Ginger Snaps is a well-crafted, intimate little movie about a couple of fucked-up, self-obsessed sisters with a death pact and relationship issues with the outside world. That should have been the death knell for this movie. Such girls should theoretically be totally unlikeable. "I'm so deep and tragic" teens are one of my pet hates; I find Winona Ryder's character more annoying every time I watch Beetlejuice, but you always want to watch these two. I'm impressed already.
Oh yeah, and there's also lycanthropy. The werewolf looks poor, but in fairness so have all on-screen werewolves ever. Jeez, even the one in Buffy the Vampire Slayer is better than average and that looks like Gordon the Gopher on the rampage. This one's a leathery, bald, wrinkly beastie that probably has lizard and horned toad somewhere in its lineage. It's... okay. It could have been worse. Thankfully its apppearance doesn't wreck some effective "yikes!" scenes towards the end.
But this movie isn't about a big not-so-hairy monster eating people. Noooo, it's about the changes these teenage girls are going through. All kinds of things happen in this film - hormones, menstruation, having to talk to boys (and other strange creatures) and of course the more wacky supernatural changes we expect from a lycanthrope. If a werewolf movie isn't to be a vampire movie with hair, it should be about the monster inside you. It should look at how people change. In hindsight, it's so obvious it's brilliant to do a werewolf story about moody teenage girls discovering boys, fights, hormones and eating the neighbour's dog.
The characters are all nicely done, though we're given no explanation of why two narcissistic freaks like these two girls should have sprung from such a normal family. The mum's a dappy but caring flake who likes sniping at her husband. Hands up - who else has a mother like that? But you can believe in their relationship and that of the mum with the girls. There are also some real bitches at school whom you know will fall foul of werewolf girl's mood swings. When it comes, it's a beautiful moment!
My only slight gripe is a nasty case of Buffy flashback. Sometimes our bad girl feels a bit too much like Faith, calling her sister "B" and giving in to her feelings. Oh, and her nearly-wolf makeup is very similar to a Buffy vampire's. But that's a minor (and probably accidental) similarity. Like Buffy, this is a story about a girl growing up more suddenly and violently than she could have ever expected... but the tone's completely different. It's alienation and grungy small-town playing fields rather than Californian mall rats and Beverley Hills 90210.
This is a funky movie. It doesn't see horror as its raison d'etre, but instead uses fantastical horror trappings to tell a story about two fucked-up girls in a fucked-up situation. The gore comes eventually, as it had to, but it's not the reason why they told this story. I thought it was great.