Ginger Snaps Back much more closely resembles the original Ginger Snaps than the more recent sequel. In many ways, this prequel is more of a remake than anything else. However, director Grant Harvey and writers Stephen Massicotte and Christina Ray are not merely content to rehash the original. In fact, Ginger Snaps Back is a pretty damned good horror movie in its own right.
Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins play close sisters Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald, just like we've seen before. The difference this time is that these Fitzgerald sisters are wandering the Canadian Woods, orphaned and alone, way, way, way back in the 19th Century. This time, they quite LITERALLY have nobody but each other.
At this point, things merely suck out loud, as a winter jog through Canadian Woods tend to. However, when Brigitte steps into a steel trap and finds herself surrounded by vicious wolves, things kick into Overdrive... or what ever the 19th century Canadian wilderness version of Overdrive might have been. Soon an Indian Hunter (played by Nathaniel Arcand) brings both girls into the relative and dubious safety of a remote fort populated by warriors (like JR Bourne's James), zealots (like Hugh Dillon's Reverend Gilbert) and paranoids (like Tom McCamus' Wallace Rowlands). Good reasons abound for the paranoid, warlike zealotry, however, as the girls soon find.
The Ginger and Brigitte soon find themselves (and their benefactors) under seige in the slowly disintegrating fort amid a veritable army of large, monstrous canines. The natives are convinced that these are Wendigo, the legendary Anishinaabe mythological beasts. However, on an exploratory journey through her new home, Ginger discovers something that suggests otherwise. Something infected has infiltrated the safety of the base, and gets a taste of Ginger. Soon Ginger, just like her namesake descendant, begins to experience changes, develops hot white streaks in her coiff and begins to smell the blood of her potential victims. Yep... once again, Ginger snaps.
Ginger's evolution reveals a danger in herself potentially much worse than the continually attacking Werewolf hoards outside. The change tests the loyalty of the sisters and Ginger herself starts to wonder which side of her dueling dual natures has become the real her.
And let me tell you, the change is working for Ginger, maybe even more than before. Katharine Isabelle's strange yet undeniable, borderline ALIEN beauty is highlighted perfectly here. As the werewolf nature takes her over she becomes a hooded, goth-like Vamp chick, with darkened eyes, bloody lips and razor sharp fangs, all underneath a sexy black hood. Further, this ancestral Ginger seems to really get off on her wickedness, not only making the most of her newly found Monster Dog Army, but also offering up a sultry, orgasmic passion when she kills. She's even badder than her Y2K counterpart!
Here, the story doesn't even try to shoot for a happy victory. Instead an almost Romero-like allegory of the impenetrable fortress is maintained. Luckily the series' underlying feminist tones and Gynistic Indignance shines thrice as brightly, especially considering the setting.
Unfortunately, one of the flaws of Ginger Snaps Back is the fact that the setting is a mere backdrop for a fantastic, if familiar story line. While there is a certain timelessness to the Ginger Snaps series, a few witty lines and contemporary dialogue firmly place this flick in the future, if not definitively in the early 2000's. We do get one hell of a cool spin on the werewolf theme, but in many ways, this is the same story as the original retold. There is a need to know something about the mythos of the series to fully appreciate this film (again, no silver bullets, the occasional in-jokes), so newcomers to the series might not relate quite as well as fans.
However, that's not to detract from what is a cool and scary Werewolf film. It's got all the wry, wicked comedy of the original, all the blood and frights and all the iconoclastic monster thrills that Ginger Snaps fans have come to love. Further, although we don't really get to see the now-classic rapid change from Human to Werewolf, the Special Make-up Effects by Sarah Graham, Prudence Olenik, and Leanne Rae Podavin are pretty well First Rate. The same can be said for Leo Wieser's Special Effects. Here the horror effects (with the exception of torrents of blood) are used sparingly for a more realistic and plausible (if you can buy that) thriller. All in all, it's a fun, if not perfect slice of mysterious, supernatural horror.
Three and One Half Stars out of Five for Ginger Snaps Back. It's an offbeat entry into an already offbeat series. Give it a shot, if for no other reason than that Katharine Isabelle, strange and alien though she may be, is incredibly hot. Yeah, I know, I know, at the end of the day... "she's a dog!" Good thing her movies aren't. See you in the next reel.
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