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     " Animal attacks. Bloody, squishy, animal attacks. "

      Title: Ginger Snaps: Collectors Edition by TVA International

      Format: DVD-Horror

      Reviewing Monkey: EEGAH!

      The Hype: This independent horror flick received honors all over (Canada that is) and generated some pretty good buzz. When was the last time you heard of a horror film receiving critical acclaim outside of the confines of the genre? For that matter, when was the last time you saw a GOOD werewolf film?

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Story and Acting: Brigette and Ginger are two small town teens with a penchant for the morbid. Universally reviled in their school they revel in their status rather than complain about it. Add to this an unpleasant coming-of-age slant (neither of them have had their period yet) and you have the makings of bitter cocktail of teen angst.
          Naturally this leads to the kind of mean spirited tomfoolery that widens the gap between them and their peers. It's in the execution of one of these pranks that things go horribly awry. A beast has been stalking Bailey Downs devouring dogs and cats with all the style and finesse of a bulimic woodchipper. On this night, the night of the full moon no less, Ginger and Brigette come face to face with the "Beast of Bailey Downs" and Ginger becomes its unlucky chew toy.
          After a harrowing escape from the jaws of death the girls make it to safety while the creature chasing them gets creamed by a van. Enter Sam, petty drug dealer, curiously gifted botanist, and owner of a van now tastefully redecorated in werewolf entrails. With Sam drawn into the triangle Brigette has someone to confide in about her sister's condition.
          See, ever since that fateful night in the park Ginger has been exhibiting some peculiar traits after the attack, most notably abnormal regenerative powers, hair growing out of weird places, a feral hunger, vestigial tail, and perhaps most disturbing of all an interest in boys (gasp!). As the days go by it becomes fairly obvious that Ginger's behavior is not the result of her hormones (duh!).
          As Brigette and Sam wrack their brains for a cure, Ginger's temper and insatiable hunger spiral out of control. Brigette resolves to stick by her sister no matter what the consequence. However, as the body count rises and Ginger's actions become more erratic Brigette is forced to come to a tough decision: continue to cover her sister's tracks in the hopes that her condition is curable or fall victim to her vile deeds and or her indiscriminate appetite.
          All in all, the story was absolutely perfect and thankfully the characters didn't fall into too many horror movie clichés. As for the acting, in a word it was: superb. Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle although portraying characters that are somewhat despicable at times bring a certain humanity to Brigette and Ginger. Most of the characterizations steer well clear of cookie-cutter stereotypes, even the minor roles.
          However there is one exception and that is Mimi Rogers as Pamela, the girls' mother. Bland, unbelievable, and thoroughly annoying, her presence on screen is almost intolerable. Her material has all the feel of being written as shooting was already well underway. And by a different writer even. I found her performance to be nothing short of extraneous. Thankfully it didn't detract from the film too much and for that I give this section a 4 out of 5

      Action: Animal attacks. Bloody, squishy, animal attacks. Although, in a couple of sequences there is far too much blood splattered around for the character in question to still be drawing breath. I look upon that as a cardinal sin in horror films. But since it was only evident in one scene I'll give it a rather equitable 4 1/2 out of 5.

      Visuals and Directing: I'm not aware of anything else that John Fawcett has directed but his deft instruction and seemingly flawless command of his cast makes this writer eagerly anticipate his inevitable foray into mainstream cinema. Given the critical acclaim this film has received that could be sooner than later.
          Each shot is meticulously plotted out so as to wring every little bit of dread and foreboding out of the sequence. It becomes crystal clear if you listen to both the director and writers commentary on this disc that most of the creative vision and indeed the whole reason for the success of this film is due largely to John Fawcett and not, as might be expected, to the writer Karen Walton. This means a lot coming from me as I think that directors take too much of the credit. After listening to Karen Walton's commentary track I now see the folly of my ways. 5 out of 5

      Sound Track: Michael Sheilds' score provided the perfect mood to the film. My biggest pet peeve is that on the collector's disc menu screens his sorrowful main theme is overlaid with samples of the creature's growl. For this, the American version is slightly better. Small price to pay in the long run.
          The accompanying soundtrack is pretty decent as well. Even the songs by bands that I hate like Fear Factory and Soulfly fit in well with their respective scenes. The inclusion of Goth techno powerhouse Razed In Black restores the half point I would have docked it for even entertaining the idea of having the aforementioned bands in the soundtrack. 5 out of 5

      DVD Extras: If you rent or buy the American release by Artisan the only feature you'll get is a dinky trailer. Pretty weak to be sure. But check out what you're treated to on the TVA Canadian edition: Commentary by director John Fawcett and writer Karen Walton, deleted scenes with optional commentary, cast auditions and rehearsals, TV spots, FX feature, stills of Bailey Downs, slides from Ginger and Brigette's school project, and a brief featurette.
          There are even a couple of Easter eggs thrown in just for shits and giggles, one featuring the storyboard art of Vincenzo Natali and the other of a spontaneous moment shot on video of the director and two leads after long hours of rehearsing and quite noticeably exhausted. Very amusing stuff. Canadian Collector's edition 5 out of 5, US version 1 out of 5. For shame America.

      Value vs. Price: The value of this film far outweighs the cost of renting it. Even with the no frills American version it's still time well spent. Which is good considering that as of this writing you won't be able to find the collectors' edition available for rent anywhere. 5 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       . "Ginger Snaps" was one of the best films I saw last year. Smartly written and with a good concept and strong cast. The score is fantastic, the acting spot on, and the overall tone and feeling of the film are such that at times it transcends its genre altogether and you find yourself forgetting that you're watching a horror film.

      The Good: Nearly everything about the film itself.

      The Bad: Relatively little. The Pam character disrupted the flow every time she was onscreen. The creature effects looked a little like something you might expect to find in the Spencer Gifts Halloween catalog. The US version of the DVD was stripped of all special features just goes to show how much our neighbors to the north hate us so.

      The Overall Ugly: Solid script, excellent performances, firm direction, nice cinematography, and a spectacular, if surprising, concept all lead "Ginger Snaps" to horror success. It may end up being merely a footnote in the history of the genre but it is guaranteed at the very least a cult following. And a sequel as rumor has it.

      What it's Worth: Cheapo American version is worth the price of rental. Canadian collectors edition is worth the price to own (roughly $25) sight unseen.

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