WesternKatharine IsabelleGinger SnapsEmily Perkins
Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning
Medium: film
Year: 2004
Director: Grant Harvey
Writer: Christina Ray, Stephen Massicotte
Keywords: horror, werewolf, Western, historical
Country: Canada
Actor: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Nathaniel Arcand, JR Bourne, Hugh Dillon, Adrien Dorval, Brendan Fletcher, David La Haye, Tom McCamus, Matthew Walker, Fabian Bird, Kirk Jarrett, David MacInnis, Stevie Mitchell, Edna Rain
Format: 94 minutes
Series: << Ginger Snaps
Url: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0365265/
Website category: Horror modern
Review date: 20 July 2009
The weakest Ginger Snaps movie, unfortunately. I liked it, but it's not up to the level of the first two. It has a great setting and some strong supporting characters, but the script and critically the two sisters have been a bit undersold this time.
The best thing about this film is its one-line description. Werewolves in a historical Wild West setting! How cool is that? That's the reason I bought it, you know. In the end, I went away mostly satisfied. The film's portrayal of its historical setting sometimes seemed a little confused, but this is a sincere and mostly well-executed attempt at portraying a Canadian fort under werewolf seige in the year 1815. Ginger and Brigitte are here, but the film sensibly doesn't even try to explain this and I think we're meant to be seeing these as different and unrelated characters, just with the same names and personalities as in the first two films and played by the same actresses. We have guns, snow, Indians and horses. Well, a horse. This isn't a big-budget franchise.
I like the cast, although they're clearly written from a modern liberal point of view. The priest is an unpleasant bigot. There's a brutal racist who objects both to the Indians and to those white men who've taken native wives and produced children with them. The Indians themselves are of course wise and noble, the two non-halfbreeds being an old lady with the second sight and a werewolf hunter. So far, so predictable. Things get more interesting with the commander of the fort, who's our heroines' most sympathetic ally but also a loose cannon and a killer who's happy to shoot dead innocent people if he thinks it's convenient. His young son's been bitten by a werewolf, you see. You can understand his feelings, but even so you wouldn't want to entrust your life to this man's judgement calls.
The Indian stuff is good too, but a bit hackneyed. The werewolf hunter is cool, but the old seer was a bit of a cliche. Needless to say, the film includes the traditional scene of taking unspecified but suitably ethnic drugs in the company of Indians and seeing mystical visions. I understand that if you don't appease the ancient spirits by including such a scene in your film, then the dead will arise from their Hollywood burial grounds and start eating your box office takings. Another kind of cliche involves the prophecy, in which it seems that "the Red" (Ginger) and "the Black" (Brigitte) are destined to change the fate of the land or something. That kind of Chosen One nonsense is always contrived, but it's not often also this pointless.. Those prophecies did everyone a lot of good, didn't they? It's a gratuitous and dumb plot element, but somehow the film comes closer than it deserves to getting away with it. It's almost certainly the fact that the prophet's disciple is also the film's biggest badass and can survive battle scenes with werewolves.
I'd have been much happier with the film if it had worked harder on selling me its 1815. Ginger and Bridget look and sound as if they've stepped straight from 2004, with almost no dialogue or characterisation to make them feel like children of this era. The Indian wise woman has a modern-sounding accent. However seeming to push it in the opposite direction are the leeches, the priest trying to "burn a witch" and the medieval-looking illustrations over the opening credits. I realise that 1815 is a bit earlier than most Westerns, but even so these details felt like anachronisms. For all I know they're more authentic than I realised at the time, but they didn't feel that way.
In fairness though, there's a reason for the leeches. That was a cool bit.
Fortunately almost everything at the fort is perfect. The men are exactly the kind of rough customers you'd want and expect in this kind of situation. Get bitten by a werewolf and they don't waste time kissing it better. Blam. One more cross in the ground. I loved the bloody marks on the gate at the beginning and I like the snowbound landscape, although I'd hoped the snow would be thicker. That's no blizzard from hell, although in fairness the film never tries to claim that it is. That's the kind of weather in which you take the kids outside to make a snowman. Nevertheless that's a near-microsopic niggle and broadly speaking I thought the film and especially the fort looked spot on. There's a werewolf's head on a spike!
It's a less clever film than its predecessors. Those two had themes and stuff, but here the twist in the concept is 1815. Of course I liked the historical angle, but I'd have liked it more if they'd put more effort into the two main characters. Of course this is the third film with Bridget and Ginger and the film presumably doesn't want its audience saying they've seen it all before. That's no excuse for short-changing your leads, though. The supporting characters are good, but the regulars underwhelm. I've got no complaints with Katharine Isabelle (brief nudity) and Emily Perkins, but I think the film needed to establish their characters more strongly. I love the finale's werewolf apocalypse, but what comes afterwards should have been more powerful. It falls flat, frankly, and I blame a lack of character work to set it up.
The werewolves are good. They don't look silly at all here, although when partially transformed they also don't look a lot like werewolves. The bitten boy is an ugly troll-thing, while one of our heroines ends up looking more like a vampire. Blood-smeared white face, fangs, black cloak, infectious blood-transmitted condition... yup, that's a vampire. I liked the swirly CGI blood in her pupils in one particular shot, though. Watch out for it.
I also enjoyed the fact that it's not just one lone werewolf. One comes to expect that in horror movies, but not here. "They're everywhere!"
This is 80% of an excellent film. There's a lot here I really liked, enough that I'd be happy to rewatch it some time. The men in the fort are exactly what they needed to be, with a thoroughly convincing brutality and lack of sentiment. Unfortunately the script begs too many questions, only some of which are answered with "because the dad's a psycho". Ginger and Brigitte come across well, but they're underwritten. I definitely enjoyed the film, though.