Back in 2005, I lived in Los Angeles and worked at the Best Buy in Glendale, California. While working there, I met a new hire from Utah named Ben. He was tall, bald, goth, and LOVED horror movies. I went up and introduced myself to him as we both had the same faux fur bag and we hit it off immediately. His best friend and roommate was none other than Gage Munster from Syfy Channel’s ‘Face Off.’ They welcomed me immediately, and I quickly deduced that they were obsessed with horror movies! They had a tiny studio apartment covered in horror movie posters and shelves of horror movie DVDs everywhere. They were also both makeup artists and were trying to get into Hollywood. I had already loved horror movies then, but they wanted to introduce me to more and more of them and I learned a lot from those two. One set of movies they basically demanded that I watch was the Ginger Snaps trilogy collection. I didn’t know then that it would be a lifelong love of mine that I would watch religiously on Halloween day every year!
Firstly, I love everything about this movie! The look, the feel, the music, the actors, the special effects, the ‘Goosebumps’ type of tone, and all of the practical effects with the werewolves and the gore. ‘Ginger Snaps’ is the brainchild of Karen Walton and John Fawcett. This movie stands out as it’s a wonderful werewolf movie and is also fascinating how they intertwined puberty, periods, and growing up as a girl in the late 90s and early 2000s. The correlation between a menstrual cycle and lycanthropes is so obvious that I’m surprised that no one thought of it earlier. The cycle of the full moon with the cycle of menstruation makes for an entertaining new look at this genre.
This is a Canadian horror movie and you get obvious hints at how they say some specific words, the cinematography, the humor, and the love of hockey. We are quickly introduced to the Fitzgerald sisters of Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and of course, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle). They love the macabre, gore, death, and romance over the idea of suicide which is the basis of their mantra, “Out by sixteen or dead in the scene, but together forever!” Some of their first scenes are of the sisters taking pictures of each other in different scenarios of being killed or dead for a school project. Ginger and Brigitte are of different ages but are in the same grade as Bridgitte is the smart one and was able to skip a grade to be in school with her sister. They are the outcasts at school and it seems that people are either scared of them or want to fight and tease them for being different.
In the opening scene, we are shown the carnage of a dog that was killed by ‘The Beast of Bailey Downs’, an unseen animal that has been terrorizing the neighborhood by killing dogs and leaving their bodies to be found. The Fitzgeralds are looking to kidnap a bully’s dog to create a fake kill to be blamed on ‘The Beast of Bailey Downs’. While walking through the woods at night, Ginger has a first period followed by being attacked by a giant wolf. Bridgitte helps to fight it off and they run across a road and the wolf is hit by a van and killed. Ginger is covered in blood and deep scratches, but her wounds quickly heal while also growing hair.
While I do not want to spoil this hidden gem, I will say it has many great points of interest. The final transformation scene looks so real and excruciating, reminiscent of the transformation scenes in ‘An American Werewolf in London’ (1981). For the amazing makeup and practical effects, the movie holds up twenty-three years later. One of my other favorite things is the soundtrack. If you are a fan of metal or nu-metal then this soundtrack has it all! The movie also has a wonderful nostalgic feeling as it reminds me of my friends and me in the late 90s and early 2000s, down to how we acted, dressed, and even talked. I also love the title itself. It has a triple meaning with Ginger Snaps being a type of childhood cookie, and “Ginger Snaps” alluding that the character of Ginger will snap mentally and also physically as she transforms. This movie can be found on Tubi for free if you don’t mind some ads.
Ginger Snaps 2: Unleased (2004)
Sequels are always difficult as you are always faced with the dilemma of making the same movie using the same formula but changing some details, or you can be brave and try something different that is related to the film before it but goes another route, such as this movie, ‘Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed.’ This film is a combination of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ mixed with a werewolf horror film, but darker and more serious than its predecessor. The only returning characters are of course the Fitzgerald sisters, and though it’s not discussed, the main lycanthrope is assumed to be Jason from their school but is now permanently a werewolf hunting our fair heroes. We also get a couple of scenes in the beginning with Brendan Fletcher from ‘Freddy Versus Jason’ (2003) which also features Katharine Isabelle.
