Ginger Snaps

Some horror movies take place in dark alleys, or abandoned houses, or deep woods. But others, like this one, know that real terror lives and hides in the suburbs – perhaps in your own backyard.

Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins), two twisted teenage sisters, social outcasts by default, are totally and completely obsessed with death. Their parents have come home to so many gruesome death scenes, no amount of blood, nor dismembered body parts, nor daughter’s corpses can faze them. The teachers at school, however, are not so desensitized. Trips to the guidance counsellor remain ineffective.

One night, at a park just like the one where you pushed your toddler on the swings, the sisters are attacked, and Ginger is mauled by a large and aggressive creature. Bigger than a dog, uglier than a bear, Brigitte just barely wrests her sister away from the blood thirsty animal, its pursuit interrupted by its encounter with a van. Creature eviscerated all over the quiet neighbourhood cul-de-sac, the sisters flee, leaving driver Sam (Kris Lemche) to guess at the impossible. Ginger’s been bitten by a werewolf, and her life (and her body!) are about to change in unexpected ways.

The film puts a twist on the classic werewolf tale by equating it in some way to womanhood. Ginger is bitten on the full moon, also the day of her belated first menstruation. “The curse,” my grandmother used to call it, though she never suggested it might accompany fur on my knuckles or a tail on my heinie. Ginger is transforming in more ways than one. With wolf blood in her veins, she is confident, more alive. She withdraws from her sister as she enjoys this new feeling of self-determination. Though she confuses her new need to hunt as a new need for sex, she manages to satisfy both, sometimes in one go. Her wolf side is like her newly discovered sexuality, both grant a marginalized young woman a certain power over men, and that’s an intoxicating feeling no matter how tragic the consequences.

John Fawcett’s film is clearly low-budget; even for 2000, the effects are unimpressive. Yet it forces him to explore the theme in creative ways, defining womanhood and femininity in new terms. There is a subversive, feminist filament running through this film, with generous deposits of coal-black humour and diamond-sharp wit.

There is a beast inside each woman, and she’s hungry like the wolf.

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