The first thing you need to know before you watch Ginger Snaps is that’s a real horror movie. That means genuinely unsettling, disturbing, makes-your-skin-crawl kind of stuff. And you’re plunged right into this from the start. The opening scene involves a mother and her young son discovering that the family dog has been torn to pieces, bloody scraps and guts all over the back yard … which pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
In a way it’s not really that gratuitous. The whole movie is a metaphor for adolescence, which in itself is a pretty gruesome thing to have to go through. There are these two morbid sisters, Ginger and Bridgette, who are afraid of growing up so much that they have a suicide pact together. They are obsessed with death, and for art class they take photos of each other in disturbingly realistic fake death poses. Ginger begins going through puberty, has her first period, and whoosh! Cue the werewolf attack.
The initial changes she goes through are pretty common — mood swings, bleeding, pains, hairy legs, growing a tail … okay, maybe that last one isn’t quite so common. Bridgette, along with a drug dealer named Sam who accidentally hit the original werewolf with his van, begin to suspect what’s really going on and start thinking of how they can cure the disease of lycanthropy. The idea of werewolves is introduced early on, and the characters accept it pretty quickly after the things they see which means we can just get on with the story.
Karen Walton has written a fantastic script here, and John Fawcett proves himself a competent director. All of the leads are excellent in their roles, with the two lead actresses Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle expertly playing the disturbed Fitzgerald sisters with fantastic chemistry. Kris Lemche is also notable as the drug dealer, giving a performance reminiscent of Christian Slater’s shining moment in “Heathers”. In fact, the two movies are similar in tone in a number of ways, and both have become cult classics with very similar audiences. The special effects team, headed by Paul Jones who worked on such projects as “Dracula 2000” and “Wolf Girl”, have also done a pretty good job, creating some great-looking physical effects, with blood and guts piling up in every passing minute. The design of the wolf itself is interesting and original, giving us something that we really haven’t seen before.
And so, though not for the faint of heart, this dark and wonderful piece of work ranks as probably the smartest, most subtle and intelligent werewolf movie ever made.