Ginger Snaps

“I can’t have a hairy chest, Bee!  That’s fucked!”

The H-Bomb:  In the quiet Canadian suburb of Bailey Downs (Canadian suburb, pfft… isn’t that entire country a suburb?), neighborhood dogs are being devoured by a mysterious beast at night.  No one has ever actually laid eyes on this creature, but judging from the aftermath of one of its attacks, it is safe to assume that this thing is big, ferocious, and none-too-friendly.  But for Gothy, outcast sisters Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins), the string of puppy murders has been of little importance, as they have more pressing matters to deal with.

One such matter being that Ginger is about to turn sixteen, so it’s time for her and Brigitte to start thinking seriously about a suicide pact they made, since suicide is the “ultimate fuck you” to the world and the society that they claim to loathe (especially the popular girls at their high school).  Anyhow, another matter that’s even more pressing is that Ginger is finally starting to menstruate, which comes as delightful news to their mother (Mimi Rogers), since both girls are a couple of years late in this regard.

Unfortunately for Ginger, her period proves to be most untimely, as one night, when the two sisters are oot and aboot in the woods near their home, the scent of Ginger’s menstrual blood attracts the large dog-eating beast.  This beast, judging from the wolf-like appearance and the “human circumcised dick,” seems to be what is known in ancient folklore, and certain horror enthusiast circles, as a lycanthrope, or, more simply, a fucking werewolf.  The werewolf attacks them, and when they try to flee, the wolf follows them onto the road, where it is struck by a van and killed… but not before taking a bite out of Ginger.

At first it looks as though Ginger is going to bleed to death, but strangely, her wound starts to heal that very same night.  Ginger and Brigitte breathe a sigh of relief, thinking that the worst of it is behind them, but they soon realize that’s not the case, as Ginger starts to undergo a very bizarre… metamorphosis, for lack of a better word.  Hair starts to grow out of the spot where the wolf injured her, as well as other parts of the body where girls shouldn’t have hair.  Her canine teeth become longer and sharper, her eyes become more animal-like, and some wiggly little thing that resembles a tail starts to protrude from the bottom of her spine.

Needless to say, this becomes a big fucking problem, not just for Ginger, but for Brigitte as well, as she tries to keep her older sister locked in the basement while she figures out a way to stop her gradual transformation.  However, keeping Ginger contained is much easier said than done, as she is turning into a genuine bitch with a strong craving for flesh.  First doggy flesh, but she soon tires of that, as human flesh starts to look much more appetizing.  In particular, the flesh a few schoolmates that she’s always had nothing but pure disdain for.

Will Brigitte find a way to reverse what’s happening to Ginger before she transforms completely, and for good?  Or, perhaps the more important question is, will Ginger want her to reverse it?  After all, the way she looks at it, becoming a creature of the night can have its perks.

Being a foreign film from Canada, Ginger Snaps is perhaps the best horror flick to come out of that country that was not directed by David Cronenberg.  It’s certainly the best modern werewolf movie that I’ve seen, far superior to that Wes Craven/Kevin Williamson misfire, Cursed, and I won’t even insult it by comparing it to the likes of Red Riding Hood and Twilight.  There’s a predominately female vibe that Ginger Snaps shares with the latter two, but it isn’t some soap opera-ish “supernatural romance.”  It is, first and foremost, a horror movie.  A horror movie, and so much more.

Written by Karen Walton, from a story she cooked up with the film’s director, John Fawcett, Ginger Snaps is, as just about everyone who’s ever reviewed it has said, a metaphor for female puberty.  Not only for the physical changes that take place, but also the uncontrollable feelings and emotions that come with them, as well as the sexual awakening that young women undergo during this time.

It really doesn’t take a highly analytical mind to pick up on most of this, as it’s all pretty obvious.  Too obvious?  Maybe, but just that this subtext is actually there, and is handled intelligently, makes Ginger Snaps much smarter than the average horror flick.  It also has a much stronger emotional impact, as the core of the film is the bond between Brigitte and Ginger, two sisters who have always been there for each other, and how that bond is tested and ultimately both strengthened and destroyed by the end… if that makes sense.

It’s not only the strong writing that sells this sisterly bond, but also the lead performances by Isabelle and Perkins.  Not merely their individual performances, which are stellar, but how they perform opposite each other.  It’s their chemistry together that really sells their relationship and that, by the end, makes us feel the tragedy that befalls them, despite how caustic and downright nasty they come off as when we first meet them.  It’s too bad Perkins and Isabelle aren’t as well known on this side of the border, as they are both fantastic here, despite that awful wig that Perkins is stuck wearing throughout.

Another performance worth mentioning, and praising, is Mimi Rogers’ scene stealing turn as the sisters’ well-meaning, but hopelessly dense mother.  Some might say that she’s a bit too broad and her comedic character is out of place, but I disagree.  I liked the quirky, disarming humor that she brought to the film, and often found myself smiling at her character’s complete cluelessness.

Now, all the touchy-feely character stuff and metaphorical symbolism out of the way, I did say that Ginger Snaps is, above all else, a horror film, and that it is.  A bloody great one, both figuratively and literally.  This sick bitch is filled to the brim with people being torn limb from limb, ass from head, and any other way you can tear a person to pieces.  There most definitely is enough guts and gore and carnage packed into this puppy to satisfy even the most blood thirsty of genre lovers, though that brings me to the movie’s one shortcoming; the special effects for the werewolf kind of, sort of… leave something to be desired.  To put it plainly, they suck Wolfsbane.  The sole casualty of the movie’s modest budget.

That one slight imperfection aside, I got nothing but high praise for this one.  With an intelligent theme, a gleefully morbid sense of humor, and a spooky Fall atmosphere that makes it perfect for Halloween, Ginger Snaps is one werewolf flick that packs a real mean bite (pun shamelessly intended).

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