I admit that the title just by itself grabbed my attention. Popular culture loves dangerous females right now and Ginger Snaps promises loads inside its neat pun.
The film is set in Canada, but it could have been anywhere... any of our anonymous suburban sprawls for instance. Deathly banal ennui. Which has clearly infected these two sisters, because they spend their spare time on a school project which involves them enacting and photographing mock suicides. Though it seems to be their intention to do it for real before long. Everyone regards these neo-Goths as freaks. But there's something rather freaky about all of the local kids of Bailey Downs:- they might individually get upset, but none of them regards it as particularly odd that grotesquely eviscerated dogs keep appearing on lawns and playing fields.
The Fitzgerald household doesn't seem especially dysfunctional or bizarre, though the girls seem determined to treat it as if it were, and have made a pact to escape Bailey Downs or kill themselves. We hardly see Dad, and Mum just seems a bit blithe like something out of The Brady Bunch. Mimi Rogers is good value in this part, and gets to deliver one of the best lines: "I told you, no more deaths in the house". The girls bicker with their parents at the dinner table, and Ginger in particular is turning into a right little Kevinette. How could this be? Anything to do with that animal attack when she was scratched and recovered amazingly quickly? But suddenly, she's having her first period, she's taking an interest in boys, wanting away from Brigitte... this all looks like teen metaphor territory, so well epitomised by Buffy - in which all the trials and torments of adolescence are externalised in a series of vicious demons and associated horror.
I'm sure a lot of horror fans will take to the film, though they might feel the specifically 'horror' elements are a bit so-so. The main joys of the film are the witty script, especially in the earlier stages, and the performances of the leads - Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins are both excellent, creating thoroughly dimensional characters. The plot's main course is Ginger's gradual transformation. This isn't one of those werewolf films where the change happens for a couple of nights during a full moon. One of several holes in the film's ideas: apart from making a nonsense of the poster at the top, a temporary transformation would make perfect sense as a parallel with the film's professed menstruation connection. However, there is another obvious theme, which they're probably more concerned with, that of infection. There are many aspects to Ginger's changing. Many details go unremarked on but are (more or less) subtly rendered:- her teeth get a little longer, she acquires attractive grey streaks in her hair and claw-like nails. Most unnerving of all is the tail she starts to grow - and there are some amusing scenes in which the sisters are seen concealing this most obvious symptom of alteration. Unnerving partly because it's weirdly attractive. Perhaps I shouldn't be saying that out loud... And, hardly an original idea, and mandatory in the teen horror genre, is the scene in which she walks into school; having been shrouded in a coat, moody and defensive, she's suddenly a babe. She does a magnificent walk, and the boys can hardly take their eyes off her. Of course she continues transforming, and the changes become a little too noticeable, but, in an almost traditional cliché, it happens to be Halloween and she 'has a great costume'.
The ending is a let-down. In horror terms it's what you expect; a monster revealed and a tragic result. But with this film you want something a bit different. It seems a bit, well, conventional. And not even very well done by today's standards, but I suppose budget was the reason for that, the monster at least. But: the way the mother gets forgotten? The film definitely leads you to expect her to appear again at some crucial moment. And that absurdly labyrinthine basement? And most importantly, the ample opportunities to deliver what could be the cure... and an unanswered question about Brigitte's infection. Whatever, it's a great pity that there doesn't seem much scope for two excellent characters to make a comeback. Oh er sorry about the spoiler - but trust me, it's not much of one. I don't give stars as such, or marks out of ten. But you might ask: would I watch it again, on telly or wherever? Yes, definitely; when the script's good I always want to hear it again to pick up lines I might have missed. Would I buy the DVD? Maybe. But it does get this stamp of approval: see this film.
3 August 2001
The movie site has disappeared now. This one isn't official I don't think, and is already showing its age - some of its links don't work - but it contains some interesting material eg. interviews. This is as much as one can expect at this point so long after the film came out.