Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms, and the autumn moon is bright.
Legends about men transforming into beasts or vice versa have bled onto the silver screen since Universal Pictures’ 1935 Werewolf of London. While these stories are an obvious analog about the repressed savagery of men, they are also an excellent analog for puberty.
Werewolves are ever the pubescent adolescent. Their frames are in a state of seemingly uncontrollable flux, their bodies manifesting wills of their own at the most inconvenient of times. Hair sprouts out of all the wrong places. Your mind is overridden by a hunger that did not exist before, leaving you in a state where all forms of good sense are abandoned.
You are trapped between what you once were and what you are becoming. You are constantly confronted by the truth: There is no going back. You’ve lost something. And it really pisses you off.
While the Teen Wolfs of the world broaches this metaphor with a comedic sensibility, in the realm of horror, no movie better plays with this dynamic than 2000’s Ginger Snaps. I unabashedly adore this movie for its unique voice amongst its peers. We don’t get too many female werewolf tales and teenage girls are consistently an enigma unto themselves (I grew up in a house of boys).
Ginger Snaps follows two teenage sisters on the cusp of womanhood dealing with the crises of puberty and lycanthropy. These young women are confronted by the goriness of their budding womanhood and the violence of their transformations. There is also the dueling nature of siblings at play, their roles as mentors and rivals. As they journey further into their transformations, these aspects of their relationship are intensified until the breaking point. This duality is continued into the film’s climax when sister is pitted against sister, when love and hate converge.