John Fawcett had an interesting recipe. He took equal parts Scream, An American Werewolf in London, and a dab of teen angst comedy/drama, added a sprinkling of talented actors and excellent special effects work, and topped it off with a generous serving of black comedy. The result; Ginger Snaps, one of the most pleasant surprises of the new millennium. While the Canadian production received little to no distribution outside of the great white north, it built up a cult following thanks to the home video market, as well as an abundance of critical acclaim, which has now spawned a franchise (back to back sequels due in 2003 and 2004 respectively). In the U.S., Ginger Snaps received a very poor, full-frame pan and scan release from Artisan, with no extras other than a trailer and the usual filmographies, however our neighbors up north gave the film a well deserved deluxe treatment, and that is the version reviewed here.
Ginger (Isabelle) and her younger sister Bridgett (Perkins) are each other's own best friend. The duo are considered "weirdos" to their classmates, but, like all good outcasts, they don't really care much for them either. The sisters would rather stage their own deaths and photograph them for a school project (the film's fantastic opening segment) than be like the dreadfully boring normal people they seemingly avoid contact with. When Ginger and Bridgett are attacked by an animal that has been killing dogs in their neighborhood, Ginger is badly injured. However, Ginger's wounds seemingly disappear overnight. When the older sibling begins to show signs of change that coincide with her first period (Mom explains they're late bloomers) Bridgett begins to suspect that the animal that attacked them has something to do with it. Ginger begins to dress more revealingly, hang out with the boys, and blows off her little sister. While all of this seems like a perfectly normal case of growing up, Ginger soon realizes that she is becoming MORE than a woman (which is helped by the fact that she sprouts a tale). While Ginger is at first terrified by what she is becoming, it's not long before she starts to actually enjoy it, and it's up to Bridgett and local drug dealer, Sam (who saw the creature that attacked the girls) to change her back.
Ginger Snaps is a really fun flick with excellent production values and performances, especially from the two leads, Perkins and Isabelle. Isabelle is especially effective as the nihilistic Ginger, who straddles the line between super hottie and outcast. The film also sports some very gory and effective special FX, although some of the werewolf effects are a little weak. Given the film's relatively low-budget, however, they actually look much better than they cost! Fawcett shows great potential here, although since this film he's moved back to his television roots, directing episodes of the Sci-Fi channel's Taken mini-series.
The Columbia DVD presents the film in an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer that is absolutely pristine. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is a marked improvement over the Artisan release, with rich bass and nice jangly highs. The Columbia DVD packs in the extras as well, with a pair of commentary tracks (one with director Fawcett, the other with co-writer Karen Walton), as well as deleted scenes (with commentary), production art, a stills gallery, cast audition and rehearsal footage, an in-depth look at the effects work of "the beast", television and theatrical spots, and cast and crew bios and filmographies.
If you haven't seen Ginger Snaps yet, I'd personally recommend that you at least rent it, and if you decide it merits a purchase (which, in my opinion, it does!) avoid the crap Artisan release and order the Canadian version. It may cost a few dollars more, but this is the definitive edition of the film right now.