Wedlock (1991, directed by Lewis Teague)


This HBO film opens with a shot of an urban skyline and a title card that reads “somewhere in the future.”  However, the city looks like a present-day city and the cars don’t fly and all of the clothing is 90s fashionable and the people in the movie use pay phones.  Since Wedlock was made in 1991, I guess the movie takes place in … 1992?  Maybe 1993.

Frank (Rutger Hauer), Noelle (John Chen), and Sam (James Remar) are professional thieves who have just managed to make a big score.  They’ve stolen several million dollars worth of diamonds.  Unfortunately, Sam tripped an alarm during the theft so Frank had to make off with the diamonds.  After he hides them, Frank goes to the rendezvous point to meet up with Sam and Noelle.  His partners betray him, shooting Frank and, after discovering that he doesn’t have the diamonds him, leaving him for dead.

However, Frank survives.  He ends up getting sent to Camp Holliday, a prison run by Warden Holliday (Stephen Tobolowsky, who you’ll recognize as Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day). The Warden explains that his prison is more progressive than most.  Not only is the prison co-ed but prisoners are allowed more freedom to move around.  The only catch is that all the prisoners wear an explosive dog collar.  Each prisoner has a randomly selected mate, someone to whom they are wedlocked, if you will.  Move more than 100 yards away from your partner and boom!  Both collars go off and two prisoners end up losing their heads.

The Warden wants to know where the diamonds are hidden so he sets about torturing Frank (who has been given the prison name of Magneta) but he soon discovers that it won’t be easy to break Frank Warren.  Even after Frank gets locked in a sensory deprivation tank, he just laughs and says the diamonds are with Santa at the North Pole.  Another prisoner, Ivory (Mimi Rogers) approaches Frank and says that she’s figured out that she’s his partner.  She wants to escape and she needs Frank to come with her.  But can Frank trust her and, if she’s wrong, won’t both of their heads explode?  Then again, who in the near future of the 1990s would turn down a chance to run off with Mimi Rogers?  Meanwhile, Frank’s partners are waiting for him to escape from the prison so that they can follow him to wherever the diamonds are located.

Though the plot may be ludicrous, Wedlock works because it has a good cast (even Danny Trejo has a small role) and it was directed by Lewis Teague, who started his directorial career under Roger Corman and who has always understood how to put together a good B-movie.  The prison scenes are more interesting than the scenes that take place in the outside world but the exploding head effects are cool and Rutger Hauer, James Remar, and Mimi Rogers are always enjoyable to watch no matter what they’re doing.

A Movie A Day #85: Blue Skies Again (1983, directed by Richard Michaels)


As Lisa said in her review of Night Game, Erin asked for baseball reviews today and there is no way you can turn down Erin.  So, I watched Blue Skies Again on YouTube.

The Denver Devils is a minor league baseball team that is coming off of its worst season ever.  The new owner (Harry Hamlin) is only concerned with making money and does not know anything about baseball.  The veteran coach (Kenneth McMillan) does not have the respect of his players.  Teammates like Ken (Andy Garcia), Calvin (Joseph Gian), and Wall Street (Cylk Cozart) are worried that they could lose their place on the team at any moment.  The only good news is that two sports agents (Mimi Rogers and Dana Elcar) have found the perfect prospect for the Devils.  This player can play second base.  This player can catch a grounder and turn it into a double play.  This player can hit the ball out of the park.  The only problem?  The player’s name is Paula (Robyn Barto) and she’s a girl!

Robyn Barto was asked to audition after a casting director saw her playing softball for her community college.  Blue Skies Again was her first film role.  In the role of a professional baseball player, Barto was a very convincing softball player.  But Barto was likable and had an engaging screen presence so it’s too bad that this movie was not only her first but also her last.  In the publicity leading up to the release of Blue Skies Again, Barto got to throw out the opening pitch at a Dodger game but that was it for her time in the spotlight.  According to one article that I found that was written ten years after the release of Blue Skies Again, Barto never regretted not having a film career and ended up coaching the softball team at her old high school.

Blue Skies Again was not only the debut of Robyn Barto but also the first feature film for both Mimi Rogers and Andy Garcia.  Garcia does not get to do much but Mimi Rogers shows off the sexy and fun screen presence that always makes me wonder why she never really became a big star.

Blue Skies Again is an okay movie but it does not add up to much.  No one wants to play with a girl but then she gets a hit so everyone changes their mind.  It’s the type of movie that, today, would be made for Hallmark or the Family Channel.  It’s a nice baseball movie but it can’t compare to the real thing.

