Ginger Snaps: Unleashed (January 9/04)
Ginger Snaps: Unleashed is that rare sequel that actually improves upon the original - though considering the caliber of its predecessor, that's not saying much. The first Ginger Snaps was a semi-entertaining look at two sisters that are transformed into werewolves, with expectedly disastrous results. While the film was effective in that it never became just another Scream rip-off, the smug tone employed by the filmmakers essentially negated any positive aspects. This sequel, thankfully, eschews the black comedy aspect of the original and plays things straight - turning Ginger Snaps: Unleashed into a surprisingly effective horror flick.
Picking up an undetermined amount of time after the first one left off (it's presumably been at least a few months), Brigitte (Emily Perkins) is still struggling to keep the werewolf within at bay. She does this by injecting a poison known as "wolfsbane" into her system, which allows her to retain her human shape. But when she finds herself involuntarily admitted to a detox center, Brigitte's supply of wolfsbane is naturally taken away from her - causing the werewolf within to begin to emerge. Not helping matters is the vicious wolf that's pursuing Brigitte for the sole purpose of mating with her, and killing anyone that gets in his way.
It's important to note that Ginger Snaps: Unleashed is a monumental improvement over the original, to the extent that even non-fans of this ongoing series (there's a soon-to-be-released prequel waiting in the wings) just might get a kick out of this one. Screenwriter Megan Martin (who, not surprisingly, had nothing to do with the first Ginger Snaps) does a fantastic job of allowing the movie to stand on its own, though there are a few references to the original. Interestingly, the movie doesn't explain what happened in the first movie until about an hour into the story - further proof that the filmmakers weren't interesting in creating just another retread.
The removal of that annoyingly self-important and sardonic tone that plagued the original is certainly a big part of Ginger Snaps: Unleashed's success, but Perkins' central performance must also be mentioned. Forced to play second banana to Katharine Isabelle's Ginger in the first movie (who also pops up here on occasion, as a figment of Brigitte's imagination), Perkins does a fantastic job of turning Brigitte into more than just a fidgety victim. In a transformation similar to the one Linda Hamilton's character went through between the first and second Terminator films, Brigitte becomes self-reliant and unafraid to kick ass. The supporting cast doesn't fare quite as well, with the exception of a fellow detox resident - a young girl named Ghost (Tatiana Maslany). Her relationship with Brigitte is far more interesting than the sisterly bond between Brigitte and Ginger in the first film, and it's Ghost that provides the film with the occasional comic relief (after Brigitte chows down on a victim, Ghost helpfully points out the blood around her mouth as though she were referring to an errant piece of lettuce).
There is, of course, a good amount of gore thrown into the mix as well. The most effective death sequence comes about halfway through the film, as Brigitte watches with horror as a patient is viciously murdered by the werewolf that's stalking her - through a thick layer of plastic sheeting. It's stylish and brutal, two qualities that were certainly missing from the original. It doesn't hurt either that the creature effects have been improved here, which are fairly convincing this time around (rather than resembling a burly guy in a furry suit).
The bottom line is that Ginger Snaps: Unleashed is a solid, effective horror movie. And that's not an entirely common thing these days.