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It started out so great...ended so, well, generic
on 27 March 2006
I began watching 'Ginger Snaps' because I'd been intrigued by the DVD cover over the years (sounded like an OK premise), and there it was on TV one night, so why not give it a go.
Imagine my surprise, those of you who aren't werewolf movie fans, when it started shaping up to be one of the most brilliant movies about adolescence I'd ever seen. Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins) are two eccentric and somewhat Gothic teenage sisters in some awful town in Canada whose hobby is to stage fake deaths of themselves. One night, two things happen to Ginger; she starts menstruating, and she's attacked in the presence of her sister by some kind of terrifying beast. (Not a lot of difference, some would say.) This whole metaphor (sexuality-as-lycanthropy) is then pursued with stunningly grim wit for the first seventy-odd minutes of the movie. The girls' parents (Mimi Rogers, excellent, and some guy I don't know, equally good but barely in it) are oblivious of the fact that their elder daughter is growing a tail and developing a fondness for eviscerating the neighbourhood dogs. And while Ginger is coming to terms with her new life as a werewolf, she's also suddenly interested in boys, and not in hanging out with her somewhat dorky younger sister. Brigitte has to start growing up quickly, if only in order to curb the alarming bloodlust of her increasingly vulpoid sibling.
So, up until then, it's completely brilliant. Then, in the last twenty minutes, it all (IMHO) falls apart. Instead of following the logic established so beautifully early on, it becomes about running away from a person in a rubber wolf costume. The wit, style and invention drops off, and Plot rules with its characteristically leaden hand. It's a damn shame, because the performances of Perkins, Isabelle and Lemke in particular are excellent, and Karen Walton's script (for that first two-thirds, anyway) is top-class. IMDB reports that Walton is currently adapting for film one of the best Canadian novels of recent years, Michael Turner's 'The Pornographer's Poem', so I'll be looking out for that.
I gather that they went on to make a sequel and a prequel. It could probably go on forever. I'd watch them, too, if only because of the charm of the main characters, two of the most touchingly foul-mouthed misfits ever to sulk their way into this viewer's heart. I wish this film had been around when I was a teenager. I would have understood a lot more about girls, if nothing else. I just wish it had been less of a werewolf movie.