The treatment that was discovered and used in ‘Ginger Snaps’ made from monkshood, is a main factor and is the catalyst for how Bridgitte ends up in a rehab and burn unit at the ‘Happier Times Care Center’. Bridgitte quickly tries to escape but her attempts are thwarted by the staff by chasing her down and locking her in her room. Bridgitte is also slowly changing into a werewolf but is trying to stop or slow down the process with the monkshood but is now denied it causing her to transform even faster than before. She uses a method of cutting herself and timing how fast it heels to detect how fast her metamorphosis is taking place; the faster she heals the faster she gains more traits of a werewolf. She also quickly realizes that one of the staff members, Tyler, is exchanging sexual favors for each girl’s addiction of choice. She also meets someone to help her escape, a younger comic-obsessed girl called ‘Ghost’ (Tatiana Maslany) who looks over her grandmother who was burned all over her body and is bedridden. What follows is Bridgitte slowly falling into losing her humanity while running from the hospital staff and the male werewolf that continues to stalk her, which leads into an ending with such a shocking and dark turn that it will leave you asking, “WTF?!” during the cliffhanger moment. You can also stream this movie now on Tubi and also Vudu for free but with some ads.
Ginger Snaps: The Beginning (2004)
After the production of ‘Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed’, the filmmakers began production of ‘Ginger Snaps: The Beginning’ immediately after. This film acts as a prequel to the film series and has the return of the Fitzgerald sisters, but they act as a distant relative to the Fitzgeralds from the first two films. It could also be seen as a soft reboot as it is so different from the other movies and takes place in 1815 at a fort and settlement in the Canadian wilderness during the dramatic months of winter. This prequel is also even darker than part two and has a hopeless and despairing type of feeling despite a lot of the scenes taking place during the day. Anyone who has had to wait through the winter months and snow storms knows it can feel pretty bleak and desperate until the snow melts in the spring.
While waiting for supplies, the entire party that left the fort to retrieve their necessities goes missing. The Fitzgeralds are traveling the wilderness of Canada on their own to only be chased and taunted into running and discovering the fort to find sanctuary. The outside of the fort is bestrewn in carnage, deep gashes and scratches, and signs of multiple incursions with large animals. The sisters are first welcomed in, given a room, and even a proper dinner. The tension is palpable and is triggered by an angry priest and a stoic native man who stairs and intimidates the sisters. Everyone is dealing with the winter and situation in their own way, some positive and others negative. The party that went to retrieve the supplies is missing culminating in the fear of running out of food is on the inhabitants’ minds of the fort and it shows on their faces. Through a slow burn, we find that the men have killed werewolves that have attacked the outside walls looking for vulnerabilities to gain access to the men that they so crave, and it has taken its toll on all of them.
There is also some great native folklore along with some trinkets given to the sisters to help them on their journey but are overpowered by Ginger again being infected and slowly changing while Bridgitte tries to hide her symptoms and erratic behavior. There’s also a deep secret hidden in one of the rooms that changes the trajectory of the story completely. The angry priest and a crazy hunter blame the sisters for all the current tragedies bestowed within the fort and they are then kept more as prisoners and or hostages until the men find some answers. Ginger is exiled to be on her own outside the fort, but she returns soon after and is accompanied by some new “friends”. The fight scenes and practical effects make for exciting and thrilling scenes when eventually all hell breaks loose. Matching the themes of the previous two films, this installment also ends on a somber note leaving everyone with a desolate future.
I really enjoy this prequel but its cinematography, story, and tone are so serious and dark that it can leave you feeling a certain way after a viewing. It works as a great ending to the series despite taking place one hundred and eighty-nine years earlier. I would have loved to see another sequel that took place after the second movie by continuing the saga somehow salvaging where the second one left off. This has been an institution for me to watch every spooky season for many years now, and I don’t know where I’d be if I was never introduced to this wonderful trilogy by my friends Ben and Gage. You never know where a film, show, or book recommendation can take you, it may just change your life! You can also find this motion picture for free on Tubi, Vudu, and YouTube with ads.