 

 

A Movie A Day #80: The Palermo Connection (1990, directed by Francesco Rosi)


Carmine Bonavia (James Belushi) is an idealistic New York City councilman who wants to be mayor.  Despite an easily understood slogan — “Make A Difference!” — his reform campaign is running behind in the polls.  Having nothing to lose, Carmine announces that he supports the legalization of drugs.  By taking out the profit motive, the Sicilian Mafia will no longer have any incentive to sell drugs in the inner city.  Carmine shoots to top of the polls.  Now leading by 11%, Carmine marries his campaign manager (Mimi Rogers) and returns to his ancestral home of Sicily for a combination honeymoon and fact-finding tour.  The Mafia, realizing that Carmine is serious about legalizing drugs, conspires to frame him for the murder of a flower boy.  If that doesn’t work, they are willing to resort to other, more permanent, methods to prevent Carmine from ever becoming mayor.

The Palermo Connection is an unfairly overlooked film from Francesco Rosi, an Italian director who specialized in political controversy.  Though The Palermo Connection was sold as a thriller, Rosi was more interested in showing how organized crime, big business, government corruption, the war on drugs, and the poverty of the inner cities are all intricately connected.  When Carmine arrives in Palermo, Rosi contrasts the outer beauty of Sicily with the desperate lives of the junkies living there.  The pace may be too slow for action movie fans but Rosi gives the audience much to think about.  This is probably the last film you would ever expect to star James Belushi but he gives a strong and committed performance as Carmine.

The Palermo Connection, which was co-written by Gore Vidal, is a good film that predates The Wire in its examination of how greed, drugs, poverty, and racism all come together to victimize the most marginalized members of society.

Ginger Snaps, Reviewed- BAM!


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I need to begin this film review by writing that I LOVE THIS MOVIE…A LOT!  There will be some geeking out- prepare yourselves.  The ideal horror film takes an issue or life lesson and hides the message in something scary. The horror genre is not alone; good science fiction does this, but it’s rare.  “Ginger Snaps” takes the milestone of 50% of the World’s population – the menarche and uses lycanthropy as a metaphor for it.  Yes, you read that right-  Werewolfism as a metaphor for the first menstrual cycle.  I have two very young daughters and in an odd way, I feel a little more prepared.  This film’s got it all: werewolves, a coming of age story, and Mimi Rogers.  Yes, Mimi Rogers – a Voluptuous Artsy Smarty Pants (VASP) and the uber crush of my youth – is in Ginger Snaps.

We open in suburban Canada- every house looks the same.  A mom is cleaning up yard waste and her son is playing in the sandbox with…. dog gore.  The mom sees her son covered in their dog and their dog is opened all up.  She freaks in the neighborhood and no one cares.

The story moves onto Brigitte and Ginger.  Brigitte is the introspective sister and Ginger is the more gutsy one.  They both are very Alternative and Gothish.  In high school, these would be the girls whom I would’ve crushed on very awkwardly and they would’ve thought I was boring because I was into sports and pretty stammering.  The sisters are obsessed with death.  They stage elaborate death scenes of each other impaled, hanged, poisoned, overdosed, and suffocated (list not exclusive). They present this avant garde masterpiece to their teacher who thinks they’re whacko.  Sidenote: I truly love the 1990s vibe the high school has!!!

The girls are trying to play Field Hockey.  Brigette is being bullied by a Mean Girl.  Then, Brigette trips into a dog and what I mean by into I mean there is ANOTHER mauled dog and Brigette is sitting in him. YEECH!

They get home and their mom- Mimi Rogers- is trying to connect with them.  She recognizes the premenstrual symptoms that Ginger is having and tries to bond with her. It fails- Poor Beautiful Mimi Rogers.  The girls sneak out of the house to kidnap the Mean Girl’s dog.  While canine hunting, Ginger gets her period as she calls it The Curse and the Werewolf attacks her.  Also, they call the lycanthropy a curse throughout the film.  Ginger is mauled by the werewolf and is saved by Brigette, but the werewolf gives chase and is run over by a Drug Dealer’s van.  Yep, forget silver to kill Werewolves; it’s all about an old school car.  A Prius, however, would not likely save you because they suck and are terrible.

The girls get home and Ginger’s wounds are already healing.  The movie continues with references to lunar cycles in relation to Ginger’s lunar and menstrual cycle.   Ginger rapidly leaves Brigette behind as she begins to chase a bad boy and the occasional neighbor dog for a snack.  Ginger also begins to dress more provocatively.  Then, Ginger porks her boyfriend and she grows a tail.  See what premarital sex will get you?! A Tail!

