Canada loves its red-haired fictional heroines, but as far as Ernest Mathijs is concerned, one of them has not received her due.
The 2000 cult classic film Ginger Snaps is deserving of serious reflection and recognition as part of the Canadian canon, argues Mathijs, who has just been named associate head of the film and theatre department at the University of British Columbia.
And so, just in time for Halloween, he is giving the film some academic love with Ginger Snaps, his book-length meditation on John Fawcett's Gothic horror about two death-obsessed teenage sisters, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins).
The slim volume, surely destined for Canadian film studies courses everywhere, considers the movie's cinematic influences (including Heavenly Creatures and Girl, Interrupted); its strong feminist themes (the trouble begins the night Ginger starts menstruating); its nod to Canadian cultural identity (the kids playing road hockey in the opening sequence are just the beginning); its portrayal of the horrors of suburbia (Bailey Downs was inspired by Edmonton's Sherwood Park suburb, where screenwriter Karen Walton lived); the controversy surrounding its funding (some balked at Telefilm supporting a film about high-school murders in the era of Columbine and a school shooting in Taber, Alta.); as well as its "disproportionate" international fan following.
Mathijs – who is married to Perkins (they met on a cult-film panel) – argues the film is no straight-up, campy horror flick, but "a profound reflection on some of the most pressing cultural anxieties of the start of the 21st century."