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Ginger Snaps (2001)

Starring Katharine Isabelle, Emily Perkins, Kris Lemche, and Mimi Rogers

Directed by John Fawcett

Released by Lions Gate Films


There’s something about the female perspective on horror that’s just turning me on right now. Granted, there have been a lot of female screenwriters in the horror genre, but recently two women have just knocked me out of my flame-covered shoes. The first writer, Chaton Anderson, penned The Convent. She knew how to deliver a fun, gore-filled story packed with wacky characters and great dialogue. The second writer, and my inspiration to write this review, is Karen Walton who recently wrote Ginger Snaps. And though director John Fawcett conceived the idea for the film, it was Walter who sat down at the keyboard and put words to paper bringing a creatively unique perspective to horror that not too many of us have seen before.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Before I spill more blood, perhaps you should know a little bit of the plot of Ginger Snaps.

In a subdivision in a small Canadian town, a violent rash of dog killings has broken out. Townsfolk claim it’s just a “wild animal” and we’re under the impression that not too much is being done about it. Morbid news of a recent dog mutilation carries us to our leads, Ginger and Brigitte, sisters who have a love for the macabre and ruminate in great detail about how they will stage their suicide. You can imagine their attitudes get them far with the guidance counselor at school. And though they go to counseling themselves, Ginger and Brigitte’s parents seem normal if not a tad loopy. Father’s a bit indifferent and Mother wants to be more involved in her daughters’ lives, unfortunately, the girls don’t want to let her in. Ginger and “B” (Ginger’s nickname for Brigitte) stick together and do everything together and look at the world in the same kind of darkness. This doesn’t necessarily make them the most popular girls in school.

After a brief fight with a high school snob, Ginger and B decide to play a little joke on the bitch. In a scene reminiscent of American Werewolf in London, the girls head out late one night to exact their dirty deed. While trekking across a local playground, Ginger gets her first period which entices the town’s “wild animal” to come out and play. Ginger is brutally attacked by a werewolf in a beautifully played out scene. You don’t know what’s scarier: Ginger’s cries for help or the fact that not one person in the houses nearby respond to her screaming (a slight homage to Halloween). The girls escape the beast (who becomes road kill) and return to their empty house. Mom and Dad are getting their counseling. At first, Ginger’s wounds seem fatal but eventually they begin to heal themselves!

So begins Ginger’s transformation.

The film treats lycanthropy as a disease rather than a curse. Ginger undergoes a slow transition from a teenage girl to a werewolf (much like in Cronenberg’s The Fly). Her hair changes color, she starts growing unwanted hair on her arms and chest, and even a tail sprouts out of her back! But don’t think B is going to helplessly watch her sister change. Thanks to Ginger’s new attitude adjustment (she’s acting more like a horny teenager) she doesn’t have much more room for her sister in her newfound life, so B searches for a cure to her sister’s illness before the full moon rises.

You’d have to be a fool to not realize that the film is just one big metaphor for adolescence and puberty. The great thing is, though, is that it doesn’t smack you in the skull every minute to remind you. And the other great thing is that we’re seeing it from the teenage girl’s perspective rather than the teenage, angst-ridden, horny high school boy (like most films tend to do). The film is balanced so evenly that it’ll please the hard core horror fan looking to see some werewolf action and the occasional horror viewer who wants a little meat with their story.

From the get-go, you’re immediately loving Ginger and B, played by Katherine Isabelle (Disturbing Behavior) and Emily Perkins (Stephen King’s It), two witty gals with a hilarious outlook on life…and death. Though extremely morbid, they’re real, you believe in them. Take out the werewolf element and I would love to follow them around for a day, though I’m sure they would gladly tell me to “fuck off.” No matter, Fawcett and Walton have created two classic characters.

Humor plays a huge part in the film. Now before you start shaking your head in distaste, let me say that it’s handled expertly. There are no wink-winks at the camera, there are no “hey, look at me! I’m self-referential! I’m hip!” moments. Every laugh flows from the moment which, to me, is the best kind of humor. I also like my humor black, and Ginger Snaps certainly delivers it nice and dark.

Let me also say that it’s great to have another werewolf film on my slim list of “favorite werewolf flicks”. Who would have guessed that a film called Ginger Snaps would join The Howling and An American Werewolf in London? Again, what makes the film great is the characters. If I don’t care about them, then why would I give a shit if they turn into a hairy beast?

The film delivers quite a few scares too. Never mind how those photos of werewolf Ginger released in Fangoria, the wolf make-up works. Fawcett’s camera lingers on the beast just long enough (sometimes hardly at all) before someone cries Silver Bullet. And for all those gorehounds out there: the blood doesn’t fly, it flows. More often than I had ever expected in this day and age.

I’m picking up the scent of change in the air. Cutting through the mist of upcoming bullshit horror sequels and spin-offs, there’s a good batch of horror heading our way and Ginger Snaps is leading the pack.

 

4 ½ out of 5 Mugs O’ Blood
 

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Jon Condit