Ginger Snaps Review

The Film

This is actually rather embarrassing… Until about a month ago I hadn’t even heard of this film. It opened in very few screens in the U.K. a good ten months after it opened in it’s native Canada. This is doubly embarrassing as I am a bit of a horror fan so I bow my head in shame at missing this one completely. The most positive thing about this is that I come to the film with a completely clean slate; I knew nothing about this film until I popped it into the machine (I didn’t even read the back of the box). The film is directed by John Fawcett whose previous work mainly consisted of TV including Xena. The two leads also have a low-key past although you may recognise Emily Perkins from It (the Stephen King TV mini-series). So we have a low budget Canadian horror film written and directed by an unknown and starring unknowns. Doesn’t sound too promising, but therein lies the surprise.

Brigitte (Perkins) and Ginger (Isabelle) are about as close as two sisters can get. They are also about as morbid as you can get. They love to set up fake death scenes and photograph them (Ginger impaled on fencing for example). Their teachers despair of them and their fellow students shun them or bully them. Unfortunately an encounter with a wild animal gradually changes their relationship for the worse. The animal is in fact a werewolf and Ginger is badly bitten when the girls are out to get revenge on a schoolgirl who has crossed them.

This attack triggers unusual changes in Ginger and soon it becomes obvious that she is transforming into a werewolf. The gradual transformation coincides with her starting her first period. There are shades of Carrie here as the physical change through puberty is mirrored and contrasted with her change into a wolf. As the truth becomes clear Brigitte is forced to turn to a local drug dealer/tree surgeon (I’m not kidding) for help. They try several theories to try and restore Ginger to normality (well about as normal as these two girls get) but the changes continue and get more difficult to hide. The build-up to the climax is quirky and the ending itself is unexpected to say the least.

This is a very unusual film and very quirky throughout. In places it’s a very serious work of horror whilst at the same time exploring the sisters relationship very well indeed. However in other parts it seems to lurch into the teen horror genre with beautiful people coming to grief. The schizophrenic script certainly matches the nature of Ginger’s character but I’m not convinced that the whole thing gels together as well as it should. Another flaw is that some of the dialogue is pure soap opera stuff. Some of the deep and meaningful conversations come off as very cheesy indeed.

Despite my reservations about the plot, the performances are suitably off the wall and generally strong. The two leads are admirable with some solid work here. Emily Perkins is the standout of the two as she plays the dowdier of the two sisters very well. She has the ability to tell you a thousand things just with a look. Katherine Isabelle is also very good but at the beginning she is very much just playing the beautiful sister with not much thought behind it. In the last third of the film she really shines. The award for the best scene stealing performance must go to Mimi Rogers as the girl’s mother. She is fantastically bright and cheery when discussing “women’s things” at the dinner table and her character takes an unexpected turn during the last act.

The pacing and flow of the film seems a little disjointed and I have to lay this squarely at the feet of the director. The pacing is very uneven and I feel the ending takes a good five minutes too long. The camera work and shot composition is mostly excellent with some unusual angles and movement keeping things interesting. The attack scenes seem very jumpy and difficult to see but this is a good technique to keep the audience unsettled (and helps to hide some rather ropey effects).

As you can probably tell I’m not quite sure about this film. I thoroughly enjoyed it but I’m not convinced it’s as clever as it thinks it is. I think it’s admirable that people are still trying to make serious horror movies instead of more Scream clones. Unfortunately it occasionally falls between two stools in trying to appeal to both audiences and I’m not convinced it ever gets the balance quite right. Despite my reservations I would recommend you give it a try.

The Disc
Well this disc from Mosaic Entertainment is a pretty mixed bag. The menus are clear and functional (just the way I like them) but there are a rather measly 15 chapter stops for the 103-minute running time. The booklet deserves a mention as it is in the form of a diary kept by Brigitte. Some nice photos here but also some spoilers so don’t read it until you’ve watched the film.

The film is presented in its original aspect ration of 1.78:1. The print is very clean indeed and I saw little or no print damage. The transfer is very good with a nice sharp picture and good colour depth throughout. Horror films usually suffer due to lots of dark scenes and foggy scenes. This transfer avoids this with good shadow detail and no obvious artefacting although there is a little grain in some of the darker scenes.

The sound mix is your usual DD5.1 mix. This is a good lively mix with some atmospheric use of rears in the night scenes. The day scenes are usually dialogue heavy so nothing much to report except it is a good clear track.

Unfortunately the extras are where the disc falls flat on its face. There are some screen tests which total 10-minutes, these are by far the most interesting of the features. Then there is a short (1 and half minute!) piece on the creature creation, which may as well be not there. The featurette is a 5-minute puff promo piece and is therefore pretty useless. The trailer is there as usual as are some production notes and cast notes.

Overall these extras are just a travesty compared to the Canadian R1 edition that contains far more including a Director’s commentary, a writer’s commentary and deleted scenes to name but three. Check out the review here) at DVD Times. Also the R1 Canadian review offers an interesting alternative perspective.

Well the film is a bit of an oddity, but an enjoyable one at that. The disc has a very good picture and decent sound. This is all a moot point though as the extras let this release down. I would strongly suggest you check out the review of the R1 Canadian edition, as it seems to have a decent extras package. So unless you are R2-only or the Canadian disc turns out to have an awful transfer (unlikely) then I would say buy the R1 Canadian edition.

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