Ginger Snaps

Film image
John Fawcett

The ViewAuckland Review

StarStarStarStarNo Star
Review byMatthew Turner11/01/2001

Four stars out of five
Running time: 104 mins

Enjoyable and effective teen werewolf movie with some refreshingly new ideas and lashings of gore – not for the squeamish!

Ginger Snaps is a low-budget, independent Canadian feature that garnered some rave reviews on the festival circuit in the States before becoming a modest little sleeper hit upon release.

Essentially a teen werewolf horror flick, it covers similar ground to films such as TeenWolf, A Company of Wolves and American Werewolf In London, yet, aided by a sharp script and a terrific cast, it manages to stir some refreshingly new ideas into the mix at the same time.

Sixteen year-old Ginger (Katherine Isabelle) and fifteen year-old Brigitte (Emily Perkins) are two Gothic sisters who are obsessed with both death and each other. Already viewed as the school weirdos, they live in their own dark, secretive world, happily adding to their perceived weirdness by staging mock suicides for their class project and so on.

However, on the night of Ginger’s first period, she is attacked by a strange creature and soon begins to develop hair in strange places, as well as an interest in boys and a powerful bloodlust. As Brigitte becomes increasingly alienated from Ginger she tries to help her before her desires rage out of control.

The tag-line for the posters –sadly unused over here- was ‘They Don’t Call It ‘The Curse’ For Nothing’, which sets the tone of the movie perfectly. Lycanthropy as a metaphor for puberty is not a new idea (see TeenWolf), but director John Fawcett and writer Karen Walton put a fresh spin on it by dropping the usual werewolf movie clichés (silver bullets, full moons and so on) and equating Ginger’s transformation with menstruation, as well as burgeoning sexuality and desire.

As Ginger remarks at one point: "I’ve got this ache inside me and I thought it was for sex, but it’s to rip everything to pieces!" - it also means that when she’s pre-menstrual, you really don’t want to piss her off!

The film wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does were it not for the superb actors – both Emily Perkins and Katherine Isabelle (both unknown Canadian actresses – if you recognise them at all it’s because they’ve both been in episodes of The X-Files) are perfectly cast.

Isabelle makes an impressive transformation from outcast to feral babe (in certain shots she bears a slight resemblance to Jenny Agutter, which is fitting, as Agutter was in American Werewolf In London), and Perkins’ moody, plain teenager providing a refreshing change from the usual drop-dead-gorgeous heroines familiar from teen slasher movies and the like. There’s also great support from Mimi Rogers as their whacked-out mother.

The script is sharp and successfully blends extreme gore (there’s a lot of blood in the movie) with darkly comic moments, such as Ginger attacking the school bully, or the teenage boy she bites that turns into a gibbering, hormone-infested idiot. Sadly, the film can’t sustain the tone and the end of the film degenerates into familiar Big Scary (Obviously Fake) Werewolf territory, which is disappointing after the wealth of originality that had led up to that point.

In short, though, this is well-worth seeing and is another example of an independent movie showing Hollywood how it ought to be done – gory, sexy and scary, it’s everything a teen horror flick should be. Not to all tastes and not for the squeamish, but recommended nonetheless.

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Content updated: 22/02/2019 18:19

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