Last year when Howard Waldrop and I reviewed The Wolfman (executive summary: don’t waste your time), I offered up a list of other werewolf films that would be more worthy of viewing. Two of those, Ginger Snaps and Kibakichi, were films I hadn’t seen when I wrote that. I’ve now managed to see both, and can offer up judgment: Ginger Snaps is well worth seeing, but Kibakichi isn’t.
Ginger Snaps tells the story of the two Fitzgerald sisters, one (Ginger) hot, goth-y and redheaded, the other (Brigitte) dark and mousy, who go through their rebellious outsider phase by snapping artfully staged photographs of the other’s fake suicides, smoking, fighting with the stuck-up girls in field hockey, and generally behaving like teenage girls. Unfortunately for them, mutilated dogs have been showing up all around their neighborhood, and a late night encounter with what’s been killing them in a park leaves Ginger with wounds that heal entirely too quickly, newly grown patches of hair, a sudden taste for fresh blood, and the beginnings of a tail. And did I mention that the werewolf attack falls on the same day she get her first period?
This is a very solid film with good acting, a clever script and firm direction. It can be enjoyed either as a straight werewolf film, or an extended (and unsettling) metaphor on the wrenching changes puberty inflicts upon the female body. (The film garnered a lot of comparisons with Carrie when it first came out.) Of werewolf films of recent memory, I would have to count this second only to Dog Soldiers.
Also, Katharine Isabelle looks really, really good just before she goes all four-legged.
On the other hand, Kibakichi is one of those films where all the best scenes are in the trailer. You would think that a Japanese film with werewolves, demons, samurai and Gatling guns would rock, but unfortunately Kibakichi has the quality of an exploitation film and the pace of a lush period drama, which is exactly the opposite of what you should be aiming for. The special effects range from the passable (they’ve mastered the art of copious geysers of blood) to the laughable, including one scene where the ghosts (demons? demon ghosts?) rip apart a gambler and its obvious that the attacking creatures are puppets on strings. (And at one point the titular protagonist is menaced by what look like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, except not nearly as convincing.) Plus the werewolf transformation scenes are sub-par. While not unremittingly awful, even gorehounds and Asian horror fans are likely to find it disappointing. It also has possibly the worst dubbing I’ve ever seen in a film.