by Mel Valentin
If "Ginger Snaps" was equal parts "An American Werewolf in London" and "Heathers," the sequel, "Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed," is part "An American Werewolf in London," part "Girl, Interrupted," and part "The Bad Seed." The mix of genres, styles and themes, alas, is not nearly as successful as its predecessor: the script tosses around a lot of half-formed, half-digest (sorry, couldn’t resist) ideas, but those ideas are passed over quickly in the interest of holding viewer interest and pushing the storyline toward the next complication or reversal. "Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed" also fails to provide the same (or a similar) level of intelligent wit or black humor found in its predecessor. That and a third-act plot reversal that’s simultaneously gratuitous and depressingly bleak means that "Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed" will be seen once, and only once, by fans of the first film and its central characters.In Unleashed, Emily Perkins returns as Brigitte. At the end of Ginger Snaps, Brigitte allowed herself to be infected with the werewolf curse in order to test the hypothetical cure, monkshood (or wolfsbane) on herself. It succeeded, but as she soon discovers, monkshood only delays the inevitable and irreversible transformation into a werewolf. Another werewolf, whose procreative instincts lead it to Brigitte, complicates Brigitte’s desperate search for a permanent cure. After a bloody werewolf attack that leaves an unfortunate admirer (and potential romantic rival) dead, Brigitte awakens institutionalized, her daily dose of monkshood confused for drug addiction. There she encounters the usual assortment of clueless counselors, suicidally depressed young women, lecherous hospital staff, and the eccentric, obviously troubled Ghost (Tatiana Maslany), who serves as guide/confidante/sister stand-in/Greek chorus.
"A noticeable step down from its predecessor, but still worth a view."
Brigitte must find a way to obtain the monkshood on a daily basis and escape before the werewolf attacks again or the werewolf transformation occurs, spelling the doom of everyone around her. For the monkshood, she has to contend with the amoral Tyler (Eric Johnson, Clark Kent's competition for Lana's affections on Smallville). Brigitte also has to contend with institutional antagonism, as represented by the well meaning, but oddly insincere Alice (Janet Kidder). Brigitte’s complications don’t end there. She has to contend with the amorous werewolf stalking her, Ginger (Katherine Isabelle) who appears to Brigitte as a recurring hallucination and who acts as conscience and trickster, and a fourth, hidden antagonist that isn't revealed until the final plot turn/reversal.
Therein lies Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed’s primary weakness: no clear, central antagonist. A second weakness is tied to the abrupt changes in setting, moving from Brigitte initially alone, then the mental institution, but almost as quickly (with little character development), the narrative leaves the institution setting behind for a minimalist two and three character setting. A third problem comes from the changing werewolf mythology evident : In the Ginger Snaps universe, transformation into a werewolf appears to be irreversible. In the first film, we see Ginger turn only once; in the second film, Brigitte’s efforts are tied to preventing or delaying the transformation. In both films, transformation means the complete loss of personality, contrary to the usual werewolf mythology, where the change is temporary (and tied to the lunar cycle). Last, the writer and director, Megan Martin and Brett Sullivan, include a final, unsatisfying reversal. The too-clever-for-itself denouement, however, forces the filmmakers into a literal dead end.
Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed does, however, benefit from tighter pacing (if less humor), better staging of the action scenes than those found in its predecessor, and an above-average share of shock cuts and gore (most of it presented almost subliminally, through MTV-style rapid editing). The opening credits sequence obviously owes its lineage (and influence) to videos made by and for Nine Inch Nails. The credits also repeat dialogue from the first film, primarily to refresh viewers’ memories of earlier events. Performances wise, doubts as to Emily Perkins could carry an entire film without Katherine Isabelle to offset her introverted, limited performance, were allayed within the first few minutes of Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed.As sequels go, Martin and Sullivan deserve credit for ambitiously taking the storyline in a different direction with an entirely new scenario, even if the end result leaves no room for a subsequent sequel (a good thing, some might suggest) and leaves the central character in a literal dead end. After two films, Brigitte (and the audience) deserved better. The producers behind the "Ginger Snaps" series seem to have acknowledged this problem, avoiding it altogether by making the next film a prequel ("Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning," set in the 19th century at a trading post in the Canadian wilderness).
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originally posted: 09/04/05 02:00:59