Ginger Snaps 2 :Unleashed review by The Grim Ringler

If you know me, which you don’t, you know I love the original Ginger Snaps immensely. It has its quirks, and it isn’t perfect, but it’s a very well made and very original werewolf film. Using sisterhood and the onset of puberty and menstruation as its jumping off points, this small horror gem took what could have been a cheap quickie and gave it a soul. The film uses the werewolf as the perfect chasm that separates two sisters who have shared everything in their lives but who cannot bridge the gap that the twin devils of lycanthropy and womanhood create. Left with an ambiguous ending and a bit of a cult popularity, the gods of film deemed that there should be not one but two sequels to GS. And while the ideal situation would have left the original alone, if they were going to muddle with making sequels, if nothing else, I can say that the first of the two (the second being a prequel due on video in America late ’04) isn’t too bad. Necessary? No. Good? Yes.

Set a few months after the first film, GS 2 gives us a different Brigette than we had seen in the first. In the first film she is a mousy runner-up to her easily pretty sister and only becomes her own person by killing her sister in an act of utter compassion. But in saving her sister she has damned herself and is now cursed herself, living out of a duffle bag and fighting her lycanthropy with less and less luck. The antidote she had concocted to help her sister is failing, her body already becoming immune to it, and if that wasn’t bad enough, it seems a boy-wolf is hot on her trail with all we can figure are designs on getting some furry love. After the unfortunate death of a young guy who had thoughts of helping the obviously troubled Brigette at the fangs of her stalker, Brigette is placed in an all girl psychiatric facility where she is believed to be a drug addict. Trapped in the psych ward and feeling the disease getting stronger in her, Brigette’s only confidantes are her dead sister, who she sees as a spirit of inevitability, and a young girl people call Ghost, whose grandma is serving some time after a nearly deadly fire. Brigette needs her antidote but, alas, the guy with the keys to the cupboard is a sleaze with a penchant for banging the girls he is supposed to be watching. Nice. With the help of Ghost though Brigette manages to escape her imprisonment just as her wolfier side is beginning to appear and her suitor begins munching on the inhabitants of the ward. Holing up in the home Ghost and her grandma share, the two booby-trap the house and prepare for a showdown with the other wolf. But what Brigette doesn’t know, as her own lupine self begins to take over, is that Ghost isn’t at all what she seems, and she two has a hidden side she has yet to show.

Not nearly as original as the first film, GS 2 is a fun romp nevertheless. Letting the deeper notions of the first go and finding satisfaction in creating a full-on werewolf movie, there is a charm to this film. There are no real surprises (until the end) and the actors don’t do the best job of creating much interest, but the two leads here that play Brigette and Ghost are mesmerizing. Using her ‘curse’ as a jumping off point, Emily Perkins adds an anger and loneliness to Brigette that was barely hinted at in the first film. Instead of using the animal inside her as a way to create some silly sort of sexuality, they use the wolf that she is and the one she is suppressing, as a nod to budding independence and repressed sexuality. She fears a monster within her that she cannot destroy without destroying herself. She is a loner not because she wants to be but because she has no choice. She is a girl who has wakened up one day and has found she is a woman. Unlike far too many vampire films, lycanthropy isn’t seen as a gift but, as it is oft referred to, a curse, and a doorway to Primal Man that is best left closed.

Ghost on the other hand is the wise child, seeing and knowing all and seeing all but essentially powerless to change things. Yet she isn’t nearly as powerless as we are lead to believe, so that, in a wonderful twist in the film, it is she that is the real monster in this monster movie, and I for one never saw it coming thanks to her wonderful acting turn.

The effects in the film are thankfully minimal and the werewolves are hidden until the finale, which is a blessing. This isn’t a big budget film and, while the monsters aren’t bad looking, they are best left hidden until you need to show them. The real star of the show though, aside from some nifty acting from the leads, is the sound design, which is utterly wonderful. Using the surround available to them to its fullest, the terror is amped up highest when you can hear the hidden thing that is stalking the girls. The direction is also well handled (though there are some moments that made me grimace, shots that are just so over-done that you wish they’d be taken from the film lexicon {an example being when a camera is placed on a moving object to get a weird sort of perspective, as it is place on a gurney for on shot in this film}). Not allowing this film to become a bloodbath or a creature-fest, the director shows great restraint and trust in his actors. And I like that they get the character of Ginger involved here but don’t over-use her and take the film away from its focus. The idea was taken from the brilliant An American Werewolf In London, but at least they had the good taste to crib from a classic.

But there is some really dicey writing here and it was hard not to laugh out loud at lines like – “Do that again and I’ll throw YOU at her head” which Brigette says to a fellow patient who was pitching pennies at Ghost. And too much of the movie feels like it wants to be Girl, Interrupted, and that vibe is hard to shake. It’s as if they wanted to retain the feeling of femininity that the first film had but weren’t sure how to do it without the girls in prison vibe. It works for the film, but is never fully utilized. We never get to know the other girls, we never see a deeper side to the ex-addict head of the ward, and we never feel like this is about anything more than putting an obstacle in front of Brigette. But the biggest nag I have, and it STILL drives me up the wall, is that a lot is made of that other wolf that is pursuing Brigette, but you never find out who it is. They act as if it’s someone we should know but we are never clued in. And that’s a huge plot hole.

The DVD is pretty bare but is leagues better than the hack job the first film got on its American DVD release (if you are a fan of the film I urge you to seek out the packed Canadian disc). You get a commentary, some deleted scenes that add nothing, and two short image galleries. But it’s better than nothing. The image is good overall, though some scenes with a lot of black blur a bit and get muddy. The sound is wonderful though and really makes use of all the channels.

A good film overall but far from a great one, I would recommend rental unless you, like me, are a big fan of the original. It has some very effective moments, a great twist, and a downright creepy ending which is hard not to love. Now if only the rest of the film had been as original and interesting as the climax.


7 out of 10 Jackasses
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