An immense success by any stretch of the imagination, the phenomenal "Ginger Snaps" is a winning combination of horror and humor, filled to burst with satire, subversion and plenty of thrills and chills. Even sixteen years after its initial release, it remains a wickedly entertaining and refreshing take on the werewolf legend, courtesy strong visual direction, a witty script and some absolutely wonderful performances. It's a cult masterpiece, and deserves far more attention and admiration than it currently claims. I do firmly believe that it is not only easily amongst the best werewolf films ever made... it is perhaps even among the best horror films ever made.
In the Canadian suburbs of Bailey Downs, the Fitzgerald sisters lead a depressive life. Death obsessed Goths who get their kicks creating mocked "murders" for school projects, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins) are social misfits who just can't fit in, and have created a suicide pact to murder themselves by age 16 should they still be stuck in their droll, painfully boring life. With a wild animal on the loose that is terrorizing the neighborhood and killing family pets at an alarming rate, the sisters decide to play a prank on their school's resident mean-girl Trina (Danielle Hampton), by making it appear her beloved dog is the latest victim. However, on this fateful night, Ginger also happens to get her first period, and it soon draws the attention of the real beast, which bites and mauls her.
Narrowly escaping, the sisters soon realize that the bites are healing at an unnatural rate. Over the following weeks, as Ginger begins her journey into womanhood, Brigitte begins to notice disturbing changes in her sister... changes that might not be from puberty and maturation... but might be the effects of the creature's bite! He sister might be becoming a werewolf! And so, Brigitte must team up with drug-dealer Sam (Kris Lemche), in order to try and use his chemical expertise to find a cure to Ginger's terrible ongoing transformation!
Director John Fawcett guides this tale with a sense of visual bravado, expertly crafting a hard-hitting and consistently hilarious mood and tone through keen storytelling. His smooth, flowing camera-work and quirky use of strange angles and occasional ambitious movement has a very nice feeling to it, hearkening back to the good-old days of horror before modern trends of shaky, gritty stylings began to take over. It's very tactful, slow-building and deliberate, which is quite a pleasant surprise for a film that's relatively contemporary.
The script is co-written by frequent "Queer as Folk" and "Orphan Black" scribe Karen Walton, who is just a joy. Her quirky dialog and wonderful use of metaphor and subversive humor helps elevate the idea to fantastic new levels. At its heart, it's a story about what it means to become an adult- more specifically, to become a woman. And with its clever use of becoming a monster as a metaphor for puberty, Walton crafts an incredibly wild and entertaining tale that all should be able to relate and identify with. She also injects plenty of pitch-black humor that really helps give the film a unique identity and makes sure to pull the rug out from under you just enough times to keep you on the edge of your seat.
The performances are also a vital key- the cast is lovely. Isabelle makes for a wild and unhinged character. She's just a ton of fun, and you get a whole range of emotion from what she does with the Ginger character. You will both laugh and cry thanks to her throughout the entire runtime. Emily Perkins knocks it out of the part as our protagonist Brigitte. Perkins has always been likable and notable in the horror community, thanks to her child-actor roots in films like Stephen King's "It." And here, she really stretches her wings, with an incredible role that's just dripping with everything an actor could want. She commands the role of Brigitte with grace and style. Lemche and Hampton, along with others such as Jesse Moss round out the supporting characters perfectly. In particular the highly likable Lemche, who does a great job with his quirky character. But I gotta give the most props to Mimi Rogers in the wonderfully insane supporting role as the mother of our leads. Rogers is just so much fun, portraying the sort-of perfect "supermom" who begins to show cracks beneath the surface when her idyllic existence is questioned. Perfect role.
Add to that a top-notch production, and you have the formula for a classic! Cinematographer Thom Best does an amazing job with the lighting and composition, delivering grand imagery to compliment the story. Editor Brett Sullivan (who went on to direct the sequel "Ginger Snaps: Unleashed") does a fine job with the pacing and piecing together of sequences. And composer Mike Shields delivers the goods with his moody and mournful score. The central theme of the film still stands as just a gorgeous and melancholy composition- one of the finest horror themes in years.
It truly is a shame that the film is not a household name, and has been relegated to the status of "cult film." It's a complex, genre- bending masterpiece that delivers non-stop laughs and screams, and it should be highly recognized for this. But it was a sad victim of poor timing, losing much of its audience due to events like the Columbine Massacre and other world tragedies that pushed audiences away from its tale of teens in peril. Here's to hoping that as the years go on, its small but dedicated audience continues to grow and grow. Because this film deserves all the fans it can get!
"Ginger Snaps" is a perfect 10. It's one of the finest werewolf films ever made. One of the finest horror-comedies ever made. And perhaps even one of the finest horror movies ever made, period.