The Scoop: 2004 R, directed by Brett Sullivan and starring Emily Perkins, Tatiana Maslany, and Katharine Isabelle
Tagline: Evil Bites
Summary Capsule: Brigitte fights her curse while being hunted by another werewolf… but maybe all he wants to do is cuddle?
Drew’s Rating: ‘kay, now I get why my parents didn’t want me reading comics as a kid…
Drew’s Review: Should go without saying, kids, but fair warning: if you haven’t seen the original Ginger Snaps — one of the most original, best executed werewolf movies in years, if not ever — you maybe should skip this review, because I don’t want to spoil anything for you. You’re all going to keep reading anyway, of course, but at least now I’m guilt-free, and that’s what counts. So for those who came in late, Ginger Snaps was a very highly regarded independent film, and when it came time for a follow-up, fans pondered the same question that arises with all sequels to cult favorites: would they end up with Evil Dead 2 or Mallrats? And the answer is: well, Mallrats… but maybe that’s not such a bad thing in the end.
Picking up where the original left off, we open with Brigitte on the run, being stalked by another werewolf and haunted by her dead sister. Regular injections of monkshood (AKA wolfsbane) help control her condition, but after passing out in the street, she’s confined to a drug rehab facility and cut off from her fix. With orderly/sexual predator Tyler the only supplier around, B is soon contending with pointy ears and naughty cravings. Meanwhile, the other werewolf is closing in… and where does creepy young girl Ghost fit into things?
One thing I have to give the filmmakers credit for is not simply recycling the first movie. There’s a natural temptation with successful films to just give audiences more of the same; but while there are some elements in common, Unleashed is definitely its own beast, as it were. Credit that to a different director at the helm (though one of the original writers stays on), but to Justin’s inevitable relief, there’s almost no focus on menstruation. Instead, we get a new teen angst issue that can be tied into lycanthropy: drugs! No worries though, kids — it ain’t preachy and the movie shifts focus halfway through, so you won’t have time to learn anything.
Up to this point, it probably sounds like I loved the film. And in some ways, I did… I enjoy how it defies some stereotypes of the genre — like having less gore than the original, for instance — while at the same time, cheesy staples like the flashlight that shines a weak beam two feet in front of you are in full abundance. Also, the scene where Brigitte realizes that no matter how terrible the consequences, she just can’t bring herself to commit suicide, is pretty emotional as these types of movies go. But then we come to the climax of the flick, which is where things just fall apart for me. (And to reiterate the covering of my derriere: I’ll try not to spoil everything, but if you want to be totally surprised, stop reading now and come back after you’ve seen the movie.) For filmmakers, there’s only so many ways to end a horror movie: you have the “hero triumphs o’er evil” standard, as well as the less common “monster kills everyone” downer ending; some brave souls even go for a big ol’ “…the hell?!” upheaval to throw the audience completely off guard. My biggest problem with Unleashed is that it tries to combine all of them, and it just doesn’t play out very well.
Now, the director’s commentary emphasizes that they wanted to give Brigitte the worst possible ending, even more so than Ginger in the original… fair enough, though I was kinda pulling for her myself. But we also get the random Ghost revelation, plus the director says he wanted it to be funny as well. So essentially, we’re trying for the depressing, funny, bizarre ending. That’s a lot to pull off, and as is always the case with this approach, it’s going to be seen as brilliant by some and really, really not work for others. Sadly, I fall in with the latter group; maybe it’s my inherent guy genes coming into play, but that’s just way too many emotions to be processing at once, meaning they all get diluted. A second viewing makes it slightly more palatable, but I still think it takes away from what had been a really promising movie, dragging it down from “really good” to “fun, but flawed.”
I guess what I’m trying to say, in my own inscrutable manner, is that if you’re comparing Unleashed to its predecessor… no, it’s really not as good. But it’s also a very different movie with some definite merits of its own, and is at least worth a look to see what you think. Hey, what struck my pea brain as needlessly confusing might be to you the most logical ending in the world. Check it out, but be aware that the first one is still where it’s at, Jack. I hate to be harsh, but the critic in me can’t lie — Unleashed is really only 10 times better than Van Helsing. There, I said it.
