Ginger Snaps (DVD, 2005) Reviews
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Ginger Snaps (DVD, 2005)

35 ratings (16 Epinions reviews)
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"Ginger Snaps" Also Sometimes Crackles and Pops

May 23, 2002
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Performances by Perkins, Isabelle, and Rogers. Fine make-up work. Sharp script. Nice tone.

Cons:Creature effects are sometimes weak. Will be too gory for some (or many).

The Bottom Line: It's bloody, funny, scary, and genuine. The effects may be sub-Rick Baker, but this is a werewolf film with heart.

Like the best of Canadian cinema, Ginger Snaps is either earnestly subversive or subversively earnest and it's difficult at times to figure out which way its going at any given time. A classic horror film with the subtext laid bare, Ginger Snaps is like a lighter, less demented early Cronenberg film. It's gory and funny and moving and scary and probably not for everyone. But for people fans of the genre and fans of Mississagua, Ontario (I know you're out there!) it's a winner.

The film starts off like a slightly more demented version of The Virgin Suicides. The two brooding Fitzgerald sisters, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins), stiffled in cookie-cutter suburbia react to their alienation by entering into a suicide pact. They demonstrate their alienation further by creating a series of elaborate snapshots of suicide possibilities — impaling on a fence, drinking bleach, etc. Meanwhile, the neighborhood is being terrorized by a wild animal that's disemboweling local dogs. But as sometimes happens in horror books and movies (Carrie, anyone?), Ginger's first period produces unexpected changes, mostly particularly when the wild animal is drawn to her and attacks. And soon, Ginger's changes are more than just your basic puberty stuff. Sure, there's blood and sure there "hair where there wasn't before," but not in any of the expected ways.

The film's writers, Karen Walton and John Fawcett (they share a "story by" credit, while Walton gets screenwriting credit and Fawcett directed) know the rules of the genre and they play them to the hilt. That horror films have long been based on a latent fear of burgeoning female sexuality is hardly a shocking revelation. Ginger Snaps embraces the clichés, offering commentary on the role of teenage girls in society. The film offers, for example, a scene of lost virginity that is both harrowing and hilarious. Actually, that's a set of split emotions that the film frequently straddles. Take, for example, an especially frank and graphic chat that the girls have with a school nurse about the facts of life. You're tempted to laugh, you're tempted to be disgusted, and then somewhere, deep down, you suspect there may be more than a grain of truth to the whole exchange. Is the film playing everything straight-faced or is everything tongue in cheek? I'd suggest that every second of the film is a little bit of each. It's a combination that makes the film unique.

Take, for example, the make-up and creature effects. Depending on the moment, Paul Jones's work is either totally brilliant or amusingly cheesy. The transformations to Ginger's otherwise mild visage are excellently rendered and in the early creature attack scene, the editing obscures the fact that the film's budget wasn't high enough to create a convincing full-sized werewolf. In the film's climactic scenes, though, the slightly shoddy full-screen images of the creature prevent you from taking the conclusion too seriously. Again, I suspect that this was intentional. The effects prevent the film's ending from being excessively sappy.

The contrasting performance styles also perfectly reflect the film's divergent tones. Perkins is perfect as the brooding younger sister who both envies and fears Ginger's transformation and as the Lolita Lycanthrope, Isabelle gives Ginger the proper mix of camp and honest openness (not a normal combination). Kris Lemche, as an ambiguously kind-hearted drug dealer who helps Brigitte, plays it 100% straight, but Mimi Rogers as the girls' mother (who has taken a hands off parenting strategy) is a total hoot.

You wouldn't think the mixing and matching would work, but Walton and Fawcett perform an admirable bit of alchemy. With the help of cinematographer Thom Best, Fawcett begins with film with bland flat color tones and amps everything up as the blood begins to fly. The suburban locales are menacing in their sameness, as are all of the kids besides the Fitzgerald girls. For the first part of the film, Mike Shields's fun cello-heavy score provides the fun, but Fawcett wisely put together the film's last scene almost entirely music-free.

Ginger Snaps is a film of calculated and corrects decisions. It's a well-crafted gore film with a sensitive Buffy-esque edge. If that sounds like your kinda thing, then I certainly recommend Ginger Snaps.

Recommend this product? Yes

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