What's this all aboot, eh?
It's hard to find a good werewolf movie these days. Sure, you can point to the Lon Chaney Jr. “The Wolfman” or “An American Werewolf In London” as proof that good werewolf movies exist, but those are classics. For every “The Howling” and I can give you ten “Beasts Of Bray Road”. Perhaps werewolf movies are similar to zombie movies in that the great ones are truly great, but it's much easier to just throw some makeup on, splash some blood around, and call it a day. It's far easier to make a bad werewolf movie than a good one. Of course, that doesn't mean good newer werewolf movies don't exist, you just have to look a little harder for them.
Ginger Snaps is a 2000 Canadian werewolf movie starring Emily Perkins (She's The Man, Juno) as Brigitte Fitzgerald and Katharine Isabelle (Freddy vs. Jason, Insomnia) as her sister Ginger. Both girls are social outcasts and obsessed with death, even promising to kill themselves at some point in the future. One day at school, they are overheard making fun of Trina Sinclair (Danielle Hampton) a popular girl at school. Trina takes offense and knocks Brigitte to the ground. Brigitte lands on the bloody remains of a mutilated dog, one of many in town who have been killed by an urban legend named the “Beast of Bailey Downs”. The sisters plan to kidnap Trina's dog one night, but come across another mutilated dog. They are attacked by a large creature and Ginger is dragged off into the woods. Briggit is able to rescue her and they flee into the street where the creature is hit by a van driven by Sam (Kris Lemche, Final Destination 3, My Little Eye), the local drug dealer. Ginger is bitten by the creature and badly hurt, but begins to recover abnormally fast. After a few days, Ginger begins to change, both mentally and physically. She finally gets her period, which appears to be heavier than expected as well as strange hair growing from her wounds. She also becomes more aggressive, forcing a boy at school to have unprotected sex with her. Ginger also starts to grow a tail and fangs. Frightened by Ginger's changes, Brigitte reaches out to Sam to find out what is happening, telling him that she is the one that was bitten. Sam suggests that the creature he hit with his van was a lycanthrope (werewolf). Brigitte pierces Ginger's stomach with a silver ring, but it has no effect. Jason, they boy Ginger had sex with, starts to show signs of lycanthropy as well. Trina goes to the Fitzgerald's house, claiming they took her dog. During a scuffle, she slips and smashes her head on the counter, killing her instantly. The girls bury her in the backyard and Brigitte tries in vain to keep Ginger from going out any more due to her violent behavior. Sam discovers a plant that can reverse the werewolf curse and Brigitte uses it on Jason. With the cure in hand, will Brigitte be able to save Ginger before her transformation is complete?
I've seen uglier people at Canadian Tire
Ginger Snaps is equal parts good horror movie and darkly funny after-school special. There's no question that the movie is a allegory for puberty and high school. It's a pretty sound idea and I'm surprised it hasn't been done more often. The metaphors are pretty transparent, but it's OK because the movie treats the subject with a good deal of dark humor. The sister's mother (Mimi Rogers, Austin Powers, Lost In Space) is delightfully clueless to the entire situation, just trying to do her motherly duties and explain their pubescent changes. Some may find this frustrating, but most will “get” the humor in the parental figures of the movie. Maybe it's because it is a Canadian film, but the movie reminds me a lot of the Canadian school drama, Degrassi. I think the film quality was also similar to that of the aforementioned television show, but it could all just be in my head, thanks to a desire to watch MuchMusic.
The horror is very good, with a slow, but steady build towards Ginger's full transformation into a werewolf. While there is no fantastic transformation scene like in “An American Werewolf In London,” there are enough changes to Ginger to keep things visually interesting. The final incarnation of the Ginger werewolf looks good on a budget. It's not highly-detailed, but far more realistic than a person in a hairy werewolf costume. The film is very much like David Cronenberg's work in this respect. There is a large amount of blood and violence throughout the movie which keeps things fast-paced and entertaining. The movie does wrong a bit too long at almost 110 minutes and the final act drags a bit, but overall the whole story is fun. The ending was actually surprisingly downbeat in comparison to the rest of the movie's tone, but it was still enjoyable.The acting throughout the film is what makes the entire movie come together. Both Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle are great in their roles. They have the angsty outcast teenager ideal down well and show good emotion when needed.
"Ugh. Let's just go to Tim Horton's and watch the Maple Leafs game."
Ginger Snaps is both a great horror movie and a great teenager movie. There is plenty of action and violence with enough blood and gore to keep even the most brutal horror fans happy. I wasn't too happy with all the dead dog shots and references, but I understood no dogs were actually hurt. The effects and makeup used to show Ginger's transformations were good, if simple. Her final werewolf stage looks good and far more realistic than what other werewolf movies try to use. The puberty metaphors are obvious, but still enjoyable thanks to some funny writing and believable performances. Ginger Snaps is highly entertaining and highly recommended.