Ginger Snaps (2001) blended funhouse-style frights with satiric humor and developed a cult following among horror movie fans and Goth kids. Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed followed, but the confused film fared poorly at the box office. The third film went directly to video; it doesn’t measure up to the first, but it surpasses the second.
Title: Ginger Snaps III: The Beginning (2004)
aka Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning and Hellwolf: You Will Be Eaten Alive
Director: Grant Harvey
Writers: Stephen Massicotte, Christina Ray
Hugh Dillon.... Reverend Gilbert
David La Haye....Claude
Tom McCamus.... Wallace Rowlands
Matthew Walker....Doc Murphy
The chemistry between the sisters proved such an integral part of the first film; teens and horror movies have long gone together, but seldom have they been so well-portrayed, and by age-appropriate performers. The second film brought Ginger back as a memory, but had to rely heavily on Emily Perkins as Brigette. The third film brings them back together by simply giving us two sisters, named Ginger and Brigette, traveling after the loss of their parents through the Canadian wilderness, in 1815. The film indicates they are earlier incarnations of the sisters from the first movie. This has implications for the series, but is of minor importance in the specific film. Possibly, it explains some odd and obviously deliberate anachronisms in the dialogue.
They arrive at a fur traders fort where everyone seems paranoid and fearful. Graves are everywhere, and the sisters soon learn that the men at the fort fear something out in the woods. In fact, a group of werewolves, comprised of the people they once knew, have the place under siege. The first night that the sisters stay at the fort, the film falls into that most-stupid of horror film clichés; Ginger wanders out at night to investigate a strange noise, when she has no real need (and when she and her sister are the only women in a fort full of men who have not seen a woman in some time). By this action, however, she learns that the fort’s commander has a secret of his own. Another cliché—- a Native American mystic—- informs the women that their future decision will have profound effects on the curse that haunts the area. They must decide to whom their responsibility really lies.
And that is where the film works, though not as well as it could. We see characters divided among their loyalties to their loved ones, their concern for themselves, and their duty to serve the greater good. We also see a group of men profoundly divided for any number of reasons, as the threat grows.
The beliefs and actions of a tormented minister, Gilbert, aggravate the situation considerably. While Hugh Dillon handles this part adequately, the Reverend’s tortured soul demands more. The actor shares this failing equally, however, with the script, which fails to really develop his inner conflict. His eventual death also proves both unconvincing and unsatisfying: the former, because his clothes would not be as flammable as presented in this film, and the latter, because we don’t see enough of the animosity between he and his killer. I really had hoped a certain other character would be responsible for his demise.
The series has a fairly original take on werewolves. They don’t morph all at once ‘neath the full moon, but turn gradually as the month progresses. While they prove tough customers, they can be killed without special, mystic means; a lead bullet or a sharp hatchet will do nicely. To this new lore (and why not? The familiar lore has little to do with the old legends, and much to do with Universal Studios), Ginger Snaps III adds a particular use to which leeches can be put in the detection of lycanthropes.
The film emphasizes internal conflict, especially in the sisters, once Ginger finds herself bitten and transforming. Ginger Snaps III plays with our loyalties, though not nearly as much as it should. I suspect, in the end, most people will simply root for the monsters, and for a decision which, presumably, perpetuates the curse and ultimately brings about the destruction of everyone in this movie, and, in time, those in the first two. I suspect that fans of the series will find themselves especially impressed with Ginger’s return to the fort in the film's finale. We see a good many werewolves at the end and, fortunately, the effects have improved. The shoddy full werewolf-costumes in the predecessors were a definite weak point.
Ginger Snaps III gives us a coherent, focused story, something that Ginger Snaps II lacked. It is, however, a fairly conventional horror-movie plot: a group of people in an isolated location barricade themselves against the monsters, but face serious problems within their own numbers. The Beginning gives us a neo-old school horror film: it’s moody and filled with spooky atmosphere, it provides a few funhouse frights, and it saves its big monster shots for the finale. The first film provided us with more than that. Ginger Snaps III does play with subtexts, particularly relating to gender politics and sexism, but it lacks the layered and often wickedly funny elements found in the original.
A variation of this review, by this author, first appeared at http://www.bureau42.com