Justin’s Rating: Brought to you by: WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF
Justin’s Review: It just struck me that few, if any, characters in werewolf movies are actually thrilled at the prospect of being turned into a lycanthrope. That runs contrary to many horror villain conversions. Newly resurrected as a zombie? Great! All you can eat brain buffet! Buried in fashionable wraps and returned as a revenge-seeking mummy? Kinda cool — the powers of the netherworld are at your disposal! Bitten and transformed into a vampire? Jeez! You struck the Goth jackpot! All the dark brooding, nasty sex and free air flights you can handle!
(And as for An American Werewolf in Paris; well, let’s not even go there…)
But then we get to the werewolves, and suddenly it’s all pain, suffering and long, moany speeches about “curses” and “fighting the beast within.” Added power, strength and an ability to legally hunt deer out of season mean nothing to them. All they want is a cure. Whoopie.
At the end of Ginger Snaps, loyal sister Brigitte purposefully injected herself with liquid curse, to help her sibling Ginger. As Ginger ends up dead and Brigitte begins going through the same horrific transformation, I’ll have to say that it’s not one of the smarter moves she’s ever done. Shooting up wolfsbane to hold back the doggie inside her, Brigitte lands herself in a tightly-secured drug rehab center. Not good.
Your enjoyment of the first Ginger Snaps would largely depend, I think, on how dark you like your comedy and how red you like your fake blood. It was a well-done horror flick in a slightly different vein than normal, but that doesn’t make it impervious to criticism. One of my biggest objections to both the first and this second werewolf movie is that the main characters are not that likable. While showing a rare streak of black sarcasm, Brigitte is a hugely unhappy person, and does everything within her power to drag down those around her and those watching her. Scowl, scowl, grimace, shadowed eyes, grr, grr… If this girl was assigned to a college study group with me, I would consider it a harsh punishment.
Because I can’t connect on any level with sympathy for the accursed one, all that leaves me to do is merely observe the events and place mental bets on which characters will lose the most body parts. The asylum/rehab setting is a classic horror setup that works well — place your heroes in a dangerous situation while restraining their freedom and access to help. Think A Nightmare on Elm Street 3. Yet other than the setting and Brigitte’s sidekick, an odd younger girl named Ghost, Unleashed is no improvement or revision over the first movie.
For an antidote, I’m prescribing a heavy dose of Dog Soldiers and leaving it to the professionals.
- Unleashed was filmed back-to-back with the third movie in the series, Ginger Snaps Back, a prequel that takes place in the 19th century.
- The rules of lycanthropy are a little vague in the GS universe: a full moon does bring on the change, but it also seems to be a permanent one… no changing back to human. They could’ve made it a little clearer, though; I had to listen to the commentary to be sure.
- Only in a Canadian horror movie could a curling puck be used to kill someone. I kinda like that.
- Tatiana Maslany (Ghost) is really channeling her inner Newt.
- Some fans speculate the werewolf is Jason from the first movie, but there’s little evidence for or against it.
- What is it with these movies and making you feel sorry for the drug dealers and molestors?
- Supposedly, the filmmakers wanted to contrast with Ginger’s sexy changes in the original by making Brigitte look much creepier as her transformation progresses. Is it bad that I still find her hot?
- [SPOILER] A never-filmed ending sequence showed Ghost having other girls from the rehab center over for, um, dinner.
Ginger: Remember that game we used to play when we were little? The one where we would make ourselves hold our breath until we passed out? And you’d always get scared and call mom, and I’d get in trouble? That game really sucked.
Eleanor: What’s your best-case scenario, Brigitte? Go there.
Brigitte: My best-case scenario, Eleanor, is hair everywhere but my eyeballs, elongation of my spine till my skin splits, teats, and a growing tolerance, maybe even affection for, the smell and taste of feces — not just my own. And then, excruciating death.
Ginger: Well, you have two options then, don’t you? Either give in, or give up – it only dies if you do.
Ghost: Well where did it come from? The infinite darkness?
Brigitte: I don’t think so, Ghost. More like the suburbs.
Ghost: Maybe he’s like you, and it’s not in his nature to kill. And he secretly wants-
Brigitte: Ghost, he wants to mate with me.
Brigitte: Don’t try too hard to visualize that.
Ginger: You can’t fight what’s in us, B.
Brigitte: I’m not like you, Ginger. I’m stronger.
Ginger: Really? That’s not how I remember you the first 15 years of your life.
Brigitte: It’s how I remember the last 15 minutes of yours.
If you liked this movie, try these: