I like werewolf movies. No, let me rephrase that. I like good werewolf movies. My favorite is The Wolfman (1941) with Lon Chaney, Jr. And from a writerly perspective it gives me a tickle to know the writer of that film, Curt Siodmak, made most of the werewolf tropes out of whole cloth. But they’re as accepted today as any legend. And it’s hard to pass up a late night showing on TCM with Chaney’s tour de force performance in Frankensteim Meets the Wofman (1943). That final scene of the dam breaking and flooding Frankenstein’s lab while the fur flies is one of the best in the genre. Not to mention the fact Maria Ouspenskaya appears in both films; she’s always a treat to watch with her heavy accent and sorrowful, brooding manner. Great fun.
But some years back I came across a trilogy that I immediately fell in love with, and, boy, are they great.
It’s the Ginger Snaps trilogy. Never heard of it? I’m not surprised. They were indies shot in Canada which gives them a different feel both in tone and emotional texture than the slickly produced cartoonish efforts we see out of Hollywood.
The first movie, Ginger Snaps, dwells on two sisters who decide that if one of them dies the other will kill herself. There’s the usual teenage angst and sexual awakening you would expect to see in a film about a 16 and 15 year old sisters. But Ginger Snaps ties those deep and powerful emotions into a stylish reworking of the werewolf mythos. So when Ginger gets the bite, her sister, Brigitte, must do everything she can to protect her. It’s a stylish film with a look and dialogue that really pushes the limits both in context and what we thought we knew about werewolves. And you won’t need a silver bullet to whack one, because as Brigitte observes, a big knife will do since “they aren’t superheroes.” Classic.
Of course, things start going downhill fast for the sisters. Dogs start disappearing. Ginger suddenly has a huge craving for meat. When a tail appears she and Brigitte have to duct-tape it to her leg. Well, no one ever said being a wolf-girl was easy.
The second movie is called Ginger Snaps: Unleashed. Here’s where the trilogy takes a very unexpected turn. Ordinarily, there would just be much more blood-spattering and chomping in a sequel like this. Not so with the Ginger movies. Now Brigitte is in an insane asylum, waiting for the curse to take hold of her while she wrestles with a horrific decision she had to make in the original film. This movie dwells more on the psychological aspect of wolfdom than the usual crunching of bone by the light of a silvery moon. Oh, and there’s a male werewolf out there who wants to mate with Brigitte if she would just hurry up and let the transformation take its natural course.
Just when you think you’re safe, the third movie, Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning is actually a prequel to the other two. Better yet, you aren’t sure if this is a parallel universe, an alternate history, or the beginning of an eternal curse involving these two young women. Maybe it’s all three. It doesn’t matter because the sisters are together again in 19th Century Canada in the dead of winter and they’ve come upon a fort while packs of hungry wolves roam the frozen countryside. Hang on tight to a friend when you watch this one because it’s a doozy.
The Ginger Snaps movies. You should check them out even if you’re not a werewolf fan. It’s great story arc filled with pathos and sharp humor and biting (pun intended) dialogue. Enjoy!