Let me get this out of the way first; “The best werewolf movie since ‘American Werewolf in London’.” That’s the poster quote I had in my head after seeing “Ginger Snaps”. Admittedly that is not a tough thing to say, considering there has been a serious lack of werewolf flicks since 81′, most of them being “Howling” sequels.
Unlike their vampire cousins, werewolves have not been well represented on film. Maybe because it is much tougher to do a convincing one. Unlike a vampire where all you need is a set of pointy teeth, a werewolf requires a complete change of body structure. Also to do it right, you should see the person going through the changes. Again the best job was done in “American Werewolf”, Rick Baker’s werewolf was the most believable and scary yet put on screen.
The makers of “Ginger Snaps” went the right direction, away from computer graphics and made their werewolf with good old fashion make-up and puppetry work. This is far more convincing on screen, as the actors have something to work with, it’s not a green screen to be filled in later by some computer geeks, the performances are therefore better. Plus, personally I find it nearly impossible to be scared by pixels.
Teen sisters Brigitte and Ginger are your typical movie outsiders. I know what you’re thinking; “Oh God no! Not another teen horror flick!” Rest assure that this is not another “Scream” clone, and it does not star anyone from a WB show. Okay, back to the girls, they are very one dimensional goth chicks, with the screenplay 101 traits; loners at school, they shun boys and are obsessed with death. Emily Perkins (Brigitte) and Katharine
Isabelle (Ginger) do a good job with what they’re given and despite their flatness we do care about these characters.
We’re instantly thrown into the carnage, as the film opens with the finding of a ravaged dog that has been killed by the yet unknown creature. There has been a rash of slaughtered neighborhood dogs lately. The girls have been told not to leave the house at night, but of course what would a horror movie be without some parental disobedience. Walking through the park, Ginger is attacked by a werewolf. She survives the attack, and you know what that means, soon she’ll be growing fur and howling at the moon.
Actually the filmmakers have taken a different path in the lycanthrope fokelore. Instead of the standard changing under a full moon and death only by silver bullet, they’ve made werewolfism a virus.
The filmmakers have also made transforming into a werewolf a metaphor for puberty. Ginger has just had her first period and the sisters don’t know which to blame the sprouting hairs and Ginger’s new appetite in boys on. However it’s quite obvious when it becomes necessary for Ginger to tape her new tail to her leg.
This is where one of the films’ problems comes into play. While their mom (played wonderfully by Mimi Rogers), notices that Ginger is now becoming a woman, she doesn’t seem to notice Ginger’s graying hair, pointy teeth or
claw-like fingernails. Nobody at school notices either, but they sure notice when Ginger starts dressing provocatively. Girls get jealous, boys get h***y and both end up victims. Meanwhile Brigitte has hooked up with the
local drug dealer, who also happens to be an amateur scientist/chemist (Isn’t that always the case?), to find a cure for Ginger’s disease. The climax, on Halloween of course, is effectively creepy, when Ginger finally “snaps” and becomes a full-blown werewolf.
“Ginger Snaps” while obviously being a horror film, is also part teen angst comedy and a part coming of age drama. The stress of being a teenage girl, mixed with the absurdity of changing into a werewolf, lends itself to some very funny scenes. Don’t worry there is also plenty of blood to satisfy you gore hounds. Now I’m fairly easy on horror films and despite the problems this plays as one of the better ones of the past couple years.