The 2000s Ginger Snaps has drifted through my radar a few times over the years. I understand it to be some kind of cult classic about coming of age and a metaphor involving werewolves, and was surprised to find that it was actually Canadian. I decided to give it a shot, considering that I don't have a good werewolf movie on my list and there doesn't seem to be anything in my available library of unwatched films made before 1995. Let's take a bite!
We open up on spooky suburbs! And a mother doing menial chores until she finds her kid playing around with a severed paw. She traces the trail of blood back to a mangled dog in one corner of the yard and screams her way into the opening title.
Our hero, Bridget, walks out of her garage to passively watch the mother across the street weep and yell about her dead dog, and then tells a yapping next door dog to shut up. Love her already.
Aaand she walks back into the bedroom she shares with her older sister, Ginger, to find her cutting herself. It seems like these two girls are inseparable siblings that are brainstorming a way to off themselves that will leave a solid impact. They're that particular breed of small town goth that got kind of mixed up with grunge before stores started to stock the right kind of eyeliner. The credits sprawl over a montage of the two girls pet project: Photographing each other in “Faces of Death” style crime scene photos where they simulate their own grisly demises and I just may cut myself on the Edge. I honestly preferred this when it was done in the name of humour in Harold and Maude.
The credits end with the reveal that the entire string of photos was presented in a slide show to their high school class as...what. An art project? A Show and Tell? If it's a school project, then why are two students two years apart allowed to collaborate on it? If it's show and tell, then why the HELL is there a show and tell session in high school?
The crowd of students is super into it too. I don't know why a bunch of post pubescent boys are so excited about seeing photos of two girls wearing four layers of clothing and corpse makeup sprawled out surrounded by fake blood. I was still in grade school in 2000, so I obviously wasn't hip to the scene, but I don't really see this going over with the cool kids.
We move outside, where the same boys from before are now ogling up a field hockey game of all things. The internet is still in it's infancy here. I guess you need to settle for corpse pictures and active wear stockings. Bridget and Ginger make a game out of sullenly judging the other girls around them in a way that would make Daria tell them to lighten up, and then Bridget takes to the game, tripping over the body of another dead dog that I guess nobody saw in the middle of an open field. One of girls, Trina, makes fun of Bridget for tripping over an animal corpse, and the sisters decide that the only response is bloody revenge.
It seems that the recent string of dog deaths have been attributed to something called “The Beast of Bailey Downs” and these two sisters are planning to attribute the death of Trina's dog to it. I don't THINK they're actually planning to kill her dog, but these leads are already pretty unsympathetic, so I honestly wouldn't put it past them. They run across another mangled dog at the local playground (What is it with all these mangled dogs? Are there no cats in this neighbourhood? What about deer, or wildlife? How has this monster been prowling around for so long and not eaten a human until now?) and as they investigate, Ginger realizes that she is having her period. This is a big deal, considering that both girls, 16 and 18 respectively, have skipped their cycles up until now. As the blood drips down her leg, they hear a howl in the distance and Ginger is nabbed by some monster.
I mean, I read that periods can attract werewolves. They can smell the menstruation!
Ginger gets carried off into the woods by a blurry shape and we finally see a bit of concern for another human being as Bridget runs after her, finding her sister with a slightly mistimed scare chord as she is being torn at by a very big wolf. After getting tossed around a bit, Ginger finally breaks free when Bridget manages to stun the wolf with her camera flash and they beat it out of the woods. The wolf follows them, only to get creamed by a van driven by a guy that sells weed close to the school. As he goes to inspect the mangled corpse, Ginger and Bridget limp home. Ginger isn't in nearly as bad shape as someone who has been mauled should be as her wounds already begin to close up. They decided not to go to the hospital to avoid tipping off their parents that they were out and about, And Bridget retrieves that picture that her camera snapped off, that of a big bad wolf.
The next day at school, Ginger complains of cramps and wanders away from Bridgett in order to smoke a joint with some of the boys. While she smokes up, Van man confronts Bridgett, telling her that he saw them that night and immediately cries werewolf. Apparently the animal he ran over last night and went to go check on was circumcised.
Stop making me think about wolf dicks, movie.
The younger sister initially disbelieves his claims, but has second thoughts when she sees white hair growing out of Ginger's scars. They head over to the school nurse, who gives them a brief, uncomfortable talk about periods, as Mom finds a stained pair of panties at home.
More uncomfortable period talk! Ginger gets her period cake from mom and thinks Bridget ratted on her, forcing the first wedge in their relationship. While the younger sister retreats to the little clubhouse they used to play in and reads up on lycanthropes, Ginger starts to go through some ch-ch-changes, wearing tight clothes and going on sexy werewolf walks in front of all the boys at school.
But all is not well in werewolf town, as Ginger decides to investigate her sister's butt one night and finds a vestigial tail poking out from her spine. She goes back to Sam the Van Man, who I swear looks more and more like Christian Slater from Heathers every time I see him. To their credit, they approach the problem scientifically, with Bridget claiming to be the one who was bitten. Since the last lycanthrope was killed by a car, then that probably means that not every legend about them is true. They figure that introducing silver into her system might actually act as a beneficial cure, and decide to do it with a navel piercing.
During this meet up, Ginger has talked up and wrangled that tool Jason from earlier into the back of his car for a quick tumble session. They decide to forego condoms because hey, back then everybody thought HIV was some biblical plague dropped down on gay people and Ginger chews on him a little while her spine does that werewolf thing. You know what I'm talking about.
Bridget comes back to find her crying sister covered in blood and assumes the worst, though it turns out she actually just killed another dog herself. There is so much dog murder in this movie. Would it kill the FX guys to model a mutilated raccoon or something? They try out the navel piercing and the next day, Bridget is helping Ginger tape down her tail. Is THAT a metaphor for anything?
Things get a little heated on the hockey field that day when Ginger wolfs out on Trina, and gosh, do I wish I was watching Big Wolf on Campus right about now. That was also Canadian!
We get an unintentionally hilarious scene where Jason starts to VOCALLY freak out about the fact that he is peeing blood and we get the conclusion of our STD metaphor. It seems he caught lycanthropy from Ginger's lady juices.
Bridgett reconvenes with Sam I Van when it seems as though the silver isn't working, and we finally run through the rules of these werewolves:
Ginger gets progressively more lupine as the days tick off the calendar, and Trina turns up one night, still bandaged from their earlier tussle, near hysterics and demanding to know where her dog is. Ginger attacks her, dragging the screaming girl inside, where she slips on a puddle of spilled milk and cracks her head open. I do have a bit of an issue with this from a narrative standpoint. The fact that the two sisters suddenly have to dispose of a body is a big plot point and factors into the story line later on, but some of the weight is lost when the death was purely accidental on the victims own part. Why not have Ginger accidentally kill her? It would make the rush to cover up her death a lot more urgent and also fit with the accelerating descent of Ginger's humanity and mental state.
The parents pull into the driveway, and we get a little bit of out-of-nowhere black comedy as the two sisters have to hide the body. These “Don't let momma look in the freezer” hijinks are a big tonal shift from the rest of the film and don't really match up with the darker story line before and after. Maybe if this attitude was brought in or executed better earlier in the movie, it would fit, but now it's just a jarring departure from the flow of the story. They bury the body in the floor of their clubhouse, but forget two fingers that snapped off earlier.
Mom grills Bridget over what the hell is going on, and Bridget manages to weasel out of it with a little more tonally inappropriate comedy, finding out that dried monkshood is a part of her mother's seasonal potpurri. She finds her sister trying to cut off her tail in the bathroom and we actually get a bit of frightened emotional connection that I felt as though this movie was lacking. It doesn't last long though, when Bridget locks her sister in the same bathroom the next morning and runs to Sam with the Monkshood, where they cook up an infusion that they intend to inject into her bloodstream. Sam reveals that he knows Ginger is the one with the bite because....c'mon, it's pretty obvious, and Bridget runs home, only to find that an infuriated Ginger has busted out and is on the prowl.
On the way to school, Bridget gets jumped by Jason, who has gotten an awful lot more wolfy since we last saw him and is covered in acne. Acne? Werewolves have acne now. Okay, that's new. Is this a big hormones gag? To keep from getting chomped, Bridget injects him with the monkshood shot, which seems to work! Yay! But now she's out of monkshood but decides to try to find Ginger anyways. What is your plan?
She discovers that Ginger has killed the guidance councilor just as their parents find the discarded fingers in the backyard, inciting suspicion. To be fair, the increasingly wolf-like Ginger has pretty good make up on and is completely unstable at this point. Bridgett decides to wait until everyone has gone home and then tries to find cleaning supplies to tidy up the mess, leaving a growling Ginger alone in a locked room. Because that worked out great the first time.
Sure enough, by the time Bridget returns, Ginger has killed a janitor as well. She confesses to completely loving murder at this point, and invites Bridgett to join her. The younger sister finally tells her that she'd rather die and that there is practically nothing keeping them together and runs, while Mom decides to dig up the floor of the clubhouse. How did she know that body was hiding there?
Bridget runs into her mother, who confronts her about the body and then goes off on a weird character arc of her very own. She intends to burn down the home and start fresh, saying that she would never let anything take her daughters away. That's a little out of nowhere.
Bridgett knows that Ginger is heading to Sam's, and gets a ride there. Sam is hosting a kicking Halloween party, and Ginger sneaks in, everyone thinking that her advancing lycanthropy is just a costume. She is a full on Buffy monster at this point, so Sam finds it pretty easy to avoid her sexual advances until she throws him across the room and Bridget bursts in.
In a move I do not fully understand, Bridget angsts her way over and actually mixes blood with Ginger voluntarily, telling her that their problems are now the same, or something. She grabs a subdued Ginger and pulls her out of the party, just as Sam appears and brains her with a shovel. To be fair, how was he supposed to know what the plan was?
They toss her in the back of his van, somehow managing to avoid the mother, and drive back to Bridget's place, where there is more Monkshood. By the time they get there, Ginger has completely turned and busts out, rampaging around the house. The two Scoobies sneak in and locate the Monkshood, deciding to stick around in the werewolf-infested house and cook up another infusion in the pantry like idiots. Sure enough, this decision doesn't pan out when Sam is immediately pounced on and eaten as he walks out. Bridget, who is barely standing from the effects of her own lycanthropy at this point, grabs the needle and follows the blood trail downstairs, where she finds an amazingly still breathing Sam and the Ginger-Wolf herself.
The big wolf...isn't bad. It's a little hairless for my liking and the face is pretty weird, but the actual body is very well done, with unnaturally long arms and some pretty smooth movements for an entirely physical creation, made of animatronics and I'm guessing one or two guys in suits.
Bridget sneaks up on the two of them and starts to drink some of Sam's blood, I guess in order to make the Ginger-Wolf think she's part of the pack. It doesn't work, as she throws up almost immediately and Ginger just chomps Sam's neck. Bridget keeps running and manages to find the shot she dropped, with Ginger hot on her heels. It's around here that the climax of this movie starts to feel a little drawn out, but fortunately, there isn't much left.
She gets cornered in their old bedroom and grabs the knife that Ginger had at the beginning of the film. There's a final attempt at a “It's Me sister! Fight it!” even though Bridget was pretty insistent that they no longer had anything in common. Ginger lunges and gets stabbed by the knife, even though her sister had the Monkshood shot in the other hand. Why didn't you use that? Ginger dies as Bridgett looks over the still, monstrous form of her sister. And the movie fizzles out on us.
This film was an interesting beast. Up until genuine conflict enters the story, the main characters are intensely unlikable and come off as needlessly edgy and sullen. The game of the day is using lycanthrophy as a metaphor for adulthood and puberty, and it pulls it off well on a few segments, like Ginger discovering her sexuality or the conversation that they have about the archetypes that women are forced into while burying a body. It's all good fun and also talks about the way friends or siblings can grow apart as they age, though the lesson kind of strays near the end. What, puberty turns girls into hairy, bloodthirsty monsters? Your older sister doesn't want to hang out with you anymore, so you've gotta stab her? That's a hell of a cycle. Also, I'm a little confused about the plot threads that this movie leaves dangling. What exactly is Bridget gonna do now? She certainly needs to give herself that monkshood shot. Where did the mom go? Why did a knife kill Ginger when earlier, fatal wounds she got from the mauling closed right away? It's mostly just nitpicks, to be fair, but this movie introduced a desire to under stand the wolves from Sam and Bridget's part and then just balks on it. It was only until very late in the movie that I figured out the transformation into a wolf was one way, while this ticking clock aspect could have been fleshed out a little clearer earlier on for some added tension to the narrative.
Ginger Snaps is already starting to show it's age, but still has enough working for it to stand as a decent example of Canadian horror. Give it a shot if you're feeling feisty.