“What kind of beast is your salamander?” asked the Prince. “It is hard to tell their kind, your Honor,” said Golg. “For they are too…
Ginger Snaps is an odd and gruesome cult classic from the year 2000, directed by John Fawcett, and co-written by the director and Karen Walton. The film is set in the small, fictional town of Bailey Downs, Canada, where a recent string of mysterious, deadly attacks on local pets earns the perpetrator the title, “Beast of Bailey Downs.” We follow sisters, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins) Fitzgerald, both in their mid-teens. Ginger and Brigitte are obsessed with death, suicide, and all things morbid. We learn early on in the film that the girls have a pact: “Out by 16 or dead in the scene but together forever. United against life as we know it.” This is what they promised each other as eight-year-olds, referring to getting out of the suburbs by 16, or dying there together.
Still living in the suburbs, with Ginger on the cusp of 16 and Brigitte a new 15, they talk more seriously about the “dead in the scene” part of the pact. Brigitte is a bit apprehensive about the plan, but Ginger seems gung-ho, and eagerly discusses different methods, hoping to make the biggest impact.
One night, as the Fitzgerald girls are out late, planning to get revenge on a bully from school, Ginger is attacked by the Beast of Bailey Downs and barely escapes with her life. The two rush home to tend to her wounds, only to find that they’ve already begun to heal. In the days that follow, Ginger starts to change. These changes are partially due to hormones (at the time of the attack she also started menstruating for the first time) and partially because she is turning into a werewolf. Suddenly, for the first time ever, she is interested in boys…and is growing a tail. Ginger distances herself from her younger sister as her life begins to change, but Brigitte knows she has to do something before things get out of hand. Brigitte enlists the help of the local “drug dealer,” Sam (Kris Lemche), who sells weed to the kids at school. Together they try to find the cure for lycanthropy.
John Fawcett’s unique take on supernatural horror will stay with you long after finishing the film. Katharine Isabelle makes a convincing werewolf as well as a teenage girl. She maintains her lust for gore throughout the film, with convincing consistency, making her character feel real. Emily Perkins as Brigitte is visually very intriguing. She remains wide-eyed, hunched, fearful, and extremely awkward throughout the entire film. Perkins’ acting would be far too over-the-top and strange for most modern projects, but it works for her character in Ginger Snaps perfectly, and grows to be quite charming. With Ginger wreaking havoc across Bailey Downs, Brigitte becomes our only hope for a happy ending. She is our heroine, and she’s up to the task.
Whether Walton and Fawcett intended for this film to be a horrifying metaphor for growing up is a valid question, but it’s improbable. Ginger Snaps stays true to its werewolf theme all the way through to the end, and the final scene doesn’t seem to hold any kind of significant meaning, or moral. With that said, the film does include some interesting parallels around the theme of “change.” Ginger starts going through puberty at the exact same time as she starts changing into a monster. These changes get in the way of her bond with Brigitte, and both of the girls become more independent. Typical, growing up stuff.
Ginger Snaps is unparalleled in its dark humor, plot, and unique protagonists. While having been released more than two decades ago, the film holds up surprisingly well in the horror genre. In terms of special effects, John Fawcett preferred to use more traditional methods such as makeup, prosthetics, and costume, so his actualization of a werewolf is comical by today’s standards. Regardless, Ginger Snaps excels at frightening and enticing its audiences, from the first scene to the very last.
Ginger Snaps—90% on Rotten Tomatoes. Watch now for free on Tubi!