The opening shots of Ginger Snaps — the identical lifeless homes of a planned community, where lots are still available for $125,000 each — says it all. The Fitzgerald sisters, Ginger and Brigitte, lives in this community, and both are outcasts by virtue of their personalities. They’re obsessed with death (as witnessed by their school project — a series of pictures of as many gruesome “death scenes” as they can stage) and are semi-Goths — they look the part, have the personality of the subculture, and are completely uninvolved with the real world. The girls have made a pact with each other: leave the planned community by age 16 or death by suicide (they are both 15 as the movie opens).
Of the two sisters, Ginger is the more “normal” of the two. Her looks are less freakish than Brigitte and although she acts out, you get the feeling she does it to keep Brigitte from feeling too alone. As Brigitte mutters, “If you go normal, I’ll kill myself.” Then one night Ginger is viciously attacked and mauled by what looks like a half-man, half-wolf creature. The girls escape and the werewolf is accidentally run over by a van, but that’s not the last of their worries. Back home, Brigitte discovers that Ginger’s wounds are already healing by themselves!
As life continues painfully forward, the girls become convince that the mauling has “turned” Ginger. Soon Ginger is sprouting fur from her wounds and seems to be developing abnormal physical strength, as evidenced when she gives a barking dog a good kick in the head to shut it up. As if getting bitten by a werewolf and changing isn’t enough, Ginger has gotten her period, 3 years late, and poor Brigitte still hasn’t. The combination of the two incidents begin to divide the once-close sisters, leaving Brigitte out in the cold. Meanwhile, “changing” seems to have done wonders for Ginger’s social life…
Ginger Snaps was made on an obvious low budget but is buoyed by a clever and sharp script. The direction by John Fawcett is outstanding, and the film is never as predictable as you expect a Teen Monster movie to be. If anything, Ginger Snaps excels in being unpredictable, always managing to surprise with each new scene. Just like the Goth characters, there is more than meets the eye. Oh sure, it all looks familiar, but there are layers to be uncovered.
The contrast between the girls’ perceptions of “what will be” and the reality of “what is” is one example of the film’s effective script. The movie addresses that age-old teenage habit of fantasizing about what’s out there and being completely wrong when the “there” suddenly becomes “here.” Halfway through the film, after Ginger begins to show signs of becoming a werewolf, the movie’s characters suddenly change, and Brigitte becomes the protective sister and Ginger the irresponsible one. Their transformation, brought on by Ginger’s (quickly becoming) uncontrollable temper and impulsiveness, matures the formerly docile Brigitte. Now forced to become the protector, Brigitte is frightened, but desperate to succeed.
Make no mistake. Ginger Snaps is not simply a PG-13 teen movie with the werewolf infection as an allegory for teenage angst. The movie is extremely violent, with multiple scenes of dog mutilations and buckets and buckets of blood on display. Ginger’s mauling at the hands of the werewolf that infects her is truly frightening to watch, even in jagged glimpses. The movie has other violent and bloody scenes, most of which involves knives or other sharp objects. Also, suicide is a running theme.
Ginger Snaps is, ultimately, a rather disturbing movie, but it’s also a very good one. It’s amazing what you can do with a low budget but high creative inspiration. Ginger Snaps is both clever and effective. And if all else fails, it’s probably the most original werewolf film in ages.
John Fawcett (director) / John Fawcett, Karen Walton (screenplay)
CAST: Emily Perkins …. Brigitte
Katharine Isabelle …. Ginger
Kris Lemche …. Sam
Jesse Moss …. Jason