Worth A Look: 27.63%
Pretty Bad: 10.53%
Total Crap: 9.21%
5 reviews, 46 user ratings
|Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed
by David Hollands
Ginger Snaps is easily the most original horror film I've seen in a long time. It's a disturbing, mean little movie that never offers its audience one moment of relief. I suppose you can now imagine my excitement when a sequel was announced. I easily remember the three months after discovering the information: long, sleepless nights of gathering info on the net, skipping meals to search websites. I'd officially become a true movie nerd complete with permanent hunched back and squeaky voice. When I walked into that cinema which housed one of the largest screens I'd ever seen, I suddenly had a deep fear: would this film be any good? Let's see.When we last left Brigette Fitzgerald, she had just driven a large kitchen knife into her werewolf sister's stomach, and was mourning over the death. From that point on, Brigette has been moving from hotel to hotel, frequently injecting herself with liquid monkshood, the only remedy to keep her own transformation at bay. However, the medication isn't working, and she is ever so slowly becoming the monster that was her sister. What makes matters worse is that she is being pursued by a fully transformed werewolf that has intentions to mate with her. One night, a librarian friend of hers is attacked by the werewolf, and she runs off , before soon collapsing in the snow. She wakes up in a rehabilitation institute. The doctors believe she is a drug addict who overdosed. There she is trapped, without the monkshood she desperately needs to keep herself human. Her only friend is Ghost, a little girl who lives in the institute because her grandmother has been admitted there.
"A dark, frightening, and nasty ride."
Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed is not as good a film as the original. It does have its fair share of flaws, and I feel I better get them out of the way. I must let out my dismay about the actual design of the werewolf creature. In the original, the werewolf looked human. It added a great original aspect to the film. The werewolf hardly had hair, and looked like a human being who had become a monster, what with it's pink skin and various revealing human-like parts. It seems that there was a certain amount of pressure in Unleashed to make the werewolf appear more like a typical one. That's really too bad, because something just feels different about this creature, too familiar. We long for that terrifying creature from the first film that so creeped us out because it was expertly rendered, not the creature here that appears to be recycled from countless other werewolf films.
Another flaw is that the pacing of the film does meander on occasion. Director Brett Sullivan and screenwriter Megan Martin give us Brigette's transformation into a monster, and while much of it is interesting, the ball was unfortunately dropped on more than one occasion. Sullivan tries to recapture the same kind of disturbing quality that the original film had in terms of its transformation from human to beast, yet he doesn't quite have the visual sense or the bravery, it seems, to truly disturb his audience. In short, he doesn't possess Ginger Snaps' director John Fawcett's ability to make an audience uncomfortable. Some of the things that happen in this film are extremely disturbing, and yet they do fail to register sometimes. It certainly doesn't help that Sullivan has focussed his camera mainly on the disturbing transformation scenes that fail to register instead of the actual threat of the werewolf pursuing Brigette.
Another problem comes when one starts to question the actual werewolf's presence. The creature seems to conveniently only come out during the night. When it is clearly shown that the creature can break down doors as easily as cutting thin butter, one wonders why it just doesn't charge in to get Brigette whenever it can. With such a small night staff at the rehab institute, it would hardly be in danger of being killed, given the fact that it can clearly rip anybody to shreds within seconds. The fact that it never does come after Brigette when she's at her most vulnerable is a bit distracting.
The movie brings back Ginger from the original film in one of the worst devices Iíve seen in recent years. She is in the film here as a spirit who taunts Brigette about giving in to the transformation rather than fighting it. Given the fact that Ginger pops up in only three short scenes here, Iím left wondering what she was even doing in the film at all. If the intention was for the filmmakers to suggest that Brigette still hadnít gotten over her sisterís hold on her, than for crying out loud, develop that! Donít leave it flapping in the wind only to discard it with a lame adlib at some later point. In fact, sometimes the Ginger-spirit device intrudes on the situation so rudely, that you want to throw projectiles of nasty substances at the screen. Whenever the movie lowers itself to this kind of American Werewolf in London-type copycatting, it immediately loses credibility as an original horror movie.
Even with these errors present though, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed still gets my almost highest recommendation. Why? Because the film never lets you even think about the errors Iíve just mentioned. It tells you to sit back and enjoy the ride. The fact of the matter is that it worked, because all the errors written above were ones Iíd thought of a long time after having seen the film. Thatís what Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed does: provides wonderful entertainment that never lets up for a second, and never lets you question the errors that are right in front of you. Thatís why this film, for all itís flaws, still gets a full five-stars from me. And itís not only because the thing is blissfully entertaining, but it, just like the first Ginger Snaps, has other things going for it than simply being a teenage horror flick.
