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Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett) 2001   

 

    John Fawcettís Ginger Snaps starts out so well that its terrible last half hour feels insulting. A teenage werewolf tale that cleverly equates lycanthropy with menstruation, Snaps is a horror movie that apparently has something to say.  Itís a shame that it basically shuts up well before the credits roll. The film is adept enough during its set-up. Two sisters, Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and Ginger (Katherine Isabelle), who are 15 and 16, respectively, but havenít yet had their first period, are established as their schoolís outcasts. They have little use for boys and detest their peers that do. They also have a severe Goth streak contributing to their teenage alienation, and they create elaborate and gory death-themed panoramas, which they photograph for school projects.   

    The two sisters are distinctive enough from each other that they feel fully formed, and both of the roles are well acted. Thereís a good amount of pathos present here, even if the view of a teenage girlís life isnít quite as perceptive as that of My First Mister or Ghost World. The portrayal of their mother, courtesy of Mimi Rogers, makes you understand how they can perceive the dawning of their womanhood to be a curse. After a truly scary scene in which a werewolf attacks the girls, the picture settles into an effective grove as they move about surreptitiously, trying to hide their bodiesí changes. For a good portion of the film, the synthesis of the terror and the movieís driving metaphor feels complete.   

 

    Itís only in the final act of the film (set predictably on Halloween) that things begin to feel unoriginal and strained. The cleverness of the concept runs off with its tail between its legs, as Ginger Snaps becomes a much more rote genre exercise. The movie, which really focused solely on the two sisters, transforms into a fairly standard, fairly gory slasher flick. The lack of a strong supporting cast becomes hugely detrimental here, since the wolf fodder feels more like a faceless body count than any sort of people. This is a huge disappointment, and seems to reinforce the widely held notion that horror films are generally unimaginative and concerned less with character than dismemberment. Still, this is one of the better horror films to come out lately, and its inability to get proper distribution in the United States is rather disheartening, though that may have had more to do with a post-Columbine terror toward any films that suggest kids can kill or die than the quality of the film itself. 

* * * 

01-04-01 

Jeremy Heilman