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Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (2004)

Review

Author
Date
04-13-2005
Comments

If Canada's surprise 2000 horror hit Ginger Snaps was Ginger's story, then Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed belongs to Brigitte. As a fan of the original Ginger Snaps, one of the best werewolf films ever put to celluloid, I approached this sequel with some hesitation. Sequels often damage the credibility of their predecessors, and I didn't want my opinion of Ginger Snaps to suffer based on this film. I am happy to report, however, that although drastically different in setting and tone, Ginger Snaps 2 is a suspenseful sequel that doesn't lose any of the bite of the original.

Set a short time after the events of the first film, Unleashed finds Brigitte Fitzgerald alone in the world and on the hunt for a permanent werewolf cure. Having infected herself with the "curse" in an unsuccessful bid to save her sister's life, we come upon a more frail, embittered Brigitte, now addicted to Monkshood -- the poison that keeps her from completely transforming into the beast she fears. After a gruesome encounter with yet another wolf, Brigitte is discovered, unconscious, in the parking lot of a hotel. She is horrified to awaken captive in a drug treatment facility. Brigitte's living nightmares are confirmed when she discovers that she has been mistaken for a junkie and stripped of her vital treatment.

Ginger Snaps 2 exists as a rarity in the world of horror sequels because it actually dares to expand its inspiration's mythology, as opposed to simply banking on the original's success. It's a dangerous narrative tightrope act masterfully handled by this film's creators. With high expectations placed on the creators by the cult success of Ginger Snaps, the filmmakers have gone against the grain, exorcising Ginger from the plot almost completely, and taking chances at every turn. If the first film was about the horror of adolescence, this film is about its inescapable consequences. For those expecting a digestible retread of Ginger Snaps, this film will be a major disappointment. And that's a great thing.

One of the film's most successful coups is the performance of its lead actor, Emily Perkins. Somewhat stifled by the tour-de-force performance of Katherine Isabelle as Ginger in the first film, Perkins proves in Unleashed that she has the chops for a raw, unflattering role that digs below the surface to provide the viewer with the real character underneath. In the course of only a couple films, Perkins has bloomed into a young talent of the highest caliber.

Making the film even more successful is its supporting cast. Tatiana Maslany finds the perfect balance of childish annoyance and creepy know-it-all-ness as Ghost, Brigitte's partner in crime. Eric Johnson, as the sleazy orderly Tyler, manages the somewhat impossible task of being congruously attractive and repugnant. As the events of Ginger Snaps 2 unfold, the performances of Perkins, Maslany, and Johnson keep the lesser elements of the film on the back-burner.

Fans of the first film will also notice Ginger Snaps 2's different pacing. The film is much slower than its predecessor, taking time to explore new characters and places, rather than simply providing a setting and fodder for the massacre. It is a much more dramatic and suspenseful film, substituting plot development for shock and discreet scares for explicit gore.

This is not to say that the film skimps on the horrifying and grotesque. Once it hits its stride, Unleashed is one demented exercise in the morbid. The last thirty minutes -- a complete and utter departure from the rest of the film -- contain more gore and demented surprises than most films pack into their complete running time. The third act of the film is a treat for even the most jaded of horror fans.

And last, but certainly not least, are the wolves themselves. Even with limited screen time (the film focuses more on the suspense of Brigitte's transformation than a present threat of attacking creatures), the filmmakers have provided a much more interesting and effective werewolf model than in the previous film. Bravo to the makeup team.

Also, in a cinematic landscape littered with PG-13 terror, it is a wonderful treat to see a film that doesn't skimp on traditional horror elements like blood and guts. I realize a horror film isn't successful simply because of its gore, but for a rip-roaring werewolf film to really stand out in a very crowded sub-genre, pardon me if I think at least some torn flesh is in order.

However, Ginger Snaps 2 isn't completely flawless. There are a few logical errors. A good example is the ease or lack thereof with which certain characters can move between abandoned and functioning portions of the treatment facility. This element completely and illogically relies on plot contrivances. Also, the last few shots of the film are a complete disappointment. A tacked-on and poorly thought out ending could easily have ruined a lesser film, but luckily Unleashed is strong enough to sustain an ending that will most likely leave a lot of fans upset. Although the film contains these few annoyances, it still carries its weight and does its best to conceal them behind interesting characters and great suspense.

Ginger Snaps 2 succeeds where other sequels fail because the film refuses to exist as a generic copy of its inspiration. This is an *actual* sequel, expanding the original's mythology with interesting and refreshing plot elements, visuals, and characters. It is a well-crafted and serious entry in the Ginger Snaps franchise. The first film lit some much needed fire under the ailing werewolf sub-genre, and this sequel serves to fan the flames. This is a must see.

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