GINGER SNAPS (2001)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 48 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

31. Ginger Snaps

Directed by: John Fawcett

Written by: Karen Walton

Starring: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Kris Lemche, Mimi Rogers, Jesse Moss

With an excess of zombie flicks and vampire movies everywhere you look, one would think that werewolves would have a bigger place in modern horror cinema. Pardon the pun, but good werewolf movies are a tough beast to come by. With a tragic background in the story of these monsters, you’d think they would have a built-in niche. GINGER SNAPS is a werewolf movie that works equally as well as a drama about sisters growing apart as it does as a full-blown horror movie. The teen angst adds to the story here, rather than hinders it. All the characters are fleshed out, which makes the coming carnage that much more hard to watch.

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Brigitte and Ginger are sisters who are practically connected at the hip. Both live morbid lifestyles and have a fascination with death. This obsession includes staging their own fake “suicides” and taking photos. It’s bonding in the strangest way possible. After a wild animal bites Ginger and is then killed by a car, she begins to exhibit certain changes. Incredibly fast healing to her wounds is one of them. She exhibits increasingly sexual and aggressive behavior, but it’s the unusual amount of hair everywhere and a tail growing out of her back that gives the sisters the feeling that something isn’t right. Brigitte and a fellow student suspect that Ginger has been infected by a werewolf and they only have a certain amount of time to cure her before things take a turn for the worse. Dogs go missing, other people get infected, and all the boys with raging hormones suddenly have the hots for Ginger. Will her new-found popularity be the end of her? Will Brigitte be able to cure her sister in time? How many innocent pets will become snacks for Ginger? You have to watch the movie for the answers to the first two, but I will reveal that the snacks may not just stop at four-legged animals.

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GINGER SNAPS has been acclaimed by many different horror sites, including being named as one of the best horror films of the past decade and was included in Fangoria’s 101 Best Horror Films You’ve Never Seen. This is all for good reason, because GINGER SNAPS is the best werewolf movie to come along since AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. That’s not a huge compliment considering the lack of great werewolf flicks, but dammit, it certainly counts for something!

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The relationship between Brigitte and Ginger takes center stage here with the werewolf story merely being a metaphor for puberty. It isn’t subtle in the slightest, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of the flick. Romero was as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face with his social commentary, but the original DEAD trilogy (NIGHT, DAWN, and DAY) stand as the greatest zombie movies ever made. Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle (who recently put in her best work in AMERICAN MARY) are convincing as loving sisters who have a weird look on life (and death). Unlike many other horror flicks involving high school students, these teenagers (including all of the side characters) seem realistic and actually LOOK like teenagers.

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The look of the werewolf can be seen as a bit cheesy, but I thought it was an original design. The transformation of Ginger is heartbreaking to watch and Brigitte’s increasingly desperate attempts to save her (and cover up some of her meals) are equally upsetting. While it’s fun in moments, GINGER SNAPS is also a really powerful horror drama. Some people have already likened the film to Cronenberg’s early films and I can see the connections. Incorporating a bit of body-horror into a the monster movie formula, makes the story even more fresh than it already is!

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The intense climax wrings every single second of tension that it can from the material. It’s was the perfect (and only) way to end this movie! GINGER SNAPS stands as a testament to how fantastic a classic concept can be, if there’s a little new blood injected in to it. This is not only one of the better horror films of the new millennium, but it’s also one of the very best werewolf movies ever made!

Grade: A

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