Saturday, April 21, 2007

Deadly Females

I've written about the movie "Ginger Snaps" before, in a post about female sexuality and why it is often portrait as dangerous. This post is about part two and three of the movie - but not about female sexuality as a such. It's about the best 'werewolf'-movies I've ever seen.

"Ginger Snaps" isn't the first movie which portraits female werewolves - actually there are more females in the movies than in the novels, though I've got no idea about the reason for this - and it isn't the first movie I've seen. But the whole story, the way the main characters (Ginger and her sister Brigitte) are shown and the effects are very good - better than in a lot of other horror movies I've seen over the years (and I've started watching those movies around the age of 13 or so).

In the first movie Ginger, the older of two sisters, gets attacked by a strange animal and starts to change afterwards. She becomes a werewolf, both physically (hair is growing on her body, starting with the quick-healing wound, her red hair slowly turns into white and she even grows a tail) and mentally (the withdrawn social outcast becomes a self-assured, sexually active and very aggressive woman). Her younger sister Brigitte, who up to that moment has always been the weaker one in the relationship, tries to help her, finding a cure and keeping the new developments (including the first murder Ginger commits, though by accident) from the world around them. Brigitte even finds a cure: Wolfsbane (what else?). Unfortunately Ginger does change completely before she gets the cure, even though Brigitte is able to cure a male victim of her sister with it - and just in time before he kills a small child. During the final showdown in the basement of their parents' house (where the two sisters have been sharing a room), Brigitte gets infected with the virus herself while trying to placate her sister. In the end she has to kill Ginger - but now she's the one who is dangerous and will turn into a monster.

That's where, more or less seamlessly, the second part "Ginger Snaps - Unleashed" begins. Brigitte has been on the run for quite some time, trying to find a way to purge her blood from the virus, delaying the time until the change by regularly injecting herself with a dose of wolfsbane. But she's not alone, a male werewolf is following her - seeking a mate. Quite in the beginning of the story Brigitte ends up in a hospital for drug addicts and is seen as one herself. After all she bears the marks of the many injections and in addition she has cut her arms quite often (monitoring how long the wound took to heal to determine how fast she was changing - in the beginning of the movie she's already down to a little over four hours until the wound has closed completely and become a scar). Of course, her 'drug' is taken away from her and her warning (that there will be death in the hospital if she is kept there, especially without the wolfsbane) is not heeded - what else, that's normal for horror movies. Only one other occupant, a girl named 'Ghost', seems to believe her and in the end helps her to escape - narrowly. By that time Brigitte is close enough to a 'true' werewolf to regenerate a broken lower leg in the matter of half an hour or so - and able to walk on that leg after a couple of minutes. Together with Ghost, who's been staying with her grandmother who's badly burned, she returns to the house the girl and her grandmother inhabited before the 'accident'. Brigitte turns more and more, so they call in one of the male nurses of the hospital who has blackmailed the inmates into sleeping with him for a dose of their drug and still has some of Brigitte's wolfsbane. He arrives - but at the same time so does the male werewolf who almost got Brigitte while she was running away. Ghost - who isn't as innocent as she seems - tricks Brigitte in sending the male nurse outside where he's killed by the male werewolf. The leader of the hospital - whom the man has called before - also arrives while Brigitte finally almost has turned and the werewolf is outside the house, looking for a way in. Ghost and Brigitte have already build a trap in the cellar, the burned-out mattress has been fitted with every pointed object in the house and drenched in gas. When the attack starts, Ghost and Alice, the leader of the hospital, retreat to the attic where the girl has been creating her own, 'optimized' versions of various comic characters. It is Brigitte who confronts the werewolf - after having confronted Ghost about the fact that she has burned her grandmother -, but they both fall into the cellar. The male werewolf dies, but Brigitte survives. Alice does not, when she goes down to look for Brigitte, Ghost hits her over the head with a hammer and sends her into the trap as well. Then she locks the almost-turned Brigitte into the cellar, using her to 'protect' Ghost - who is actually seriously disturbed and mentally instable - from the outside world.

With the end of part two, the fates of the sisters Ginger (who turns up in various visions Brigitte experiences during the second movie) and Brigitte have more or less been fulfilled - even though I would like to think that one day Brigitte (or what is left of her soul by then) will escape Ghost, probably killing the other girl in the process, and roam the world as well.

