Horror sequels almost always suffer in comparison to the original. It often gets worse the more installments are added on. Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, only the first sequel to 2000’s Ginger Snaps, doesn’t match the lofty standards set by its predecessor but does enough differently that it’s worth seeing anyway. It’s one thing to do the same film twice, but it’s a better idea to do something unique with the sequel. And that’s what we get here. Ginger Snaps 2 is significantly different from the first one.
Given that her sister died in the first film, our protagonist is now Brigitte (Emily Perkins), who has the werewolf curse running through her veins. She gave it to herself in the last film in order to coax her sister, Ginger (Katharine Isabelle), into coming with her, believing that it was easily reversed with a “cure” she and the local drug dealer concocted. As it turns out, it just slows down the transformation from human to werewolf; it doesn’t reverse it. When we meet Brigitte in this film, she’s on the run and hooked on the “cure,” needing it to look and feel relatively human.
From whom is she running? Another werewolf, who either wants to kill or mate with her. After overdosing on the “cure,” Brigitte winds up in a hospital — both for the mentally ill and critically injured. Here, she meets two individuals who matter. One, a young comic book aficionado, Ghost (Tatiana Maslany), who is only there because her legal guardian sustained full body burns and nobody has found a foster home for her yet. Two, an orderly named Tyler (Eric Johnson) who gives the girls drugs if they let him abuse them.
The drug that Brigitte was taking to slow down the effects of lycanthropy is taken away from her in the hospital. Instead of the condition being used as a metaphor for puberty, this film uses it as withdrawal symptoms. That’s clever, and takes the series’ themes in a new direction. We could have stalled on a smart concept but instead we get even smarter and use lycanthropy in a new way. Can it be the new monster movie metaphor du jour?
Ginger Snaps 2 doesn’t spend its whole time at the hospital. It contains a bit of keen observation of the Girl, Interrupted setup, but eventually it moves on. Its final half hour suffers from not being particularly interesting. It moves back into more traditional horror movie territory, but it loses a lot of its bite. Apart from, perhaps, a disillusioned teen, it doesn’t have much going on intellectually. Ghost’s back story also gets convoluted and never really mattered, even with all of the time devoted to it.
There are a few deliciously twisted moments scattered throughout Ginger Snaps 2. Sister Ginger shows up as an apparition every now and then to give her sister “advice.” It’s not like the horror aspect is neglected, but it’s doesn’t often contain your generic “boo”-type scares. The tone switches once we move away from the hospital. It might have to in order to conclude the “chased by a werewolf” plot, but I wonder if there would have been another way to go about doing it.
The sisterly bond that was ever-present in the first film rears its head in the form of the relationship between Brigitte and Ghost. It’s a different bond but it also brings a new dimension to the picture. It helps expand Brigitte as a character. She’s grown tremendously between the films and during this one, too. There were hints at a self-sufficient woman hiding inside her in the first film, but we see that brought to the front lines this time around.
I missed Ginger. We get to see her a few times but nowhere near as often as would have been desirable. The two girls had something special and even though Ghost’s presence is probably better for the story, I selfishly wanted to see more of Ginger. Perhaps Katharine Isabelle’s leading role salary went to better werewolf effects. Even though we still don’t see them much, the werewolves did look better this time around. The transformation that Brigitte undergoes involves some great makeup effects, too, and they’re convincing.
Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed doesn’t quite reach the heights established by its predecessor, but for a horror movie sequel it does a great job. It’s not a rehash of previously seen material, it takes its characters in new directions, and it maintains the intelligence that was easily appreciable in the first installment. It also has better werewolf effects. It loses its edge in its final half hour, but on the whole this is still a very solid movie and far better than you can expect from a horror sequel.