Hungry like the wolf.
It's been a looooong time since we've seen an out-and-out horror film void of any self-referential humor or smarmy characters. A few recent films showed some promise (John Carpenter's Ghosts Of Mars, Jeepers Creepers) but failed to live up to horror fans expectations. Now, seemingly out of nowhere, comes the wild and wooly Ginger Snaps. This is a cute little "tail" about sisters, adolescence, and what it means to be a man-eating werewolf. Two versions of this film exist: a widescreen Canadian "special edition" from Columbia TriStar and a full-frame American release by Artisan. This review will focus on the sub-par Artisan DVD edition of this film.
Facts of the Case
Ginger (Katherine Isabelle) and her sister Brigitte (Emily Perkins) are suburban teenagers with a taste for the macabre. Their hobbies include taking pictures of themselves in different positions of death and dressing in black. Can you say the words "angst-ridden? The girls live in misery with their father and mother (Mimi Rogers, Austin Powers) while attending a high school filled with typical outsiders, popular jocks, and snotty pretty girls.
One night Ginger and Brigitte take a stroll to a nearby forest while their parents are out at marriage counseling. Suddenly and without warning a huge beast attacks the girls. Ginger is savagely bitten but Brigitte escapes unscathed. Back home the girls realize that Ginger's wounds are healing faster than normal. She's also growing a tail and starting to have an insatiable appetite for human flesh. Soon Ginger's hunger takes over and she's out on the prowl…and that's when the bodies start stacking up. With the help of her new drug-dealing friend Sam (Kris Lemche), Brigitte must stop Ginger before she becomes something terrifying…and inhuman!
It's always nice to find a new little film that I never knew existed. I'd heard small rumblings about Ginger Snaps over the Internet, but I had no idea what it was. At first, I assumed it was just another teenage flick. Boy, was I wrong! This movie is a smartly written tale about what happens when you're young, pretty, and bitten by a werewolf.
Ginger Snaps is a moody and stylized horror film that knows its limits. This isn't a big budget Hollywood film and as such doesn't try to reach for cheesy CGI effects or cheap scares. Instead, the movie sets its tone with an impending mood for the suburban heroines. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that the feel of the film was close to John Carpenter's original Halloween. Towards the end of the movie there are scenes taking place during the fall that have that same ominous feel as Carpenter's movie.
Both leads do a great job—Emily Perkins completely personifies the frumpy, moody teen while Katherine Isabelle is sexy and dangerous as the soon-to-be werewolf. Mimi Rogers as the girl's mother also does a very nice job with her role. The only thing I can really remember Mimi Rogers starring in was Tom Cruise's marriage. Here she manages to be a frazzled soccer mom on the verge of losing her two children to a giant, hairy curse.
As for the effects, they are somewhat sparse, save for the end sequence. This actually works in the films favor, leaving much of the horror to the imagination. However, for you gore hounds there's plenty of carnage abounding in Ginger Snaps: mutilated dogs, slain teachers, and a really nasty werewolf. Ginger Snaps has just the right mix of hiding the horror and showing the grizzly carnage to be successful. The movie also is heightened by a somber music score by Michael Shields. Featuring a solo violin and an eerie theme, this is music that will haunt you well after the closing credits roll.
I truly think that Ginger Snaps is worth seeing. It's not the best horror movie ever made, but it sure is scary and well produced. It's a shame that this didn't have a large theatrical run in the United States. I think that there's a crowd out there ready for something more than the Scream knock-offs we've come to know and hate.
Ginger Snaps is presented in 1.33:1 full frame. Boo! Hiss! There is an anamorphic transfer available (the Columbia version), but Artisan has decided to release this edition in a chopped pan and scan version. I've had the chance to see both the widescreen and the pan and scan version and I can easily say that it's worth your time to track down the widescreen edition. This full frame version suffers from the usual troubles: softer colors, cropped sides, and a lack of real crispness. Usually Artisan does a fine job on their transfers—why they decided not to take the time and do right by this title is beyond me.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital Stereo. However, the package makes no mention of if it's a Dolby 5.1 mix or a 2.0 Surround mix. From the acoustics, I would guess that this is a 2.0 mix, though I could be wrong. Anyhow, this mix is decent if very underwhelming. After listening to the Columbia edition's 5.1 mix, it's obvious that this Artisan release is not half as good. While the dialogue, effects, and music are all clear of distortion, I thought this track lacked any real aggressiveness or fidelity. No alternate tracks or subtitles are available.
Artisan makes yet another wrong turn with this title in the special features department. On the Columbia release, there is a bevy of extra materials including a commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes and more. On Artisan's release, there is only a single theatrical trailer and no scene selections! What is up with that?
Folks, if you like this movie, you'll be doing the smart thing by paying extra for the Columbia import DVD. Unfortunately, this Artisan release includes a crappy pan and scan version of the film, only one measly supplement, and no freakin' scene selections. This movie was a fun discovery, and I think it's well worth your time if you're a horror fan.
Ginger Snaps is free to go. Artisan is found guilty of a shoddy edition of a good flick! Case dismissed!
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