Ginger Snaps Directed by John Fawcett Written by Karen Walton Starring Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins Classification: R Rating: *½ Ginger Snaps is a flip treatment of the werewolf legend: Ginger Fitzgerald is a teenage Toronto girl having a particularly rough passage into puberty. Not that first menstruation can't be a dark experience for your average girl, but Ginger "snaps" in especially dramatic fashion. She also grows fangs, a tail and a taste for blood.
This is John Fawcett's second feature film, and the bottom line is that it doesn't work even as the teenage gross-out flick it's intended to be.
The trouble, as so often with youth market flicks, is the script. Scenarist Karen Walton set out to write a script by, about, and slavishly obedient to the jargon of 15-year-olds. Error number one: When pandering to the audience, don't overdo it.
The problem is at its worst in the early scenes which set up Ginger and Brigitte's relationship (played ably here by Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins). They're 16 and 15 respectively, and they're both late in having a first period. They've also developed a two-girl cult against growing up (or, as Brigitte puts it, "going girly").
The supernatural is perfunctorily invoked when Sam, the local hunk, accidentally rams his van into a werewolf. The script doesn't trouble to explain what happened to it afterward. The main thing is that poor Ginger happened to have her first period while walking near the park earlier that night, and the beast jumped out and bit her. Now she's got hair growing in all the wrong places.
This is the second most exasperating thing in the script: a lengthy, persistent comparison of a girl's pubescence with the werewolf legend. Here the film is using an idea, profitable from Stephen King onward, that unwelcome changes in the adolescent body resonate with various legends of vampirism and lycanthropy.
But Ginger Snaps just won't let it alone. The formula for this kind of movie requires a local sage or eccentric, usually an adult, to make the connection between sterile suburbia and the dark, chtonic past which erupts into it. In this film, though, it's Sam, a cute boy who fiddles with plants at the school greenhouse. It's a thin conceit based on a quick glance at a picture of a plant called monkshood, a traditional remedy for lycanthropy.
So the ideas are thin, and the scene-by-scene execution of them is bumbling. There are awkward missteps: The monkshood, built up as the saving solution, is ultimately not employed. Characters, such as Ginger's mother, are dramatically deployed but then not used.
But the camera work is nice, and the special effects are endearingly old-fashioned. It's fun to see an actor in a werewolf suit, especially one as well-designed and carefully backlit as this: Thanks to Thom Best's outstanding cinematography, it's actually scary.
But Ginger Snaps just isn't all that well put together as a genre film. Better luck next time.