Morgue spoke to John Fawcett and Karen Walton just as Ginger Snaps
wrapped shooting late 2000.
MORGUE Magazine. Reprinted with permission
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.
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.
the werewolf also worked with the metaphorical subtext of the
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.