Posted: 07/22/02

Ginger Snaps (2000)
by Del Harvey

Goth girls with a morbid fascination are given a glimpse of the real thing when a werewolf terrorizes their small town in good little horror flick.

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Teen angst is given the full treatment in Ginger Snaps, featuring a pair of "anygirl" types whose dark obsessions have them labeled as weird outcasts at the local high school. The girls live in a seemingly normal community, with normal parents Pamela (Mimi Rogers - Someone to Watch Over Me) and Henry (John Bourgeois - A Map of the World), and simply seem to be passing through another phase of puberty.

Ginger (Katherine Isabelle) is the slightly more mature one, whose body and hormones blossom in an obviously physical manner, much earlier than sister Brigette (Emily Perkins). Brigette is the nerdier, gawkier girl who is all but shapeless in her long sweaters and black wool tights and frizzy hair obscuring her face. On the verge of puberty, they have sworn a pact to die before they get old. And their greatest pleasure comes from photographing themselves in elaborately staged and very hideously graphic murder scenes. For example, they break out a few slats in a white picket fence, cover Ginger with blood, and glue the slats back, giving the appearance that she has been thrust through the fence. Emily giddily snaps away while Ginger lies there with a vacant death stare. Their bedroom walls are plastered with photos of various "scenes" they've created.

These idyllic days of youth are interrupted by an odd and frightening attach in their neighborhood one night. As the girls are walking towards a playground on the edge of their subdivision, something comes racing at them in the darkness. The thing grabs Ginger and hauls her off into the darkness in the blink of an eye. Brigette is left alone, listening to her sister's screams. This brief section is the first of several truly frightening scenes in the film. Ginger is spared by the attacking beast, but she is seriously mauled. Brigette takes her home and tries to administer first aid, but he wounds heal quickly, marked with tufts of hair.

The attack also accelerates several natural process within Ginger, including puberty. Suddenly their vow to remain best friends and true until death disintegrates as Ginger's budding breasts and feminine curves reveal hidden desires, not the least of which is a bloodlust.

Co-written and directed by John Fawcett, Ginger Snaps is a very effective and engrossing little horror film. There are several inspired moments and a few good scares, a plausible plot, and excellent performances in what is an otherwise average, low-budget feature. The biggest drawback is the creature, which by itself resembles a Sesame Street critter on steroids. However, when it really counts, ,such as the climactic confrontation between Brigette and her werewolf sister in full hunt, the sequence is truly frightening. But only so because of the excellent direction and camera work (Thom Best - TV's Queer as Folk). For these reasons, Ginger Snaps is thrilling and frightening enough to keep you glued to your screen. Co-writer Karen Walton contributed to an unusually frightening coming-of-age tale with just the right hint of comedy.

Brigette's would-be boyfriend and professed werewolf hunter Sam (Kris Lemeche) adds authenticity and provides a nice balance to the girl's dilemmas. Danielle Hampton as school slut/cheerleader Trina Sinclair gets automatic winner as "Girl You'd Most Like to See Ripped to Shred by a Werewolf." And, finally, in addition to her acting, Katherine Isabelle, as Ginger, presents a lush and simmering sensuality full of the promise of coming years.

Ginger Snaps is both good fun and a good scare, and worth the $3 at your local video store.

Del Harvey, founder of FM, lives in Chicago. He is a survivor of The Directors Guild Of America, The Walt Disney Company, and Lucasfilm.

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