been sprouting up all over her body, that extra row of teeth that have suddenly appeared in her mouth, and even a pesky tail poking out from between her legs?

*          *          *

The themes of Ginger Snaps far exceed what one would expect to find in a film marketed to mainstream horror fans. Although there's plenty of blood and suspense to satisfy gore hounds, Ginger Snaps is, at heart, a rather sweet tale of two sisters forced to accept the changes and challenges of growing up. Fawcett admits in his commentary track on this disc that he sees the werewolf legend as a metaphor for puberty (one's body is constantly changing, sprouting hair in unusual places, etc.), and it's a stroke of genius that he and screenwriter Karen Walton decided to set the initial werewolf attack on the same day as Ginger's first menstruation, thus supplying both a motive for the attack (the werewolf's attraction to blood) and a further aspect of the puberty motif. Ginger Snaps has something to interest most film fans: fascinating characters, great make-up and special effects, some intriguing camerawork and clever direction from Fawcett (especially in the opening scenes), and a poignant, satisfying ending that intriguingly manages to leave some major plot holes unresolved... and yet doesn't make the film seem like it's advertising a sequel before the credits roll. Columbia TriStar has given Ginger Snaps — a cult smash in its native Canada — a special edition presentation that longtime fans will (ahem) howl over. But there is a final plot twist — while Artisan has released a feature-free Ginger Snaps disc in the U.S., Columbia's special edition has been produced specifically for the Canadian market, which means it's best ordered from an online Canadian DVD retailer. Beautifully presented in a flawless anamorphic transfer (unspecified, but apparently 1.85:1), this packed platter includes Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio tracks in English and French; a behind-the-scenes featurette; two audio commentary tracks (one from director Fawcett, one from screenwriter Walton, the latter of whom comes across as a slightly older version of the Brigitte character); footage from Perkins' and Isabelle's audition reels (dig Perkins' buzz-cut — she wore a wig for the film); theatrical trailers and TV spots; a five-minute short detailing the creation of the werewolf suit/puppet; no less than 15 deleted scenes (with optional commentary from the personable Fawcett, or a second optional track from Walton); all of the photos that comprise Ginger and Brigitte's school project (a smart, welcome addition); and a staggering number of textual supplements. Sharp-eyed viewers might also locate a couple of Easter eggs, including a storyboard gallery and a tongue-in-cheek, self-depreciating featurette entitled "Being John Fawcett" (which consists of camcorder footage shot by the director during production and rehearsals, most of which involves the cast good-naturedly teasing the director about his lack of "Hollywood"-ish good looks). Keep-case.
—Joe Barlow

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