They don’t call it the curse for nothing.
--tagline, Ginger Snaps.
GINGER: You know what? You're right... Maybe I do see a monster. Yeah... It's got these little green eyes...
BRIGITTE: Oh right. Like I really wish I was hairy and haemorrhaging and sucking off Jason McCarty.
Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but far grittier than network television would allow, this 2001 Canadian film uses tired horror movie conventions to comment on teenage life and suburban culture. Written by Karen Walton and John Fawcett and directed by the latter, it tells the story of two goth sisters, sexy Ginger (Katherine Isabelle) and shy Brigitte (Emily Perkins). Outsiders sharing a private world, they have rejected—- a little too self-consciously—- the conformist world of suburbia. For a class project on life in their planned community of Bailey Downs, they stage and photograph gruesome scenes of death and suicide. The Fitzgerald sisters even appear to be rebelling against nature; neither girl has started menstruating.
Their lives change when they encounter the Beast of Bailey Downs, a wild animal that has been killing local pets. As this is a horror movie, the beast turns out to be a werewolf, and it snaps a piece of Ginger before dying. That same night, Ginger gets her first period.
Over the course of the month, the moon waxes and Ginger transforms. We’re left to wonder if she’s becoming a monster or merely a teenager, and to contemplate which is actually scarier. Brigitte feels abandoned, left to deal with a sister who grows more bestial and hormonally-charged with each day. She seeks out a helpful drug-dealer (Kris Lemche), whose knowledge of herbs and willingness to believe make him a natural ally.
The film contains many extraordinary moments. Walton and Fawcett bleed the adolescence/menstruation/lycanthropy parallels; a conversation with a helpful school nurse on Ginger’s transformation no doubt resonates with every teen who has believed that, no, adults don’t really understand. Both Isabelle and Perkins turn in riveting performances; many ordinary teen movies do not permit their characters' relationships to develop so convincingly. Mimi Rogers as the girls’ June Cleaveresque mom plays her role with frightening perfection; suburbia may be the scariest monster of all.
The ending becomes overly tortured and perhaps a little too conventional. Nevertheless, the film’s best moments make it must-see lycanthrope viewing. Witty, frightening, and extremely bloody, Ginger Snaps takes I was a Teenage Werewolf far beyond the comfortable horrors of the 1950s drive-in.
NOTES: Slight variations of the film exist worldwide. The Canadian DVD features the film as intended, along with several deleted scenes and commentary. Its cover also uses the creepy, original poster art, rather than the more “Hollywood” design used in most foreign copies.
Reportedly, an uncredited Lucy Lawless provides the voice of the school's P.A. system.
Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed was released in 2004, while Ginger Snaps III: The Beginning, a prequel, went straight to video.