Nothing about the theme of Ginger Snaps (Teenage Girl Werewolf) promised a great movie, yet somehow this works far, far better than the subject matter could ever have lead one to expect.
The young actors who play Ginger & her sister (Emily Perkins & Katherine Isabelle) turn in surprisingly moving performances. Though it's often very satiric, the teen angst is real, the girls' goth poses & obsession for death, such as turn all too real on them, provide a mix of stylishness & silliness & honest alienation.
The sisters' love for one another is convincing & heartfelt. When it becomes clear that Ginger has gone way around the bend, her sister wants only to love & support her, & live up to their goth promise to one another to live & die together. At times it is just about as tragic as Old Yeller, & if it is also sometimes silly, it's only because teenagers are sometimes silly. The emotion is no less real.
Ginger's transformation is by stages, starting with a tail. When her budding sexuality gets entangled, thanks to the wolf bite, with bloodlust, & as she becomes less & less human as the tale progresses, some pretty gruesome stuff is bound to ensue.
The exploitation angle is certainly not overlooked by the director, but it is delivered at a level of acting & storytelling one scarsely dares hope for in such films. Anyone who overlooked this one because thematically it was just too, too Buffy -- you should risk it after all; it won't be a disappointment.
In Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed the relationship between the sisters is missing, given that Ginger was killed in the first film. Katherine Isabelle as Ginger does appear in the second installment as a ghostly walk-on in her sister's imagination, cribbed from the imaginary hauntings that are part of An American Werewolf in London (1981). But her reappearance is mainly token, to justify keeping her character in the title, which wouldn't've sounded half so clever if it had been changed to Bridgette Snaps.
It was the performance of Isabelle & Perkins that made the first film so much more than "just" a low-budget horror film. Without their interactions the sequel was bound to be less stunning than the unexpectedly good original, but I nevertheless did get a full measure of enjoyment out of it.
Perkins as Bridgette, infected with her late sister's lycanthropy, is put in a nuthouse, wherein she meets a sweet young girl who is a fairly good stand-in to re-establish the sisterly bits, though in new & novel ways. Together, they break out of the asylum, pursued by a male werewolf who wants to mate with Bridgette.
There are plot twists of a sort centering around the character of Ghost, the younger girl, but I will not give away how her own story unfolds. I will say at least that she sure does wish she had a sister all her own. Both young women turn in convincing horror-film performances.
Plenty of wiggle-room was left for Emily Perkins to reprise her role a third time, though to continue the saga sans Ginger would not very likely ever live up to the original. While the sequel is a good film, it was nowhere near as good as the first one, & if the story were to progress beyond the climax of Unleashed it seemed highly probable that the franchise would be getting weaker & weaker.
Yet the third film was pleasurable surprise, finding a wonderfully novel way of re-establishing that great sisterly relationship that was conveyed so credibly by two such fine young actresses in the first film.
I would never have thought it possible to improve on the first one, but Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning is a prequel that goes back in time to find the origin of the werewolf curse in an earlier generation/incarnation for these sisters. Their vow in the original film to always be together takes on new meaning thanks to this prequel.
There's a scene where Ginger stands more vampiric than werewolf-like as the vicious wolf-men lope by her on both sides, & she pets them one by one as they move forth in bloody carnage. A creepy aesthetically beautiful image!
The setting in the Canadian north woods in an actual trading fort lends the film such a credible environment "on the edge of the known world" where anything is possible. The ending of this thing nearly had me hyperventillating for the beauty and horror of it all.
Werewolf Woman (1976)
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