The day of reckoning, the day the curse grew stronger in the Red and the Black. Sisters united in blood, together forever.
“Ginger Snaps” was a film that really, really, really didn’t need a sequel, I can’t really emphasis that enough, but not only did they make one, they also made a prequel. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against prequels whatsoever, there are some very good ones out there, but they are few and far between and the reason for that is that they tend not to show you anything that adds to the original film.
Filmed pretty much back to back with the sequel, it is actually quite surprising just how different they are in terms of style, the characters and virtually every aspect and they don’t even feel like they are connected in the slightest. “Ginger Snaps Back” is very polished, looks fantastic and is a vast improvement on the sequel. It’s hard to put your finger on why this has been so made in such a different way to the way the second film was made but it’s a good thing that it was as it feels considerably more enjoyable.
What satisfies me even more than the way it looks and is presented is that it feels like more of a conclusion to the series than the sequel did, which is amazing when you consider that it’s set more than 100 years before the first and unlike the second film, doesn’t contain the same characters. It’s quite mystifying in many ways.
In 19th Century Canada sisters Bridgette (Perkins) and Ginger (Isabelle) and trying to find a place to rest and recover following the sinking of their boat. They stumble across an Indian camp and Bridgette is injured when she steps in a bear trap. A hunter stumbles across them and takes them to a nearby fort to receive care. There they meet a community on edge because of a werewolf that stalks them.
After an edgey welcome, Ginger awakes one night to someone making a crying sound and she comes across a boy. The boy suddenly attacks her but Ginger manages to escape, but the sisters quickly realise that they can’t stay and try to leave immediately. Upon reaching the gate they are stopped by James (Bourne), the fort’s military commander and it is soon revealed that they are believed to be part of a prophecy that ends with everyone ending up dead.
With the group of werewolves getting more violent with their attacks, it seems like only a matter of time before the camp falls, either from the outside or the growing threat of the transforming Ginger.
So is it better than the sequel?
First of all let’s start with the opening to the film, something which I praised in the first film but heavily critcised in the sequel. For me the first scene, whilst not as good as the first film by any stretch of the imagination, but is surpasses the second film because it returns to the creepier tone and actually makes you feel uneasy from the off.
One of the main problems with most low budget horror films, or low budget films in general, is poor production values. There is a review coming up tomorrow for a zombie film and the low level of quality production was one of the reasons I hated it, but “Gingers Snaps Back” has some of the best production values I’ve seen for a low budget film. The cinematography works exceptionally well, the locations are exceptionally well scouted and the sets are set up in what I suspect is a historically accurate fashion. That level of accuracy continues to impress and stands out magnificently compared to other low budget films, especially the costume design.
The costume design is fantastic and you can tell that a lot of research went into finding out what the clothing of the time was like. You first notice this when an Indian frees Bridgette from a bear trap and his gloves are to pieces of leather woven together. I won’t claim to be an expert on clothing in 19th century Canada, or even know the first thing about the subject, but they do look authentic enough and that’s something that film-makers really need to get right if they’re making a film set in the past. It helps you get more involved in the world.
Unlike the sequel, I found myself getting emotionally involved with the characters and their plight, even before the werewolf starts attacking. You watch them struggle with the realisation that they are running out of food and probably more accurately, the fort is full of a male only population and they have to be reminded by the priest when they are about to eat that Ginger and Bridgette are there for help and they are not to be harmed or raped. The fact that the characters have to be reminded of that is actually quite realistic for a group of men that are isolated from the rest of the world and see women for the first time in however long.
Despite being completely different to their modern day counterparts, I still felt a connection to the characters of Ginger and Bridgette, even though they have lost a lot of the darkness and macabre personalities from the first film. Their relationship as sisters seems as strong as it was in the first film and they are backed up by some excellent secondary characters. You care about what happens to the characters in this prequel and for me that make it far more enjoyable than the sequel. Bridgette in particular feels like a distance separation from the original character, for a start she doesn’t look like she needs a bath in this film, something that couldn’t be said about the first two films.
The characters definitely make this film and in many ways it doesn’t feel like a werewolf film as they don’t feature prominently. The main storylines are Bridgette and Ginger trying to hide the latter’s infection, and also Wallace trying to hide the fact that his son, who was infected, is still alive and is being kept in a room as a secret from the rest of the fort. Because of this you see a lot of deceit on all sides and the development of the two storylines is very intriguing to watch, especially when the reaction of Wallace when the camp discovers his son and his sudden flip from a protagonist to an antagonistic character. It’s not often you see characters turn from one to the other so quickly, it’s either a slow build that’s obvious or the characters are either one of the other.
However, as I mentioned in the introduction to the review I said that prequels really need to add something to the initial film to really be worth being part of the same film series. Ginger Snaps Back would have been an excellent stand alone film but as part of a trilogy it doesn’t really seem to fit. Infact, I could say the same about each film in the trilogy as other than the characters, none of the films feel even remotely connected to each other. As three stand alone films I think this trilogy would have fared a lot better. “Ginger Snaps Back” is a great little horror film, it’s very enjoyable, it’s well made and has a great cast of characters, but I think the ultimately it’s only ever going to get compared to the first film and when you do that it distracts you from this film.
That’s no fault of “Ginger Snaps Back” at all. It is what it is, a prequel to an excellent film but ultimately due to it being a prequel it’s impossible not to compare it. This film would have been better suited to being a stand alone film, but even if it was a stand alone film, using the same actresses and character names would have lead it to be associated.
My final point of contention comes with the run time of just over 90 minutes. Now don’t get me wrong, 90 minutes is about average for film length but for me this film was about 10 minutes too long. There is a LOT of filler in the film, especially around the middle section, and although it doesn’t damage the film, you could argue that it doesn’t add anything either. I know I’m nitpicking slightly but again, it’s slightly too longer for me. Even when there is only 20 minutes to go there seems like there is no end in sight for the film and it’s not obvious that an ending is coming or is even in sight.
It is exceptionally well made for a low budget film and I other than it’s slight exaggerated run time, it keeps you engaged throughout and whilst it doesn’t grip you quite as much as the original, it does a damn fine job. I’m glad that they didn’t expand on the trilogy and keep it going because this felt like a natural conclusion.
Whilst it still has it’s flaws, you will struggle to find many low budget films that have the production values that this has .