Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (2004)

I recently re-watched the slowly growing classic “Ginger Snaps” and while the re-watch quality hasn’t been kind to it, it’s still a damn good werewolf film. What “Ginger Snaps 2” does is offer a much different approach to the story which may or may not bode well with audiences. You can say whatever you want about this sequel, but in the end you can’t call it repetitive or prosaic. It’s a completely different sort of concept and narrative yet manages to extend the story from the first which is what a sequel should be. One of my many ever recurring complaints about film is that sequels always tend to repeat the first film instead of extend or add on to the original story told, and “Ginger Snaps 2” doesn’t fall prey to that trap. In the end, it’s ultimately not better than the first film, or even the sub-par final film, but it still ends up being an engrossing piece of werewolf fodder that adds to the mythos and does away with the werewolf/period allegory and presents a more upfront premise.

The werewolf presence within Brigitte serves as more as a symbol of her struggle to forget the past instead of coming to grips with it, and through that she ends up becoming a stronger character. The ambitious concept now follows Brigitte several years after her sister Ginger’s demise. She lives alone on a college campus and seeks out books on lycanthropes keeping her werewolf transformation at bay by injecting herself with monkshood. After an allergic reaction, she’s taken to a rehab facility out in the middle of nowhere and most of the film is her attempts to keep her instincts at bay while being forced to live among its patients and a crooked sex crazed supervisor (Eric Johnson from “Smallville” in a decent antagonistic performance) and befriend a young girl named Ghost who insinuates herself in to Brigitte’s life. One feat this sequel succeeds in is how it tends to disprove those who said Ginger Snaps wasn’t good without Katharine Isabelle.

She appears only three or four times for a minute, and the rest relies on pure raw acting talent by Emily Perkins, who also looks pretty damn good. Isabelle reprises her role as Ginger this time around as less of a character and more of a ghostly entity ala “Hamlet”. She never has much of a part in this installment serving as an adversarial premonition daring Brigitte and egging her on to accept her inevitable fate. Brigitte seeks out Ginger’s counsel on occasion, and also challenges it as she fights her imminent transformation. Perkins gives the best performance of the movie, and her knack for drama is on full display. The film is ripe with tension and is surprisingly engrossing as she ends up becoming a caged animal that can turn on a dime if she’s not released.

“Unleashed” is full of great performances and Emily Perkins who is excellent in her role here reprising her character and really manages to hold her own considering the fact that Isabelle is only in this for a small time. They add further depth to the character of Brigitte through the help of Perkins performance as she fights off her own urges and watches the shady goings on in the facility she’s in. As the body count rises in the place around the facility, Brigette begins to wonder, is Ginger’s werewolf come back to her, is some other werewolf stalking her, or is she breaking out and murdering the residents without even realizing?

“Ginger Snaps 2” is one of the many horror films that deals with such a complex issue, but in the second half just loses everything it had going for it as if the writers had all but given up. The second half unfortunately becomes very lackluster making all tension, suspense, and drama come to a screeching halt in exchange for a mixture of routine cat and mouse monster antics, and situations that make for less than amusing scenes. The character of Ghost was possibly one of the most obnoxious characters I’ve ever seen in a horror film, and her mere presence alone mad this a grueling experience more times that I would have liked.

The character that was like nails on a chalk board took my right out of the narrative on some occasional and the lack of true storytelling ability in the last half drag this down from a potentially positive review. For a film with such engrossing material in the beginning, it doesn’t take advantage of the nuances it gives us from the beginning and trades Brigitte’s character exposition for mere heroism that require only screaming and running most of the time, something that wastes the talents Perkins offers to the audience. While not as good as the original, or the last film, “Unleashed” is an original approach to a sequel with a satisfying premise in spite of falling apart in the second half, and is driven by good performances especially from Perkins who exposes her pure acting ability.