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Ginger Snaps (2000)

by on 2012/10/28

“Just say you won’t go average on me.”

* * * *

You know that movie, like Heavenly Creatures, where two girls recreate morbid scenarios like in Crash? It has some of the themes of Carrie, but with dark humour, like a fully functional Heathers?

And, oh yeah, it’s also got werewolves and doesn’t suck.

It’s Ginger Snaps, without a doubt, as worthy a source of pride as any . . . in Canadian content, in coming-of-age, in horror, and in low-budget filmmaking.

Set in an early autumn Ontario, and culminating around Halloween, it features the inseparable fifteen year-old Fitzgerald sisters, older Ginger (Katharine Isabelle of Everything’s Gone Green) and younger Brigitte (Emily Perkins of Juno). As they while away their free time with various gothy fascinations, trouble is brewing in the background with the deaths of their neighborhood’s pets.

One night the girls encounter the so-called Beast of Bailey Downs, and everything in their lives begins to unravel. Their interests begin to diverge, in sex, in drugs and, most critically, in each other.

The metaphors of growing apart manifest in monster tropes. To a certain extent, that is, after which we must settle for “just” a good movie. No faint praise here, however. Overall this production would be solid without any subtext. Its ideas are unusual, the story compelling, the script witty-yet-real, and its actors believable. Peter Keleghan (Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town) makes an amusing appearance, challenged only by Mimi Rogers (Trees Lounge), as the girls’ delusional mother.

In fact so much — on the page and off — works so well I’ll invoke the cliche that it’s simpler to talk about what doesn’t work than what does. What does: the film stock, the treatment of light and colour, the angles, the pacing and editing, a near-ideal marriage of audio and music, score and songs. What doesn’t: some of the makeup. Still, I’d like to see it done better and maintain a total cost under five million dollars.

The filmmakers clearly know their limitations. It overcomes complexity with incredible economy. It leaves the odd dangling thread, and scarcely bothers with being artificially tidy, often leveraging roughness to great effect. Ginger Snaps is a one of those exemplars, doing more by showing less.

If it’s almost-but-not-quite revelatory on the subject of adolescence, at least as horror it’s virtually perfect.

* * * *

Rated 18A

108 minutes

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