The writers and producers of the Ginger Snaps trilogy answer questions relating to the series through a series of interviews.
Film Interview by Rue Morgue with John Fawcett and Karen Walton after film shooting late 2000:
How did the idea for Ginger Snaps come about?
Walton: Basically John Fawcett and I were looking for a project to do together. John wanted to do a horror project and he very much wanted to do a teen girl horror project. I was reluctant to do horror because I'm a character driven writer and I don't find horror - at least the horror I was familiar with at the time - particularly character-driven. We sort of agreed that as long as we could break all the rules and not have a couple of leads running around and hiding and depending on men for all the answers, it might be fun.
How did you decide, from there, that a werewolf film might be the way to go?
Fawcett: I knew that I wanted to make a horror film to begin with, but when you start thinking about horror films, you go, "well, if that's the genre that I want to work in, then you have to figure out what kind of a horror film it is." One of the things that occurred to me was that there weren't very many examples of really good werewolf films. So I kind of thought that that would be something worth tackling. And that also came from the idea that I knew early on that I wanted to do a transformation movie; the idea of someone metaporphosizing into something else. I had written a short script way back about a female biologist who turns into a tree. And that sounds really stupid but it was a really interesting concept to me and there were a lot of things that I liked about it. When I started in on this werewolf film I wanted to make sure that it was different from everything else that I had seen as far as werewolf films go. I was a really big fan of [David Cronenberg's] The Fly and I really liked the long transformation over the course of the movie. It's a biological mutating transformation that is progressive and doesn't occur by the light of the full moon.
Obviously, the werewolf also worked with the metaphorical subtext of the story.
Fawcett: I don't think it's just a metaphor, that's for sure, it is a monster ultimately. We wanted to make a smart horror film, we actually wanted to have a little purpose, we wanted the film to have some meaning. So as a result, I think there are a lot of things in there about adolescence, the idea that Ginger's body is changing, she's developing new appetites, her hormones are running amok. Because it's a long tranformation, it appears that this is a symptom of heightened adolescence but then things start to get even more bizarre than that and it becomes apparent that she is turning into someone else. It is like a biological transformation; it grows from the inside out and where it affects you first is in the way you act before it starts to manifest itself in physical changes. And so that's interesting definitely for an actor and makes it scary on a different level. Ultimately, aside from the fact that there is a monster and a body count, the film is about two sisters who are extremely close and how, at this point in Ginger's life, they are growing apart. That may sound silly but if you took the monster out of the movie that's what you are left with. For a younger sister, change in an older sibling is a really difficult thing to come to grips with. I supposed if it's going to be a smarter film, it will have to be about the characters first and then about the horror. I'm not trying to say that it's any smarter or different than any other werewolf film, but I guess it is different because it's trying to handle the whole myth of the werewolf in a different fashion.
Walton: We wanted to do a creature feature, but there was also a metaphor to be drawn there between girls coming of age and all the atrocities that your body goes through and all the atrocities that a body in theory goes through when you become a werewolf. The werewolf was the most famous transforming phenomenon that we knew about, and it was the best fit to facilitate the story in which you could actually be confused for a minute about whether someone was just becoming normal or was becoming a monster.
The werewolf in particular has a long tradition in literature and in film. Did you draw significantly from that?
Walton: Oh yeah. We went through the movies that existed that we knew about - that convention was explored. And then I did some research in terms of the history of the werewolf and how it was perceived around the world. And that helped me compile the big list of the traditional "everybody knows this" kind of rules and those were the rules we set out to break. An American Werewolf in London was such a cool way to tell the traditional version of the story. We thought to ourselves: now what can we do when it happens to people in a totally different situation? Ginger Snaps is almost a response.
Did you set out to make Ginger Snaps a scary movie?
Fawcett: I'd have to say that I wasn't going out for the cheap scares. I guess I didn't really plan on necessarily making a scary movie as I did want to make a very atmospheric and creepy movie, a movie that gets under your skin. It's not the big startles that are going to have audiences screaming, although I think that there are two or three good ones in Ginger. I feel like I have a pretty darn good attack sequence when Ginger first gets attacked and I am very excited about the climax with the monster in the house and Brigitte basically trying to save her life. Those kind of scares, when they are true and real, they're fabulous, but most of the time you can see them coming and that makes them artificial. It's those kind of things I avoid when I think about the horror films I want to make, even though I like to watch them. What we opted for was an unnerving, creepy, atmospheric piece.
Walton: I think what's scary about it is that you know full well what's going on in people's heads before they do things, and half the time you're hoping they don't do them. You get to know these ladies quite well, and you start to fear for them because you're really hoping that they'll grow up and get past what they'll probably do and move on. There's some pretty horrific body imagery in it; what's happening to Ginger is pretty terrifying, you just don't know what's going to happen next. There's also some gory bits in there but most of the horror is psychological horror; "what we're capable of doing to each other" horror.
John, you mentioned previously that you considered yourself a horror film fan. What kind of horror films did you mean?
Fawcett: One of my earliest film memories was watching Killdozer, which is kind of a ghost film, but I must have been five or six, my memories are really vague of it. I can't find it on videotape anywhere and I'd kill to get a copy of it! More recent films that I found really unsettling were Seven and Dead Ringers. And Dead Ringers, what is that, a horror film? Well, I thought it was a horror film because I walked away from that and was thinking about it for days after - it just felt like I needed to take a shower every ten minutes. If a film can get under your skin like that then that means it's good, it's effective. And that's why the horror genre is so interesting because it is very visceral and you have to have a reaction to it. You can't sit there and just kind of zone out or walk away and say "it's alright."
Horror is seen so much as a ghetto genre, it's hard to get away from that. Do you expect Ginger Snaps will be lumped in with the teenage slasher label or the werewolf label?
Fawcett: It's hard to say how it should be marketed. I know it's not like a teen horror film, but I know that people are going to call it a teen horror film because, after all, what else do you call it? I don't know if it's a good idea to market it as a werewolf film either, because I believe that the reputation of werewolf films is not good. And if I say that I've made a werewolf film, people will just kind of say, [sarcastically], "oh yeah, I really want to run out and see that," because they've seen so many bad werewolf films. So part of me doesn't even want to market it as a werewolf film, but I think you have to; it is after all a monster film, but it's a tricky one.
Walton: I didn't write Ginger Snaps specifically for teens, I wrote it specifically in hindsight about that experience because, again, the film is a little different from the traditional aspects of the genre. It's not for teenagers, it's about being a teenager and because of that the audience will be a little broader.
Copyright RUE MORGUE Magazine. Reprinted with permission.
Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed
Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning