Ginger Snaps (2000)
I love an original take on a classic subgenre. As a film reviewer, I'm quickly nearing that point where everything I see needs something new about it or I become bored. I'm sorry, but there are only so many haunted house stories/vampire epics/werewolf tales one can take before it all becomes, well, stale. Thankfully, this film from Canada has breathed fascinating new life into lycanthropy.
In the quiet town of Bailey Downs, two disaffected sisters, Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and Ginger (Katharine Isabelle), share a very morbid bond. They're trying everything they can to avoid normality (which is the enemy, naturally). They fake grandiose suicide scenes and talk about death, murder, and other topics that we normally only watch films about. However, Ginger is growing up, and growing away from her sister; this is only natural. What isn't natural is that she's also been bitten by a werewolf and is becoming one herself. Interestingly enough, she has been struck by a dual curse: she started menstruating the same day that she was bitten. Since both her personal cycle and the cycle of the full moon are 28 days, she starts maturing in both the expected and unexpected manners.
Okay, I can see some people squirming (mostly male). Deal with it. It's a good movie.
Brigitte must now find a way to cure her sister while hiding the affliction from the world. Oh, and she has to deal with typical teenage strife (boys, drugs, vengeful bitches) while she's at it. Sometimes life just hands you lemons.
The script (by John Fawcett and Karen Walton) is the most brilliant part of this movie. Not only do the situations build upon each other in a intelligent fashion, but the dialogue is killer. It's really some of the better banter to come out of horror film. The clichés of the teen horror film are avoided by, oddly enough, tackling the adolescent experience head on, instead of glamorizing it. Let's face it - as much fun as high school may have been, a lot of it sucked (to be succinct).
Fawcett's direction, while not as notable, had its moments. In particular, the last half-hour was tightly paced, atmospherically lit, and truly suspenseful. I had no idea what was going to happen or where I was being taken - it's difficult to get something like that right and even more difficult to do it seamlessly. Fawcett also manages to obscure the fact that the full werewolf transformation is lackluster, a victim of the film's low budget.
The two lead actresses have a fine time. They both obviously know teenage angst, and portray it well. Isabelle, in particular, is delightfully feral as the unfortunate teenage lycanthrope. Mimi Rogers also turns in a off-kilter and humorous performance as the girl's chirpy mother, a woman whose brightness is sharply contrasted by her offspring's morbidity.
Ginger Snaps is refreshing. That's about the best I can put it. The horror market is glutted with films that try to imitate the last new thing. This is the kind of movie that creates new things to be imitated. If that's not a sterling recommendation, I don't know what is.