Brigette attracts the Mean Girl’s ex the Drug Dealer who ran over the werewolf.  He comes up with some nifty werewolf-be-gone remedies: One being for Ginger to get a belly piercing- Ok, whatever works.  Ginger gets more aggressive at school and beats the piss out of anyone who messes with Brigette.  We see Ginger’s Boyfriend and he looks roughed because Ginger gave him her werewolf disease by knockin’ boots with him.  The Drug Dealer guy figures out that mainlining wolf’s bane will cure Ginger.

The Mean Girl shows up at Brigette’s and Ginger’s home and hilariously slips and dies. Sorry, it was kind of funny.  The girls bury her in the cellar.  Later, Mimi Rogers finds the body of the Mean Girl and resolves to take the girls far away.  Ginger kills a few more people and becomes more wolf-like and decides it’s time to party.

She tries to seduce Drug Dealer guy, but is thwarted by Brigette.  Mimi loses track of her girls and is not seen again.  Brigette distracts Ginger by mixing their blood with the hope that this will distract Ginger long enough to inject them both, curing them all.  Does it work? Not so much. Ginger goes full-on werewolf, Brigette is becoming a werewolf, and …… You’ll just have to watch.  I’m not spoiling the 3rd act of the best Metaphorical Horror Movie Ever! NO WAY!  Go buy this film!!!  It’s really awesome!  If you buy Ginger Snaps and you don’t like it, you get to keep it.  This film is just purely great! I know many of you like my snark alec a lot, but this movie just wonderful!

 

Playing Catch-Up With The Lesser Films of 2015: Get Hard, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Pixels, The Wedding Ringer


SPOILER ALERT!

One or more of the films reviewed below will appear on my list of the 16 Worst Films of 2015!  Can you guess which one(s)?

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Get Hard (dir by Etan Cohen)

Will Ferrell is funny and Kevin Hart is funny and you would think that putting them together in one movie would be especially funny but … nope.  Get Hard, which I watched on HBO a few weeks ago, is incredibly not funny.  Ferrell plays a hedge fund manager who is convicted of fraud and embezzlement and it’s a sign of how haphazard this film is that I was never really sure whether he was supposed to be guilty or not.  Anyway, Ferrell is terrified of going to prison but fortunately, he runs into Kevin Hart.  Hart is playing the owner of a car wash here, a mild-mannered family man who simply wants to be able to afford to send his daughter to a good school.  However, Ferrell assumes that, since Hart is black, Hart must be an ex-con.

So, Ferrell hires Hart to teach him how to survive in prison and Hart agrees.  And, to be honest, this is not a terrible idea for an edgy satire but the film pulls it punches and never really exposes or challenges the racism that led to Ferrell hiring Hart in the first place.  Instead, it’s more interested in making homophobic jokes about prison rape (there’s a particularly long and unpleasant scene where Ferrell attempts to learn how to give a blow job that feels like it was lifted from a deservedly forgotten 90s film) and eventually, it devolves into a painfully predictable action film.

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Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (dir by Andy Fickman)

I know what someone out there is saying.

“YOU’VE NEVER EVEN SEEN THE FIRST PAUL BLART: MALL COP!!!  WHO THE HELL ARE YOU TO REVIEW THE SEQUEL!?”

Well, listen — it’s true.  I’ve never seen the first film and the only reason I watched the second one (on HBO at a friend’s house, which means that it literally cost me nothing) was because I had heard how terrible it was and I figured that I should see it before making out my list of the worst films of the year.  But, even with that in mind, I think I can still give this film a fair review.

(At the very least, I’ll try.  Dammit, I’ll try.)

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is one of those films that is so forgettable that you forget about it while you’re watching.  Kevin James plays Paul Blart, a mall security guard who goes to Las Vegas for a security guard convention and ends up getting involved in thwarting a big heist.  It’s a comedy, though I can’t think of a single time I laughed.  Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 was not quite the abomination that I had been led to expect.  It was, in no way, comparable to Birdemic, April Rain, or Man of Steel.  Instead, it was just an incredibly empty and soulless film.  It was a zombie movie that existed only to eat money.

One thing that is frustrating about a film like Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is that Kevin James seems like he could actually survive appearing in a good film, if he could just get a chance to make one.  He’s likable and he’s got an everyman quality about him.  But, for now, he seems to be trapped in films where he either plays Paul Blart or he’s surrounded by talking animals.