Part three of the story is set in the past. "Ginger Snaps - The Beginning" tells the story of two other sisters, also called Ginger and Brigitte (and played by the same two actresses) who stumble into a fort surrounded by werewolves who attack every night. In fact the leader of the fort has hid his own son (who's been infected himself) inside the fort and the boy infects Ginger. She manages to escape before the men can kill her and both she and Brigitte learn about a prophecy: Brigitte is meant to kill her sister so the curse of the werewolf is not cast upon the world. But Brigitte does not. She returns to the fort and is accused of being the reason for the werewolves' attack. But the men there learn the hard way not to underestimate a woman: Ginger, having become the 'leader' of the werewolf pack, comes to find her sister, opening the door for her more animalistic werewolves and taking Brigitte with her, infecting her sister so that they might roam the world together.

All three movies are devoid of the usual Hollywood beauties - maybe because they were actually produced in Canada -, but show believable characters.

Ginger and Brigitte are 'normal' girls, not outright ugly, but not beautiful in the sense movies usually define it either. They are outcasts in their high-school (in the first movie) and Brigitte looks rather sick and neglected in the second one. She's a believable 'drug addict', even though her addiction has nothing to do with a thrill, but all to do with the fear of becoming a mindless monster like her sister has (whom she was forced to kill in the end). But Brigitte is strong - even though she falls for the seemingly harmless Ghost (as probably does everyone watching the movie). Ghost seems to be a 'new sister' for her, a girl who can take Ginger's place - or rather take her place while she becomes 'Ginger' (meaning the older, protecting sister) herself. In the end she becomes Ghost's victim - but that will probably not last forever ... she only has to be lucky once, Ghost will have to be lucky all the time.

The third movie does not fit as seamlessly with the story - as the original werewolf who has attacked and infected Ginger was male and the werewolf who follows Brigitte is male, too (as are the other werewolves who obey Ginger in the third movie).

Nevertheless I have to admit that I like the third movie very much. It's a dark fairy tale with strong pictures (set in the winter when the blood will look even redder in the snow and in a desolate surrounding in which the sisters can't really escape their destiny), reminding me of the 'Snow White' horror movie with Sigourney Weaver.

The first two movies are grim, dealing with the fight for survival of two sisters who are, in a way, doomed from the beginning. The sisters - although living with both parents in a nice suburb - are alone, have no one but themselves. They have sworn to stay together until they both die - but they will not. Brigitte agrees to be infected by her sister towards the end of the first movie - she heeds to the vow, but nevertheless has to kill Ginger. In the second movie she's not really alone either, getting visions of her sister who, in essence, tells her to give in and accept the change. But Brigitte fights it - and she doesn't change like her sister does (in part three just as in part one, changing her hair colour among other things). Brigitte stays dark-haired and she is never shown as a full-fledged werewolf. Brigitte in the end does not fall prey to her instincts (in that case she would have changed completely and probably mated with the other wolf), she falls prey to her desire not to be alone any longer. Ghost seems to feel this, she instinctively plays into Brigitte's hands quite often. And she, the blond-haired girl with the long locks and the large, dark eyes, looks so innocent and helpless. So in the end not the half-changed Brigitte turns out to be the monster - it's Ghost who's the real monster. She's the mad murderer who uses the werewolf to keep her own world from being destroyed by anything or anyone outside. She builds her own world where she will reign with terror through the werewolf forced to serve her.

So there are a couple of 'Deadly Females' in the movies.

Ginger is one, awakening as a self-assured woman through the werewolf blood and finally becoming a mindless animal forced to kill.

Brigitte is one, using her physical strength coming with the change to destroy the werewolf following her to claim her.

Finally even Ghost is one, using her own 'innocence' and the werewolf she has trapped in her house, to become as powerful as she always wanted to be. Ghost has not killed, but severely wounded before (burning her grandmother), in Brigitte she finds the tool to erect her 'reign of terror' she's been speaking of during the movie.

The last picture of the third movie shows Ginger and Brigitte just outside the burning fort. Brigitte has already been infected and lies in her sister's lap, holding the already clawed hand of her sister. Unlike during the first two movies, Ginger and Brigitte are destined to be together. And Ginger has become strong, not controlled by the change, but rather controlling it. She has lead on the male werewolves - even though have already changed completely and she has not. She is more than the average werewolf and the same - the end suggests - will be true for Brigitte. They will spread the curse - the infection - throughout the country, travel far and leave behind a trail of death and destruction. The fort was just the beginning.

I personally like all three movies (even though I've yet to find the first one on DVD) very much. There aren't many good horror movies around. (I define a good horror movie by having a plausible story, good actors and a good balance between outright "blood and murder" and the psychological components.) And there aren't many movies around which show Deadly Females without really condemning them.

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