Since the release of the 1999 independent horror film The Blair Witch Project, a new genre of dark, horror films were starting to emerge. While The Blair Witch Project became a huge hit that unfortunately lost its audience after loads of parodies and an awful, big-budget sequel, it seemed like horror films were going to run by the bland, teen-horror films like Jeepers Creepers and Wrong Turn. In the past few years, a small group of dark, psychological films came out to amounts of obscurity found itself becoming cult favorites among indie film fans and video rental fans. Recently, movies like Donnie Darko, May, and Wendigo have become cult favorites despite not even being seen through the art-house theaters and notably, the mainstream. Another film thats been getting a cult following was a small Canadian werewolf film about two dysfunctional sisters in a dull, Canadian suburb as one of them is becoming a werewolf after being attacked by one. This little gem that has now been talked about through a small group of film buffs has been called Ginger Snaps.
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In the past, werewolves have always been a sub genre in horror that fans loved but over the years, the ideas were getting slim. In the late 90s, it would be rare to find a good werewolf movie. For Ginger Snaps, the clichés of old werewolf stories are thrown out the book in favor of new ideas from director John Fawcett and screenwriter Karen Hall. In Ginger Snaps, the film focuses not just on the idea of a young teen girl becoming a werewolf but also the dysfunctional, oddball relationship between two death-obsessed sisters. Released in Canada in 2000, Ginger Snaps is by far one of the most fascinating and sickening horror films in the past few years that really freshened the ideas of werewolves.
Its a boring area in the suburbs of Bailey Downs in Canada but recently, the suburb has been under attack as families see their dogs killed and eaten by a mysterious beast called the Beast of Bailey Downs. To the 15-year old Fitzgerald sisters, death is nothing new to them as they swore that they would both die at the age of 16 and not go past that age. With their adolescents and hormones growing late as Ginger (Katherine Isabelle) is growing moody over her angst while the less prettier Brigitte (Emily Perkins) just wants to follow what her sister does. The two engage in staging death projects as they both play dead find creative ways to portray their deaths to the school for a project. Their teacher however wasnt pleased despite the praise of the students. In school, the Fitzgerald sisters are pretty much outcasts as they would be forced to play field hockey with the schools queen Trina Sinclair (Danielle Hampton) as she pushed Brigitte in a match where she almost fell on the body of a dead dog.
Ginger, the more angst-ridden sister, wants to beat up Trina as she keeps getting flirted by schoolmate Jason McCardy (Jesse Moss) as they watch Trina trying to flirt with the schools gardener Sam (Kris Lemche). They would return home to their perky mother Pamela (Mimi Rogers) as she noticed how Ginger kept rubbing her back as a sign of menstruation as Ginger is annoyed by her mom. Ginger and Brigitte decide to go to the park to go after Trinas dog and make it believe that its dead. They walked into a park to find a dead dog where Ginger got some blood from the dog and was suddenly, attacked by a mysterious beast. Brigitte ran after to save Ginger as the two run from the beast as its suddenly killed by Sams van. Brigitte helps Ginger and see the scratches and cuts that shes getting as all of a sudden, theyre healing fast.
Ginger all of a sudden feels sick with changes in her body and mind as she found herself bleeding more where Brigitte went to the school nurse but she told them that it was nothing but them growing up. Gingers attitude change as she starts to flirt with Jason and smoke dope while kicking Trinas dog leaving Brigitte alone and coming to Sam for help as he asked her about a picture he found that she took which was the beast. Gingers growing change becomes more troubling as she starts to wear sexier clothing and making out with Jason as one night, she had sex with him and started to get rough with him while killing a neighbor dog. Brigitte gets really worried as she goes to Sam for help as he suggests to put silver in her body as she put a belly-button ring to Ginger.
The changes gets worse as Ginger becomes a bit more violent, especially in a field hockey match where she beats up Trina after she pushed Brigitte. The relationship between Brigitte and Ginger becomes more dysfunctional than ever as she goes to Sam more as he discovers about the plant, monkshood that will probably cure her as Jason is starting to have similar symptoms as well. Trina then confronts Brigitte over her dead dog as Ginger beats her up as Trina tries to kill her but slips on spilled milk and dies. Things get more hectic as Ginger grows a tail and becomes more of a wolf as Brigitte was attacked by Jason and in a later confrontation, tries the monkshood potion in which he is cured. Unfortunately, Ginger gets more and more dangerous leaving Brigitte with a dilemma that leads to her making a fateful decision.
What makes Ginger Snaps far more original than the recent teen-horror films is that it plays up more psychologically and is much closer to realism than most films. The story by director John Fawcett and Karen Wells plays up to the relationship of the Fitzgerald sisters which at times, is driven by self-destructive and boredom as it evolves into something much more dangerous leaving to some strong, dramatic moments. The films special effects are well done, as the monster doesnt even look extremely fake or lame though the gore in the film might not be for everyone. Fawcetts direction is top-notch in making a horror film that isnt exactly a horror film yet providing a dramatic structure that is well balanced and filled with suspense and comedy, notably in the films script where the dialogue is downright hilarious. The films bleak, daylight suburban look to the more black-orange tone from cinematographer Thom Best is well shot, especially in the Fitzgeralds colorless, bleak room. Mike Shields film score is very haunting and filled with suspense along with a killer, electronic-driven soundtrack that is edgy but not generic.
The films cast is top-notch in its performances. Veteran Mimi Rogers definitely plays up to her perkiness as the mother where she gets all giddy when the girls start to ask about boys while trying to pretend they didnt do anything wrong in a hilarious satire of the ignorant mother. The performances of Jesse Moss and Danielle Hampton in the respective roles of the school bad boy and school b*tch are well performed, as they play the awful, superficial tone of high school students. Kris Lemche is excellent as the sympathetic, good-looking gardener who displays elements of intelligence and a bad-boy persona that makes ladies swoon. The films best performances easily go to the duo of Emily Perkins and Katherine Isabelle. Perkins is amazing as the more tight, gawky Brigitte as she plays the sister who isnt as tough but evolves into something stronger as shes more desperate to save her sister. Isabelle is vibrant as Ginger as she plays the brash, angst-ridden sister who evolves into a sexy, creepy werewolf chick. The chemistry between Perkins and Isabelle are spellbinding in its desperation and dysfunctional energy.
While some films fans wont like the gore-fest in the film, Ginger Snaps is still one hell of a flick that doesnt ponder down to Hollywood clichés. Its a hilarious, suspenseful, creepy werewolf thriller that just keeps on getting better with each viewing. With a great cast led by Emily Perkins and Katherine Isabelle, its a great film to watch if youre looking for a good alternative to the lame teen-horror films in recent years. Though the credibility of Ginger Snaps might be tested with two coming sequels in 2004 starring the two actresses, its still clear it wont live up to the original. Overall, Ginger Snaps is just one werewolf film that doesnt suck; even purists will enjoy this flick for its freshness and oddball tone.
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