In Ginger Snaps, the werewolf disease was treated like menstruation. When you have the disease, whether youíre female or male, you bleed occasionally from a most private area, you appear to get severe forms of PMS (and severe forms of acne for the males), and you also become sexy as Hell. You also become a sexual object, something that Iím now realising was also one of the filmís messages. The original movie had a lot to say about women in horror films, and it also went against many cliches of the horror picture (sex meant to disturb rather than excite, no nudity). It frowned upon Ginger becoming a sexual object, putting herself out to be a play toy for the boys, and so she was then promptly killed off in a powerhouse conclusion.
This same theme of a woman not wanting to conform to societyís image runs wild in Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed. Brigetteís transformation is much different than Gingerís. Since Brigette does not want to become a sexual object, her transformation is therefore much more harsh and ugly than Gingerís. Her body growing immune to the monkshood is a revealing indication that society is beginning to win over her. She is becoming that sexual object she never wanted to be, and the film reflects that. As she changes, even if she is repulsive, there are shots dedicated to making her look sexy as well. These shots are not there to simply give the males in the audience a penis boost, but rather to make us despair over the fact that she isnít winning over societyís (and the audienceís) desire to see her become a sexual object.
It is in this way that Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed becomes the most successful self-referential horror film ever made up to this point. It knows that the audience wants to see Brigette get down and dirty, and so it does give us that occasionally, yet it also makes us feel sorry for asking and for partially receiving. To name a few examples, every time a male notices Brigetteís beauty in the movie, so do the audience. The male, and the audience as well, is promptly punished. Take, for example, a friendly librarian who likes Brigette because she appears sexy to him. When he tries to help her at one point, he becomes the victim while she saves herself without looking back.
As Brigette meets the other female patients in the rehab centre, she finds that most of them succumb to the sexual perversions of a dirty male rehab nurse. They give him what he wants sexually, and they are then able to have what they want, in most case meaning drugs they are addicted to. Brigette herself also succumbs to this at one point, and it is here that the film becomes cruel. Even though Brigette lets herself be a sexual object for a small while in order to get the monkshood she desperately needs, the film still frowns upon this, and thus hurts her terribly. The male nurse, whoís name is Tyler, has her positioned on her bed as he slowly injects the monkshood, via needle, into her vagina. We are forced to watch her painful expressions as this happens, complete with some of the most nail-biting sound effects ever used. If this werenít enough, we then have to watch her lie back as the monkshood runs through her veins, causing her great pain as it kills off the werewolf virus inside her. We have to see this pain every time she uses monkshood, meaning the movie is even punishing her for involuntarily becoming a sexual object as the virus slowly overtakes her. Thatís pretty harsh.
Then comes the masterbation sequence. Brigette is positioned on the ground, on a mat, as the instructor guides all the girls in the room through a mental clearing exercise. Her feelings of sexuality immerge here, as she begins to hallucinate that every girl in the room around her is masturbating furiously. She begins to give in as well until the film comes back at her with its punishment full force. It executes this by having her hand immerge, transformed into a werewolf claw. If this werenít enough, the movie hits us with a double whammy when we see that her claw is covered with skin and blood, meaning, of course, that she was ripping apart her own vagina the whole time. Itís a sick film, folks, one where the disgusting bits are completely necessary to the movie, as they reinforce the filmís themes rather than just exploit for the sake of doing so.
Thereís an undeniable sense that Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed is one of the bravest films to be made in a long while. This film appears to have one intention and one intention only: to hurt its audience. The movie is relentlessly dark and grimy, never giving its audience the chance to escape from Brigetteís world. Thus, this movie demonstrates exactly what horror should truly be: dark, unrelenting, and never watered-down. I was smiling all the way home after this film, because I finally felt that I had received the experience I had always wanted from a horror film. Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed delivers on its promise to terrify, and to not conform to the guiding of whatever schmoe had the brilliant idea that audiences canít handle hard horror.
To contribute to this filmís edge are some of the greatest characters Iíve seen in a horror film. These are flawed individuals, and the movie isnít afraid to show them as such. It takes a big risk, since any film with un-likable characters would usually end with the audience rooting for the monster. That never happens here though, because the film doesnít create non-likable characters. It creates flawed characters, and thereís the big difference. We have a character who demands sexual favours from woman in exchange for drugs, a Brigette Fitzgerald whoís unforgiving to everyone as a result of her condition, and a character whoís unstable throughout.
When the movie does become harsh towards its characters, it does so with a vengeance. At one point, one character is discovered to possibly be an abuser of small children. Without questioning, Brigette leads him outside and watches as he is chomped to death by the waiting werewolf, only to discover later that he actually didnít abuse anybody. To make matters even more original, she never laments his death, really only shrugging it off after becoming quite furious. When two characters discover the body of one dead girl, one of the characters leans down to place coins over her eyes without appearing the slightest bit freaked out about seeing a dead body. The fact that the audience is completely freaked out only helps to enhance the fact that these characters are unusual. This isnít one of those movies that appears to have unusual or different characters when they really arenít. Oh no, this film goes the whole mile in terms of its characters, and the movie is so much stronger because of it. The movie, most importantly, gives us a heroine who is flawed and does make mistakes. That is perhaps the most refreshing thing about this movie: that a horror film could have such a convincing character base without leading the audience to root for the monster.
