Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning (2004)

ginger snaps back the beginning

“What a lovely shade of dead.”

The Scoop: 2004 18, directed by Grant Harvey, starring Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins.

Tagline: Imdb denies all knowledge of taglines. Maybe there were none?

Summary Capsule: Atmospheric period bristler prequel.

Louise’s rating: Sometimes you’ll get a craving for it and you won’t know why…

Louise’s review: Once upon a time in the west – of Canada – there were two mysterious young women. One was the tall, pretty and mouthy Ginger, and the other was her smaller, submissive and slightly plainer sister, Brigitte. They were travelling alone through the snowy woods when they met a mysterious First Nations woman. She prophesied to them, calling them the Red and the Black, and told them that they had to “kill the boy, or one sister would kill the other”. She then disappeared. Their horse having bolted, the sisters were in despair. At that moment, another First Nations person, a young man, appeared before them. Silently, and undeserving of their suspicion and mistrust, he led them to a sturdy trading fort.

Storybook tone over, just in time for the squiggle to get real. This fort is full of graves, short on supplies, inhabited by unwelcoming, ruthless, desperate company men and, it turns out when the sun comes down, surrounded by big beasties.

Similar to the original Ginger Snaps, but with corsets and curlier hair (girls don’t got no conditioner in 1815), Ginger receives a bite from a werewolf and begins transitioning into one herself. Brigitte tries to save her. Visceral and dreamlike and queerly compelling, the plot unfolds, and the only constant is the love and trust the sisters have for each other. Who are the monsters at the door? With all the bickering, will the men kill each other before the werewolves get anywhere near them? Who is the boy and what is his secret?

Ginger Snaps films are bizarre to me. I watch them and I think, “The budget is low! Why do characters  just appear out of nowhere? Everyone is full of such negativity! The endings are not happy! The werewolves are rubbish! I dislike every plot twist!” and yet I enjoy them. They are dark and complicated and bathetic, visceral and dreamlike and queerly compelling. I find it so hard to say what I like about them, because on the surface of it, there is nothing good, or well-done, or awesome, apart from the love story of Brigitte and Ginger and the claustrophobic atmosphere, and yet… and yet… they are 100% worth watching.

This prequel Ginger Snaps Back is very similar to the first instalment in the trilogy, but with the addition of a Dog Soldiers-style siege and Injun curses and foretellings, hinting that these events somehow effect (cause?) the events in Bailey Downs at the turn of the 21st century. The mystic stuff is rather laughable, but adding a fort under attack was an excellent choice. Never underestimate the good value of a fort in a film. It’s also got a tremendously strong ending, which is a new departure for the series.

The other interesting thing about it, of course, is that it is set in the nineteenth century. There are many horror movies which have a flashback sequence, or have to solve an old mystery. Or maybe there aren’t that many, because I don’t actually watch a lot of horror so wouldn’t really know, but, anyway, I’ve got it in my head that there are. Anyway, it’s rare that they go the whole hog and actually set the whole story in the past, in a weird horror-historical combination. I think it works – although few of the characters seem particularly nineteenth-century, and the no-communications situation they are in could easily be replicated today if the power goes down and the roads are blocked, the period setting is certainly picturesque (“Run, it’s the anti-Pride and Prejudice!”) and there is a real sense of ‘frontier justice’ at work. There is no law here beyond a man with a gun (or some red tooth and claw), and the Indian will always get shafted first. Sorry, rich, diverse and perfectly-adapted-to-the-land cultures of the First Nations, but you’re goin’ dowwwwwwwn…

And, that’s about it, folks. I say, “watch it!”, because it has a power all its own. A power that is visceral, dreamlike, and queerly compelling.

What is that thing? Could it be… a sequel?

Intermission

  • Inside the fort there is no snow, yet outside the fort there is much snow: supernatural doings, or bad continuity? You decide.
  • Katharine Isabelle played a tragic weredragon in a truly terrible Robin Hood film on the Syfy (Sci-Fi) Channel called Beyond Sherwood Forest. She must enjoy transformation scenes!

Groovy Dialogue

[Repeated dialogue]
Brigitte: Ginger, I’m cold.
Ginger: I’m not.

Ginger: Did he just whistle at us?
Brigitte: I’m sure he meant the dog.

Brigitte: Our parents drowned?
Ginger: Yes, but they didn’t feel any pain. It was quite peaceful.

Brigitte: Ginger, I think we’ve lost our way.
Ginger: We haven’t lost anything. It’s lost us.

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