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Ginger Snaps Unleashed
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Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning
cast: Katherine Isabelle, Emily Perkins, Nathaniel Arcand, J.R. Bourne, and Hugh Dillon

director: Grant Harvey

91 minutes (18) 2003 Mosaic VHS retail
[released 17 January]

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
Ginger Snaps is widely regarded as one of the best, and last, of the postmodern teen horror genre made so famous by Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven's Scream trilogy. Its blacker than black comedy, acerbic wit and fervent, almost manic bond between its main characters has garnered the film a legion of fans and two sequels, filmed back to back.

However, Ginger Snaps Back is more of a prequel than a sequel and is a genuinely very unusual direction to take the franchise. For a start, it's set in 18th century Canada at an outpost under siege from a legion of werewolves. Brigitte and Ginger are also there, albeit this time as the daughters of an explorer who drowned when their boat was overturned. As the film opens, they're alone, on horseback, in the middle of nowhere. They're cold, frightened and have no one to rely on but each other.

This neatly brings the incredibly close relationship between the two in the previous movies into a whole new light. Brigitte and Ginger are utterly co-dependent due to the terrible situation they find themselves in and as a result, they find themselves pushed into increasingly drastic courses of action. As the inhabitants of the fort turn on one another, and finally them, the sisters find that the only people they can rely on are one another.

This very close, slightly disturbing relationship is beautifully drawn and played by Katherine Isabelle and Emily Perkins. Isabelle is hugely impressive as the haunted, frantic young woman struggling to keep her sister alive and herself human whilst Perkins, given the quieter role, is if anything more unsettling. There's fervour to this incarnation of Brigitte that gives every scene she has a real sense of tension. Whilst Ginger may be the physically more comfortable one, it's Brigitte whose refusal to back down and absolute refusal to abandon her sister who is ultimately responsible for some of the film's most disturbing moments.

With two performances of this strength at its centre, the rest of the film inevitably falls a little by the wayside. The inhabitants of the outpost are drawn for the most part from stock, whether the lecherous soldier played by J.R. Bourne or Hugh Dillon's fire and brimstone preacher. Only Tom McCamus' William Rowlands and Nathaniel Arcand's Hunter are standouts. The first, the owner of the settlement, is a great character whose dark secret propels most of the film along. Superficially, he's the traditional leader, a physically adept and resolutely fair man who in a simpler film would be the hero. Here though he's far more than that, alternately an ally and enemy to the girls adding another element of chaos to an already unpredictable film. Arcand's Hunter is much the same, one of the only people who seems able to come and go as he pleases and who never quite chooses a side. He truly comes into his own in the last 20 minutes, as does McCamus in fact, and their performances are at least as strong as the two female leads.

What really impresses here though is the script. There's an overwhelming sense of doom to the whole affair as the girls' actions echo those they took in the earlier films. Even their love for one another becomes a dark, untrustworthy thing, bringing as much pain down on them as it eases. Most importantly though, the fact that the same actresses are playing earlier incarnations of the girls drives home the central idea of inevitability beautifully, as well as tying Ginger and Brigitte neatly into the history of the area.

All in all, Ginger Snaps Back is an intelligent, unusual and remarkably dark sequel. It maintains the same grim humour of the first film and expands on its themes in an unexpected and highly effective way. If only more horror sequels were this good.

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