As if puberty wasn’t horrific enough, now Ginger must contend with also becoming a werewolf!
Ginger Snaps presents one of the more original takes on lycanthropy since An American Werewolf in London.
A teenage drama mixed-up with a werewolf film. This looks like a cross between An American Werewolf in London, The Lost Boys and a teen coming of age film. Two sisters share the curse of being unattractive, until one is bitten by a werewolf. She then becomes popular to the chagrin of her sister. This change will affect their relationship, while the parents only see “normal teenage changes.” I have never seen this film before, so let’s get started!
Presented below is the trailer for the film.
In a suburban tract home in Ontario, Canada, two teenage girls, Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) present a slideshow on various forms of suicide, staged with themselves for a school project. They have created a suicide pact to die together by the time they’re 16. Their classmates think them freaks, and they don’t do much to try to change that attitude. Both girls don’t get along with their parents, as many teenagers don’t, but they also have the additional issue of both being late bloomers. Neither teen has experienced their first period yet.
After an altercation with Trina (Danielle Hampton), a popular girl at school, Ginger suggests that the two kidnap her dog and make it appear to have been mauled by the local “beast” that is leaving dead dogs around the housing tract. Ginger unexpectedly gets her first period while they are out and is attacked by a vicious creature that mauls her. As they try to escape, the beast is hit by a van driven by the local gardener and drug dealer, Sam (Kris Lemche), killing it.
The girls don’t make a report of the attack, as Ginger’s wounds heal preternaturally quick. Brigitte begins to think that something is amiss, and begins researching lycanthropy. She questions Sam about what he thinks he hit, as Ginger slowly becomes more popular with the boys at school, especially Jason (Jesse Moss). As Ginger grows closer with the popular crowd, she begins to distance herself from Brigitte. Trina confronts the girls at their house about her dog, when Ginger attacks her. Trina slips and breaks her neck, which the girls quickly cover up from her mother Pamela (Mimi Rogers).
Ginger continues to change, growing a tail for instance, as well as becoming more feral, and eating the neighbor’s dog. Brigitte continues to meet with Sam who has knowledge about a potential cure using monkshood. Ginger confronts Sam on Halloween, having almost changed fully into a wolf; attempting to get him to leave Brigitte alone. Brigitte interrupts Ginger from turning Sam into another werewolf (or potentially a snack). They then take Ginger back to the girls house to administer the cure before she fully transforms.
Arriving at the house, Ginger changes and escapes into the basement before the duo can administer the cure. She disembowels Sam, urging Brigitte to join her. When Brigitte refuses to become a wolf as well, Ginger stalks her. In a final attack, Ginger accidentally impales herself on Brigitte’s knife, dying in her sisters arms, as Brigitte cries over the loss of her sister.
“They’re just being normal teenage girls.” – Pamela
Ginger Snaps presents a unique perspective on the werewolf genre, by telling the mythology of the classic transformation from human to beast using teenage girls that are entering puberty. The film feels right from a genre perspective, hitting the elements that make up a werewolf film: strange beast infects protagonist (which usually dies afterwards), protagonist experiences strange changes over the next month, character changes into wolf-like creature at the next full moon. But instead of an adventurer, or backpacker, the protagonist is a teenager girl that just got “the curse,” i.e. her period.
Linking the anxiety and bodily changes of puberty, with the transformations of lycanthropy is not unique to this film – the 1985 film Teen Wolf used it to great comedic effect. But the use this theme in a pure horror film, using girls at puberty adds a new level of drama to the effect of a monthly transformation. Additionally the portrayal of the girls as dark, and suicidally obsessed presents a further edge to the film. In the opening credits, the audience is shown a number of pictures staged by the girls of possible suicides they could perform, such as hanging, pill overdose, or being impaled on a picket fence. Nowhere in this slide show does transforming into a wolf and being killed by your sister appear..
The commentary on suburbia is evident in this film. The fact that a werewolf could exist in a community like this and be “invisible” except for a few slaughtered dogs seems incredible. But no less incredible than the quiet desperation and mock pleasantries of the girls parents. Their mother Pamela is always upbeat and smiling, but she secretly hates her life and her husband. She snaps at him to “stay in [his] own little world,” when discussing the girls because he doesn’t understand the women in his life. Later when she thinks that the girls have murdered Trina (in a totally suburban, sort of teenage spat, and not in a monstrous werewolfy way) she suggests without irony, that she can blow up the house with a gas leak and then the three of them can leave their dad and start a new life. This woman’s pain runs deep!
Ginger Snaps borrows from the best modern werewolf film, An American Werewolf in London, not only with its modern day re-imagining of the werewolf story, but also the style of it’s creature and effects. The wolf form for Ginger is a stocky wolf, very similar to the one in London. And the characters death in the end of the film evokes some of the same pathos and sadness, even though minutes before it was terrifying audiences. The film is tense and anxious, much like the lives of the characters it embodies and provides suitable scares that a film of this kind should deliver.
- The writer & director, John Fawcett would later go on to create the TV series Orphan Black.
- Emily Perkins may be recognizable to viewers as young Beverly Marsh in the 1990 television version of Stephen King’s It. She also returns to this series as Brigitte in Ginger Snaps 2, and Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning.
- Katharine Isabelle also played a part in a TV adaptation of a Stephen King story, the 2002 version of Carrie. She too returned (somehow) for the Ginger Snaps sequels, plus was also featured in Freddy vs Jason, and American Mary.
- The film makes a point that silver bullets need not be the only thing to kill a werewolf, since Sam’s van kills the first beast. The film even has Sam mention that the audience should “forget the Hollywood rules.”
Having grown up on comics, television and film, “Jovial” Jay feels destined to host podcasts and write blogs related to the union of these nerdy pursuits. Among his other pursuits he administrates and edits stories at the two largest Star Wars fan sites on the ‘net (Rebelscum.com, TheForce.net), and co-hosts the Jedi Journals podcast over at the ForceCast network.