Despised by nearly all the other kids in their suburban Toronto high school, sisters Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and Ginger Fitzgerald (Katharine Isabelle) wallow in their general disdain for everything around them: the classmates who torment them and whose deaths they cheerfully imagine; their chipper, flower-arranging mom (Mimi Rogers); their dull, sterile town. They spend much of their time taking death-scene photos of their own gruesome mock suicides. One day, the sisters decide to pull a prank on the "popular" girl at school, but their plans are derailed when, on the night of her first period, Ginger is savagely attacked by a wild animal.
Ginger survives, but her body changes gradually – her scars begin to grow hair and she becomes a sexually aggressive young woman with a blood lust. Brigitte is faced with the task of protecting her older sister and hesitantly enlists the help of Sam, an amateur botanist and the neighbourhood pot dealer. Together, they work to find a cure for the infection pulsing through Ginger’s veins. Ginger becomes increasingly irrational and uncontrollable as she slowly evolves into a powerful werewolf; the sisters must ultimately test their loyalty to each other so the nightmare can end.
A smart, satirically funny horror movie with genuine emotional punch, Ginger Snaps riffs on the premise that becoming a lycanthrope is not unlike the transition from child to adolescent teenage girl. Smartly constructed and with a feminist spin, the film is superbly crafted by director John Fawcett from Karen Walton’s clever and canny script.
In pre-production at the time of the Columbine, Colorado and Taber, Alberta school shootings, the film became the subject of controversy when a Toronto Star article announced that Telefilm Canada was contributing public tax dollars to what the paper derisively described as a teen slasher movie. A predictable barrage of debate followed, finally silenced by the film's release to critical acclaim in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Following an underwhelming performance at the box office, Ginger Snaps became something of a cult success on video and DVD (it was the Saturn Award winner for best DVD release of 2002). The film was extremely well received within horror movie circles and won several awards at specialty festivals, including three major awards at the 2001 Málaga International Week of Fantastic Cinema; it also claimed a Special Jury Citation at the 2000 Toronto International Film Festival®. A sequel, Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed, was released in 2004.