Film Four interview
by James Mottram

Katharine Isabelle in Ginger Snaps.

Pitched as Heavenly Creatures meets The Fly, Ginger Snaps is a monster-movie variation of the female coming-of-age story that features two teenage sisters whose world is flipped when one is bitten by a werewolf. FilmFour spoke to star Katharine Isabelle and director John Fawcett.

How did you get a handle on the script, Katharine?
KI: It’s a really odd movie, because there’s nothing quite like it. You can explain it as a feminist coming-of-age story, with the metaphor of the werewolf being puberty, a monster that comes and invades your body and changes things without anyone telling you about it. That’s how it was for me.

How long did the make-up sessions take?
KI: It took five hours to put on, and two-and-a-half hours to take off. There were several different stages of eyes, and teeth and hair and face. I was wearing two full face stages over about day’s altogether. It wasn’t too bad, but if you put that stuff on your face, your skin can’t breathe and your nose runs. So I would have two cotton buds up my nose. They did let me go and rent a video in full make up though. I was excited about how scary it would be, but I walked into the store and the clerk didn’t even blink an eye. He just said “So, what movie are you in?”

How do you compare it to the self-conscious horror flicks like Scream?
KI: There’s a little more brain power put into Ginger Snaps. You have to think about it. It makes you feel for the characters; and you have sympathy, anxiety and apprehension or them. With Scream, you’re just like “Ugh!”. It’s paint-it-by-numbers and easy to do. I could write one in about 10 minutes.

What has been the reception of the film in Canada? What was the starting point for Ginger Snaps?
JF: All of my short films were horror based, so I knew I wanted to work in that genre. I began with the idea of a biological transformation. I wasn’t necessarily making a werewolf movie. I like the transformations in Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis’ and Cronenberg’s The Fly. I then decided to put it within a genre, and I though about the werewolf. There are maybe five good werewolf movies in the world, including An American Werewolf In London, The Howling and The Company Of Wolves. As much as I enjoy special effects, the intention here was to make a movie that didn’t rely on them. The story needed to be able to exist even if you stripped the werewolf from it. It’s a coming-of-age story about two sisters who grow apart and gain their own identities. I would jokingly pitch it as Heavenly Creatures meets The Fly, which would seem to get some people’s    attention.

You commissioned a writer to put your ideas down, right?
JF: I approached Karen Walton and pitched to concept. I’d read a few things she’d written, but as a person, I thought she had the right attitude. She was this beer-drinking, cussing, smoking kinda gal, but was writing this period drama stuff. I said “Why don’t you write something that has a bit more attitude?” I worked closely with her at every stage.

You rather blow apart the auteur theory then.
JF: I never considered myself an auteur. It’s really a precious title. But being a young filmmaker, if you’re serious, you have no choice but to write your own stuff because it’s the only way to get things done. I think that I’m a good writer, but not a great writer. I think, as a director, one of my qualities is that I’m a good collaborator. It helps me be more objective with the material.


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