Ginger Snaps

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"I know what a lycanthrope is "

October 14th, 2009

I find it hard to enjoy Canadian television shows and films. For some strange reason they seem cheap and tacky despite the fact that their budget almost certainly surpass those made by our quaint little island. Despite this on occasion they do pull out some nifty little flicks that contain more character development than their closest neighbours, the US of A.

When I saw the poster for this at the cinema I was destined to work at I wasn't too impressed. The red visuals drew me in like any horror aficionado but it looked cheap, like every poster designed in the late 90's (photoshoped), also don't forget Canada seems to exist 2 years behind other countries. There was a drought in horror movies back then, I blame the Scream franchise but that's a rant for another review, I had nothing better to see so I sat in the theatre without even a glimpse at the synopsis.

As the film started I shrank back in my seat, I needed to get as comfortable as possible – this looked like it was going to suck. I have a rule when going to watch films; no matter how bad they are I stay till the credits start to roll. With this thought in mind it wouldn't matter if I fell asleep, I was with three friends and they'd wake me when it was over (later in life I found this to be a false assumption and once woke up in Uxbridge on my own, Gits). I was prepared but never closed my eyes once, this was good.

The film follows two teenage siblings, Ginger and Bridget; both have a taste for the macabre and are obsessed with death and suicide. Their town being plagued with a spat of violent dog murders, the girls are inspired to find the fresh remains of a canine to use in one of their projects. Unfortunately for them they run into the creature causing the deaths which just happens to be a Lycanthrope. Poor Ginger now not only has to deal with her first ever period (the curse) but a far more physical transformation.

Let me first state I love werewolf movies; they are a rare treat and the least used of the original monsters of horror. Vampires litter the screens but the Lycanthropes have to struggle to reach the same dizzying heights. When they do appear most need to be taken down with the closest silver bullet. This movie took our favorite little doggies and gave them a new slant that I had yet to see on the silver screen.

Taking things at a slow pace, rather than giving Ginger a quick transformation she gradually evolves over the course of the flick. From strange mood swings to developing a small tail this is hardly puberty at its best.

The film looks cheap but in this case it works, it made the characters feel more realistic, add in the fact that most of the cast were at the time of filming the ages they were meant to represent and things felt a bit more believable. No 25 year olds driving to school here.

None of the cast at that time were recognizable from other productions. This is an aspect that I feel increases the horror, when a character dies, as with real life the chances that I'll see them again decreases significantly. The budget was obviously saved for the gore effects (no CGI, Yay) and they were FAB, the wolf is kept to the shadows and increases its scariness a la the first Alien film.

The film is held together by Katherine Isabelle and Emily Perkins, they take up most of the screen time and create likeable characters despite their outcast nature. When Ginger starts her slow transformation we witness the tight bond of sisterhood slowly pulled apart which is heartbreaking on its own but then tack on the secret Ginger holds and it becomes unbearable. Both give it their all here but I feel Emily Perkins steals the show with her timid but strong-willed performance.

Mimi Rogers is the only notable celebrity star here and some how managed to give a performance that had me liking her character. Over the years I have associated her with rubbish and am hard pressed to pick out anything else she's been in I like (except X-files but the show was far gone by then). This film while dealing with dark themes has its moments of comedy, when her character discovers that one of her kin is a murderer, rather than reacting in the standard manner she actually begins to hid the bodies to protect her young – true motherly love.

The allusions that the transformation of a Lycanthrope is akin to female menstruation have been made before but never as finely as this. The Company Of Wolves is a much loved similar tale but not one I cared for. Ginger Snaps now proudly sits on my considerable DVD collection alongside An American Werewolf In London and Wolf (don't laugh I like it!) it's just a shame it comes with the same terrible poster on the cover.

This film is the first in an apparent trilogy, I'm not sure where I stand on that but the first is great. Too bad that the slow pace sometimes weakens this one but I still enjoy watching it regularly this time of year. 8/10

Best Kill
Over the course of the film one guy takes a serious beating

Shot in only six weeks
John Fawcett refused to use CGI and used practical effects – good man
Emily Perkins is actually five years older than Katherine Isabelle

Director: John Fawcett
Screenplay: Karen Walton, John Fawcett
Released: 2000
Rating: 18
Starring: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Kris Lemche, Mimi Rogers

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