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Pixels (dir by Chris Columbus)

Speaking of Kevin James, he’s also in Pixels!  He plays William Cooper.  When he was a kid, he was obsessed with playing video games.  Now that he’s an adult, he’s the President of the United States!  And he still keeps in contact with his best friend from childhood, Sam.  Sam, needless to say, will never be President.  When Sam was a kid, he was traumatized when he lost a national video game championship.  Now that he’s an adult, he installs home-theater systems and he’s played by Adam Sandler…

When Earth is invaded, it turns out that the aliens are under the impression that video games are real!  So, they recreate a bunch of classic video game characters and send them off to do havoc.  Who better to stop them than the President and Sam?  And who better to help than a nerdy conspiracy theorist (Josh Gad) and Eddie Planet (Peter Dinklage), the same guy who cheated in order to defeat Sam at the video game championship….

If you’re thinking that sounds like way too much plot for a silly comedy about video games coming to life, you’re right.  Pixels has some cute moments (though, based on the comments and occasional laughter of the middle-aged people in the theater around me, I get the feeling that a lot of the film’s video game-themed humor was a bit too “before my time” for me to fully appreciate) but oh my God, it was such an unnecessarily busy movie.  The idea behind Pixels had some potential but the film refused to take advantage of it.

I’ve said this before and I always get some strange looks but I honestly do think that — if he would actually break out of his comfort zone and stop doing movies that mostly seem to be about finding an excuse to hang out with his friends — Adam Sandler could be an acceptable dramatic actor.  Check out his work in Punch-Drunk Love, Funny People, Reign Over Me, Spanglish, and even the first half of The Cobbler.  (Tarantino even wrote the role of Donny Donowitz in Inglourious Basterds with Sandler in mind.)  The fact that Sandler could be doing good work makes his continual bad work all the more frustrating and annoying.

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The Wedding Ringer (dir by Jeremy Garelick)

And speaking of Josh Gad…he’s also in The Wedding Ringer!  For that matter, so is Kevin Hart.  Hart plays a guy who, for a sizable fee, will pretend to the lifelong best friend (and best man) for grooms who do not have enough real friends to fill out a wedding party.  Hart refuses to get emotionally involved with his clients but that all changes when, despite himself, he becomes friends with Josh Gad, who is on the verge of getting married to Kaley Cuoco.

The Wedding Ringer got terrible reviews but it also was very popular with audiences and I imagine a lot of that had to do with the relationship between Hart and Gad.  Both of them give very sincere performances that elevate some otherwise unpromising material.  The Wedding Ringer wasn’t good (it’s predictable, it’s portrayal of Kaley Cuoco’s character verges on misogynistic) but, at the same time, it wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be.  In the end, it was pretty much a typical January film.

I'm so excited!  I'm so excited!  I'm so ... wait a minute, am I just here because this is a post about bad movies?

I’m so excited! I’m so excited! I’m so … wait a minute, am I just here because this is a post about bad movies?

Which of these four films will make my list of the worst 16 films of 2015?  The answer shall be revealed soon!

 

 

Review: Ash vs. Evil Dead Season 1 Episode 2 “Bait”


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So, I finally got a chance to watch Bait, the second episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead, and you know what?  It will probably never happen because this isn’t exactly a traditional awards-bait show and, if the somber and ultraserious Walking Dead can’t get any Emmy love, I doubt that Ash vs. Evil Dead will ever do any better.  But, seriously, Mimi Rogers totally deserves an Emmy for her performance in Bait.

I’m not sure which category she would win for.  I guess Best Actress in a Comedy Series, though I think it’s a bit too simplistic to say that Ash vs. Evil Dead is just a comedy.  It’s true that Ash vs. Evil Dead is full of funny moments and Bruce Campbell can make me laugh just by narrowing his eyes but, at the same time, there’s some pretty dark stuff going on in this “comedy.”  And the Deadites are genuinely scary!  It’s not just the makeup and the voices.  There’s also the fact that they come to us in the form of the people that we love and, more often than not, they reveal the inner demons of our loved ones.

I mean, think about it.  What if you had to choose between becoming a zombie or becoming a Deadite?  I think I’d rather be a zombie.  After all, a zombie is just a walking body.  You may recognize the body but you know that the soul and the mind are no longer there.  If I became a zombie, you could shoot me in the head without worrying about hurting my feelings.  In fact, I wouldn’t even know that I was a zombie.  And, if someone I loved became a zombie, I’m pretty sure that I could put them down if I had to.  Because, again, a zombie is just a body without a personality.  I mean, zombies can’t even talk!

But Deadites — oh my God!  No way would I want to become one of those.  Deadites still have a personality.  You can’t shut them up.  Up until they start drooling and talking in that evil voice, Deadites can still act like human beings.  That false hint of lingering humanity would make it impossible for me to kill a Deadite.

