There hasn’t been as many werewolf horror films as there has been zombie or vampire ones in recent times. Of those that have come out in the last ten or more years one could the number of really good ones in one hand. There was Neil Marshall’s low-budget Dog Soldiers in 2002. Preceding Marshall’s film by two years was an equally low-budget and well-made werewolf and coming-of-age horror film from Canada which has gained quite a cult following since it appeared on horror fans’ radars.
Ginger Snaps took the werewolf tale and combined it with the coming-of-age tale of two sisters growing up in a small Canadian town. Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald are the two sisters who are your usual outcasts in school who feel more at home with their goth interests than the jocks and popular in-crowd. It would be during one night when the two are walking home when things would change not just for Ginger but for the two sisters as a team. Ginger gets attacked by some wild animal and it’s how she and her sister Brigitte deal with the sudden changes to Ginger that the film really earns it’s merits.
The film definitely takes some cues from fellow Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg in illustrating and exploring how the curse of lycanthrophy could double as the phase of puberty on two girls entering young womanhood. We see the change happening not just to Ginger’s body but to her personality as well. The more she becomes the wolf (hence embracing her primal side) the more confident and self-assured she becomes leaving her sister behind.
Ginger Snaps wasn’t a film that could’ve succeeded on the film’s direction but the writing (though heavy-handed and lacking some subtlety) was atypically good for a low-budget horror film involving the topic of werewolf, female puberty and sisterhood dynamics. It’s a story that first glance seems like a recipe for disaster, but the performances by the film’s leads in Katharine Isabelle as Ginger and Emily Perkins as her sister Brigitte holds everything together. Even Mimi Rogers as the well-meaning, but oblivious mother to the two sisters does a good job without being too campy in a role that seemed destined to be one.
The film has definitely gained a cult following in the years since it first premiered at the 2000 Toronto International Film Festival due more to horror fans discovering it on video. Ginger Snaps is a wonderful werewolf film which combines some dark humor and teenage anxieties to a fresh take on the werewolf legend. It’s a film that really deserves to be seen by those who wonder why there’s not more werewolf horror films.