Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 34 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Violence, Sexual Content, Some Language and Drug Use
Directed by: Brett Sullivan
Written by: Megan Martin
Starring: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Tatiana Maslany, Eric Johnson, Brendan Fletcher, Janet Kidder, Pascale Hutton
GINGER SNAPS is the best werewolf film I’ve seen since THE HOWLING. Of course, with success comes room for a sequel and the climax of the predecessor (as tragic as it was) didn’t exactly close every plot point. In horror movie land, you’re pretty much guaranteed a sequel if you don’t kill off every single character and there’s always a possibility of the villain being resurrected somehow (Jason came back from a lightning strike for Christ sake). How does GINGER SNAPS 2 hold up as the continuation of a pretty amazing film? It’s not nearly as fantastic as the original, but takes an interesting step in a different direction and darker territory.
When GINGER SNAPS ended, the newly infected Brigitte had just killed her beast of a sister (formerly known as Ginger). Brigitte is now on the lam trying to suppress the growing animal urges and keep her impending transformation at bay with frequent injections of Monk’s Hood (a.k.a. Wolfsbane) in an isolated hotel room. Sadly, her attempts are thwarted by a do-gooder stumbling across her path and mistaking her for a junkie. So Brigitte awakes to find herself in a tyrannical rehab clinic and is deprived from the very stuff that was keeping her from going full-on werewolf. It is here where Brigitte meets a young girl known as Ghost. The oddball preteen seems to know exactly what Brigitte is going through (thanks to some comic books) and intends to help her from becoming the beast. To make matters worse, another werewolf is hunting Brigitte. With the next full moon drawing near, Brigitte’s physical mutations and disturbing behavior increases. Add in the ever-looming presence of the monster hunting her, time is short and the situation is desperate.
First of all, props to Megan Martin for crafting a script to a pretty friggin’ awesome horror flick and not repeating the same formula beat-for-beat. This is an entirely new story that happens to follow a series of events that were laid out in the previous film. The tone is completely different as well. While there are some bits of fun here and there, this is an almost darker take on the werewolf tale. The first film was about two sisters being torn apart, showcased some body horror, and had a kick-ass monster to boot. UNLEASHED is a story about the surviving sister’s struggle to not become what Ginger was.
Emily Perkins blends right back into Brigitte and I liked her even more this time around, though it may have been because I had seen the utter hell she went through in the first film. In a stroke of genius, Katharine Isabelle is brought back as Ginger. Right now you’re probably thinking something along the lines of “but Ginger died. We clearly saw that in the climax of the first film. How can she return in a logical way that doesn’t betray the story?” Her character is back as a figment of Brigitte’s imagination. Every single time Brigitte comes close to snapping or is going through another disturbing change into a more wolf-like form, Ginger steps out to either mock or encourage her (think Harry in DEXTER). This was a mighty clever way of giving us a bit of a window into her internal conflict and made complete sense. She’s still haunted by killing Ginger, so why wouldn’t she imagine her deceased sister popping up every now and then.
The main problems I have with GINGER SNAPS 2 lie in some parts of the script. While it does go in really cool directions, some of the storytelling feels a little messy. There is a twist near the ending that is forced. The idea is cool, but the reveal comes off as half-assed. The special effects are significantly better than the first film (it was clear this entry had more of a budget), but can still be cheesy at times. There’s also a plot hole that I felt the filmmakers were going to fill in with a deliberate connection to the first movie, but this was not so. GINGER SNAPS 2 is far from poor and actually winds up one of the better horror sequels that I’ve seen, but I feel that the script could have used another draft before actually going in front of the cameras.
If you are a fan of GINGER SNAPS, aghast at the lack of good werewolf movies, or both, then GINGER SNAPS 2: UNLEASHED is probably up your alley. I respect the decision to take this sequel in an entirely new direction. It doesn’t offer more of the same (like many terrible horror sequels wind up doing). It’s a dark chapter in the GINGER SNAPS “trilogy” (the third film is actually a prequel) and while it may not be as awesome as the original, it kicks a whole lot of ass regardless. Check it out!