I guess that’s why we’re lucky to have Ash Williams around.  Ash is infamous for not being particularly smart but, as the Evil Dead franchise continually reminds us, his stupidity is his greatest strength.  Ash doesn’t get caught up in the specifics.  He doesn’t worry about the why.  Instead, he just does what he has to do.  He’s a blue-collar hero, in his way.

As for the 2nd episode of Ash vs. Evil Dead, it featured Ash and Pablo saving Kelly from her Deadite mom, played by Mimi Rogers.  It took Ash a while to convince Kelly that her mom was actually a Deadite.  In fact, Kelly didn’t really believe it until her mom stabbed her father in the eye with a fork.

What made this episode especially memorable was that Kelly’s mom was almost as scary when she was normal as when she was a Deadite.  The scene where Ash, Pablo, Kelly, and the parents had an awkward dinner together was full of cringe-worthy moments.  It was obvious that there were problems in the family even before mom killed dad.  Becoming a Deadite allowed Kelly’s mom the chance to express her true feelings towards everyone.

Fortunately, Ash was there with his trusty chainsaw.

And, happily, he’ll be back on Saturday as well!

Which is good because Ash Williams may be our only hope…

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Film Review: Someone To Watch Over Me (dir by Ridley Scott)


Last night, my BFF and I were searching for a movie to watch.  As we were looking through what was available on demand, we came across a film from 1987 called Someone To Watch Over Me.  The film was described as being a romantic thriller about a “happily married cop who becomes infatuated with the wealthy and beautiful woman he’s been assigned to protect from a death threat.”

“This sounds like it might be good,” I said, “Plus, it’s directed by Ridley Scott and he’s good … sometimes.”

“Who’s in it?” my BFF asked.

“Tom Berenger.”

“Who?”

“He was in Inception.”

“Who did he play in Inception?  Was he the rich guy or was he one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s friends?”

“Neither.  He was just kinda there.”

Anyway, whether it was the Inception-connection or the fact that my friend was tired of listening to me obsessively read the description of every single film that was available on demand, we decided to watch Someone To Watch Over Me.

And you know what?

It’s no Inception but Someone To Watch Over Me is still a fairly entertaining little film.

In Someone To Watch Over Me, a youngish Tom Berenger plays Mike Keegan, a New York cop who has just been promoted to detective.  When wealthy socialite Claire Gregory (Mimi Rogers) witnesses a murder, Mike is among the detective assigned to guard her.  Though the resolutely blue-collar Mike and the sophisticated Claire come from different backgrounds, they both find themselves attracted to one another.  For Mike, Claire represents the type of lifestyle that he can only dream of.  For Claire, Mike is the opposite of the pretentious and vapid men that usually surround her.  Unfortunately, a sinister gangster is attempting to kill Claire and Mike’s down-to-earth wife Ellie (played by Lorraine Bracco) will kill him if she ever finds out.

Now, let’s make one thing clear.  The plot of Someone To Watch Over Me is just as predictable as you think it is.  As you read my summary, you probably guessed every single thing that happens in the film.  There are no surprises and there are no twists.  Everything in the movie plays out exactly the way that you’re expecting it too.

And yet, as predictable as it was, I still enjoyed Someone To Watch Over Me.  One reason was because of a scene in which Ellie reacts to Mike’s self-serving apologies by punching him in the face.  Lorraine Bracco — who is great in this film — throws that punch as if the fate of every woman on the planet’s self-respect depended upon it.  When she strikes out at her husband, it changes the film.  It’s no longer a film about romance.  Instead, it becomes a film about adultery.  Even while the film itself tries to play up the romance between Claire and Mike, both Ellie and Lorraine Bracco refuse to be pushed to the side.  After sitting through so many films that feature women nobly stepping aside so that their significant other can find happiness with his “true love,” it was refreshing to see Ellie call Mike out on his sanctimonious bullshit.

Secondly, I enjoyed Someone To Watch Over Me because it truly is a time capsule of the time when it was made.  I was born in 1985, which perhaps is why I’ve always been fascinated by 80s films.  If nothing else, they give me a chance to see what was going on in the rest of the world while I was busy learning how to walk.  Someone To Watch Over Me was released in 1987 and everything about it — from the fashion to the celebration of wealth and glamour to Ridley Scott’s artfully composed shots of New York at night to the vaguely cokey vibe given off by some members of the supporting cast to the landline phones — made me feel as if I had stepped into my own personal time machine.

So, in the end, Someone To Watch Over Me is not exactly a great or even a memorable film.  However, I’m still glad we watched it.

 

Quickie Horror Review: Ginger Snaps (dir. by John Fawcett)


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.