The autopsy report on the frankly undead state of the Hollywood horror should read: ""death by repetition"". Battered and gasping from a Scream too far, the success of Scary Movie is as good an indication as any that audiences are tiring of every jolt announcing itself with a side order of irony and a dose of the strobing winks. The question is, where now for the the great American horror movie? Time for Hollywood to swallow some dignity: it's Canada, of all places, that has the answer.
Emerging from last year's Toronto Film Festival as a buzzy crowd-pleaser, Ginger Snaps' appeal lies in its defiantly unfashionable yet playful approach to a well-worn genre. Defiantly unfashionable because the only tongue-in-cheek you'll see here is dangling through a dead dog's mouth, and playful because, rather than blindly reciting the usual werewolf clichés, it comes up with a few of its own. In the barking world of Ginger Snaps, the moon doesn't matter, the curse is a virus and silver bullets are about as useful as a spud gun.
With two young female leads pumping at the movie's dramatic heart, director John Fawcett makes it clear that Ginger's blood-soaked transformation is a metaphor for the agony of the biological shift from adolescence to adulthood. Hardly original, granted, but Karen Walton's peppy screenplay underlines its points with a slinky, sour wit. As Ginger herself says, mid-puke after a belly-full of what might be virgin boy blood: ""I've got this ache and I thought it was for sex, but it's to tear everything to fucking pieces"".
In other words, A Canadian Werewolf In High School this ain't. Given the feisty, cynical snap of the dialogue and dour suburban locale, Ginger Snaps has more in common with Heathers than Buffy. Like Michael Lehmann's masterpiece, the finale feels a tad conventional after the quirks, but the fact that it's also peculiarly moving is testament to the terrific performances of Emily Perkins and Katherine Isabelle (kudos, too, to a whacked-out Mimi Rogers as their sud-brained mum). Fresh, funny and frightening - as werewolf movies go, this is The Full Moonie.