Everyone knows the myth of the Werewolf.
Beastly creatures that change on the full moon once bitten by another. Driven by the need for human flesh and only killed by a silver stake through the heart. The newer take on the Lycan suggests more control over their transformation, but still as deadly. If the codes and conventions of these films are so easily recognised then how can you possibly bring something new to the genre? With the independent film Ginger Snaps, the filmmakers have done just that while telling the story of its two teenage protagonists.
The film began life when director, John Fawcett, decided he wanted to make a metamorphosis, horror film. Fawcett and screenwriter, Karen Walton, wanted to do a film that involved young women and reinvented the werewolf genre. The film was made on a very small budget that was financed by numerous companies. The project received bad press as it was produced at the same time as the Columbine School shooting. Despite this backlash, the film still exceeded expectation at the box office and has become a cult classic.
The story is a mash-up of teen movie and horror. Instead of merely concentrating on the metamorphosis, the film developed its characters. The sisters bond, their dysfunctional family and, of course being a teen movie, their social status at school. Not to suggest that those who like the gore of werewolf movies will be disappointed. The film has its bloody moments, but here they are backed up with a solid story.
The film challenges the conventions the the genre by referencing classic cinema. When Ginger is bitten, Brigitte consults werewolf films for the cure to her predicament. When cinema only suggests death as an option, she must rely on a biological solution.
It's rare that a horror film would be so focused on two women. As Ginger transforms, she becomes the object of terror, with Brigitte acting as her would-be saviour. Usually women in horror are the victims and almost never the horror antagonist. This gives the film a unique edge.
As the two sisters, the lead actresses shine. Katharine Isabelle plays the fiesty older sister that is overtaken by metamorphosis. Isabelle is able to switch from human to beastly while developing the initially reclusive Ginger to a confident young woman.
Emily Perkins portrays the younger of the sisters, despite being four years older than Isabelle. Despite her social awkwardness, Perkins gives us a determined young heroine in Brigitte. As the metamorphosis consumes her sister, Brigitte must come out of her shell to protect Ginger. As well as playing their singular roles within the film, the pair's chemistry onscreen is brilliant. Their dynamic subtly changes as the film progresses, which aids in the film's pace and tone.
An original and interesting take on the werewolf myth, Ginger Snaps is able to challenge the genre while also giving it a new breath of life. Its teen setting may not be to all audiences liking, but this is a film with bite.