What Brett Sullivan lacks in being able to pull off some of the more disturbing sequences in the film, he more than makes up for with his fantastic knowledge of jump scare timing and horror/action sequences. There are a few set pieces in this film, all designed to scare the Hell out of the audience, and they work incredibly. Sullivan has made the wise choice to keep his monster in the shadows for most of the film, and when he does show it, extremely quick cuts are employed to keep the creature in a constant blur, so that the audience can still use a part of their imagination. Sullivan usually has the monster appearing when the audience least expects it too, and when it does appear, the volume is pumped to maximum levels to achieve the ultimate jump. One moment in the film has a werewolf jumping up and snapping at one of the filmís characters, and when that happened, the packed-to-breaking-point cinema audience suffered near-simultaneous heart attacks.
Sullivan has also adopted John Fawcettís ability to take practically everything in his shot and make it appear menacing. While Sullivan, who was previously an editor on the first Ginger Snaps, definitely has a different style than Fawcettís, the movie still has the peculiar Fawcett touch. As a result, even the most mundane of scenes have a creepy sense of menace of them. Shots of dark allies and long hallways take on the appearance of something thatís constantly coming after you, and given the fact that these shots fill the entire film, the tension just never lets up. Even in daylight, that sense of menace just doesnít escape you, so one never feels safe at all while watching this film.
The cinematography by Henry Less and Gavin Smith takes a different route than Thom Bestís from the original Ginger Snaps. While Best went for a creepy suburban orange quality, Less and Smith go down the more traditional road by having everything cold, moody and dark. While the style may not be as great as Bestís, the fact that the cinematography still works like a motherf*cker is just asking for praise. And praise it shall get. This movie is expertly shot, as the lighting scheme has received completely careful attention here. Not a single frame goes by when something is bathed in shadow, shadows that could be hiding a monster. The photography works especially well during the cold, emotionless shots of frozen winter landscapes that truly chills the blood.
Although I was initially disappointed that genius composer Michael Shields would not be returning to score the sequel, that disappointment vanished when I heard the fantastic work of Kurt Swinghammer here. His music is exciting, foreboding, terrifying, and emotional all at the same time. It is modern, cold and technological, perfectly reflecting Brigetteís condition for most of the film as well as giving jaw-dropping tension to the many suspense moments in this film. When action begins, synthesized drum beats immerge on the soundtrack, and they attack us relentlessly, never allowing us to lean back for a second. Many passages of Swinghammerís little beast are creepy and nerve-jangling. The music will literally make you stare sweating at the screen, leaning forward ever more in anticipation of what will come next. And thatís the most clever thing about this score: it makes you lean forward, only to then have you kicked after you realise too late that it was a trick to make you lean right towards a jump scare.
The performances in Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed are all fantastic, all the way down to the last supporting player. Emily Perkins, reprising her role as Brigette, is more or less playing a different character this time around. Her Brigette is one constantly in pain, and Perkins plays it admirably. She has the power to inhabit a character so well, and her screen presence is incredible. She is able to make her character tough and hard-edged, yet she is also unafraid to touch into the emotional side of her character to make us feel for her when sheís in pain. The result is a beautifully open performance that is unafraid of what it has the power to do.
Katharine Isabelle makes a return as Ginger, and she does try to make the best of it given the limited role. Sadly, sheís unable to pull it off. She simply tries to seduce Brigette, when the more interesting thing would have been to play off her old character from the first film instead of just appearing to be a one-dimensional ghost. Tatiana Maslany plays Ghost, a lonely, slightly crazy girl who reads comic books and thinks up imaginary situations. Maslany is an excellent actress who, just like Perkins, is able to pull off a strange character without closing the audience off. She isnít afraid to reveal the flaws, and that makes her part extremely strong. Eric Johnson plays Tyler, the sexually obsessed male nurse of the institute. Even though his character is clearly a jerk, he pulls off the impossible by actually making his character oddly likable despite his lizard-like presence. When he is in danger, we still feel for him even if he is a total jerk.Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed is a slightly flawed film, and definitely not one as good or as original as the first film. Still, the thing gets the full five stars from me, because it succeeds in what it is trying to do admirably, and thatís to give the audience a dark, scary ride. While the flaws Iíve mentioned above may seem quite serious, the film so effortlessly has its audience glide over them that the actual viewing experience is hardly ever compromised. This movie is horror at its absolute purest - never willing to back down, absolutely unwilling to soften itself. For that, it gets a most high recommendation.
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originally posted: 02/29/04 18:07:49
|OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 San Francisco Horror Film Festival. For more in the 2004 San Francisco Horror Festival series, click here.
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