Ginger Snaps (2000) / Horror-Drama
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but definitely R for gore, bloody violence, sexuality and language
Running Time: 108 min.
Cast: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Kris Lemche, Mimi Rogers, Jesse Moss
Director: John Fawcett
Screenplay: Karen Walton
Review published January 13, 2002
Slightly a cut above the typical teenage horror flick fare, if you were to describe Ginger Snaps to its bare essentials, one could say that it was Cronenberg's The Fly directed in a Buffy the Vampire Slayer style. While there is a lot of gore on display, most of the film is played in a campy manner that evokes a little more laughter than horror, and probably saves the film from being unpalatably dark and disgusting. While Ginger Snaps is too uneven to be described as a good film on the whole, those who enjoy teen horror of today (The Faculty, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and the aforementioned Buffy), will probably take readily to this lesser known flick in the mini-genre, mostly because it sports more quality in terms of acting, directing and writing. However, in the world of horror cinema, it's just too derivative and not deep enough to be considered special.
Ginger (Isabelle, Insomnia) and Brigitte (Perkins, Juno) are an odd pair of teenage sisters, not really part of any particular crowd by choice, and they like to spend their time creating gruesome photographs of their own suicides. They even make a pact that they will die together when the time comes, rather than have to live apart. On the fool moon before Halloween, Ginger is bitten by what appears to be a werewolf, and slowly she begins to undergo a metamorphosis which includes growing a tail and fur in locations where there shouldn't be any. She also develops a taste for blood and carnage. Now Brigitte races to find a cure for her sister before she loses her altogether to the curse.
The deeper meaning of Ginger Snaps is an easy one to decipher as it's a metaphor for the change from a girl to a woman, and all of the body changes that happen as a result, from the hair growth to the taping down of the tail to hide the new developments, as well as the new lustful feelings. On that level, perhaps some may think Ginger Snaps to be a deeper movie than it really is, but on the surface narrative form, it still remains a rather standard horror film. The casting is very good all around, and certainly the two leads perform admirably given the scope of emotions that they must draw, from love and hate to horror and tragedy.
Ginger Snaps is not a very scary film, although many will be turned off by the excessively grotesque images that are displayed throughout the film. However, the film is not gratuitous in its depiction of the gore even if it is graphic, and I respected the fact that it held back the shots of carnage during many scenes when it could have been expected. Still, what is shown is a bit hard to stomach for the squeamish, so you may find yourself having to avert your eyes out of disgust rather than fear.
I must admit, I'm not a huge fan of horror films, mostly because I find many of them lacking in suspense and good stories, and Ginger Snaps isn't really an exception despite the fine qualities. However, if you absolutely adore horror flicks, I would recommend it to you as an example of how to do a teen horror flick better than 90% of the stuff that comes out of Hollywood these days in a similar vein.
©2002 Vince Leo