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With: Katharine Isabelle, Emily Perkins, Kris Lemche, Mimi Rogers, Jesse Moss, Daniele Hampton, John Bourgeois, Peter Keleghan, Christopher Redman, Jimmy MacInnis, Lindsay Leese
Written by: Karen Walton, John Fawcett
Directed by: John Fawcett
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 108
Date: 08/01/2000

Ginger Snaps (2001)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Crying Wolf

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

We've seen teenage werewolves before, from Michael Landon in I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957) to Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf (1985) to Seth Green in TV's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." But to my knowledge Ginger Snaps is the first time a werewolf has been a teenage girl, and one pretty easy on the eyes as well. She's definitely the first werewolf to try a pure silver belly-button pierce as a potential cure. The film opens today at the Roxie for a week's run.

Katharine Isabelle stars as 16 year-old Ginger, the older of the Fitzgerald siblings, who gets her period just before she's attacked and scratched by a werewolf. Ginger and her younger sister, 15 year-old Brigitte (Emily Perkins), are suburban teens obsessed with death and fond of ghoulishly creating fake death scenes with lots of blood and snapping photos of them. They're both lonely and depressed and have a long-standing mutual suicide pact.

But when Ginger finds her growing body changing in more ways than one, she finds a new reason to live. She begins to feel sexy and dress as such, tempting all the teenage boys who once thought she was a freak. At the same time though, she's beginning to grow unsightly hair -- and a tail.

Meanwhile, Brigitte befriends the local drug dealer, Sam (Kris Lemche), who -- strangely enough -- is the only one who might be able to help. They put together a syringe full of a kind of wolfsbane mixture that will supposedly cure the wolf bite. But time is running out. It's Halloween night, and exactly one month since Ginger was bitten.

As written by Karen Walton and John Fawcett and directed by Fawcett, the first hour of Ginger Snaps makes great use of all the metaphors at hand. No horror film since Carrie has made such use of the terrors of menstruation and puberty. Ginger is already uncertain enough about her body's sudden changes without a second set of changes to add to it. The film also plays with the notion that such chemical changes can drive otherwise close siblings apart.

In addition, Walton and Fawcett capture the feel of autumn in the suburbs beautifully, with that brisk chill in the air and the grass turning brown, reminding me of such films as Halloween and Poltergeist. And Mimi Rogers (The Rapture) co-stars as the girls' clueless suburban mother, wanting to help but completely alienated from her own girls and their young ideas.

Sadly, the movie does not continue in this intelligent vein. When Halloween morning rolls around, the filmmakers need to pass an entire day from morning to night to get Ginger to turn into a werewolf. So they simply eliminate some 12 or 14 hours from the story. All of the characters apparently sit around doing nothing for that amount of time. I can forgive this same lapse in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) but not here.

Likewise, the ending doesn't seem to go anywhere. It doesn't match up to the themes the filmmakers established before, and it's not satisfying in any way. Still, I was impressed that Ginger Snaps actually seemed to have something to say beyond its bloody horrors. It's an attempt to make real teen characters out of the stereotypes in such films as I Know What You Did Last Summer and The Faculty. It's also a terrific Halloween-type movie for those wishing to celebrate a little early.

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