Ginger Snaps

Review by Mike Finkelstein

Released in 2000, Ginger Snaps was an interesting take on the werewolf genre, likening the changes its protagonists were going through not only to puberty but female puberty. It made for an interesting look not only at the characters, they evolution from girls to women in the eyes of society but also how that relates to the preternatural creatures at the center of the werewolf tale. It's a great movie that, frankly, more people really should see.

Four years later, though, a sequel was released. There were threads that could have been followed from the first movie, in fairness, but at the same time, Ginger Snaps wasn't necessarily a film that needed a sequel. The first film managed to blow up its whole concept when it killed the titular monster at the center of the movie. Four years later the high school setting wouldn't have made sense, only one of the two lead characters remained, and just about all the circumstances surrounding the story were different. What could the second movie add to the whole mythos of the franchise?

Well, depending on how you look at it, the film is either just another werewolf monster film or an indictment of the way women are treated by the medical establishment. There are themes of sexualizing victims, of using women for their bodies, of men being, well, shitty. But those threads aren't as pronounced or as developed as in the first film. Instead, much of the movie is really about remaining lead sister Brigitte Fitzgerald (Emily Perkins) struggling with her monster while a supposed friend, Ghost (Tatiana Maslany), uses our heroine for her own gain. The messaging is confused, and some of the story beats gloss over obvious details, all to get a a weirdly prescribed ending. I wouldn't call it anywhere near as successful a film as the first movie, but it does at least have some interesting ideas that are worth exploring.

Four years after her sister became a werewolf, and had to be put down, Brigitte is on her own, drifting from town to town, looking for ways to control the transformation that is slowly taking her over. In an attempt to save her sister, Brigitte infected herself with her sister's blood, trying to show solidarity so they could get through Ginger's transformation together. But now Brigitte is struggling on her own, intravenously taking extracts of wolfsbane while the werewolf curse within her slowly manifests.

After a guy she met is attacked by another werewolf, leaving Brigitte in the snow, unconscious and bleeding, the girl is taking a women's care facility so she can go through rehab. They, clearly, don't know what's really going on with her and they treat the things she says and does as signs of her "acting out". The only friend she manages to make is Ghost, a younger girl who seems to have free run of the facility (despite being a patient herself). With Ghost's help they could potentially escape the hospital, but there's still the werewolf on the loose... a werewolf that, for some reason, keeps coming for Brigitte. And if she can't cure herself soon she might just become another wolf as well.

There's an interesting thread to the film, with Brigitte in a hospital, the people there trying to get her clean despite her protestations. They've clearly remanded her to the facility against her will, a commentary on the State controlling women's bodies. And while she's there no one will listen to her as she warns them that something bad is coming (they think she's just making threats). Despite it not being a drug, they also won't let her have the wolfsbane (which, in fairness, is poisonous all the same). They treat her like she's a mentally ill girl and won't listen, which, that does seem accurate. You see stories Online about doctors ignoring what their female patients say, dismissing it as just "female complaints," even when there's obviously something really wrong going on. That's the same thing happening here, in a way, and I appreciate the way the film explores this.

I would say, though, that it doesn't really explore it far enough. There's no really moment of revelation on this side of the storyline, to time where the doctors start to listen to Brigitte or where she's able to gain her own body autonomy within the confines of her new establishment. She has to escape with Ghost to find her freedom, but that only leads to new issues for the girl, and this plunges her into a more traditional horror film (rather than the interesting exploration we were getting up to that point).

Brigitte making friends with Ghost and following her to Ghost's grandmother's house (where the whole last act takes place) already seems like a bad idea even before Brigitte steps foot in the place. Everything we've seen about Ghost makes her seem like a terrible person. She lies, she steals, she abuses other girls around her. We're supposed to feel sorry for her because, sometimes, she's picked on by the older girls, but her own actions betray that sympathy. Ghost is not a nice character and then everything that happens in the last act (and everything we learn about the girl at her own home) only cements that.

As we learn, Ghost was mentally abused by her grandmother and then, eventually, snapped. She set the woman on fire (with gasoline), and then watched her burn before, finally, tending to the woman for 45 days in their home. It's impressive the woman survived, for sure, but it's also pretty clear that Ghost is a disturbed individual who should remain in the hospital. She's there for a reason (even while her grandmother, Barbara, is there healing). The movie treats it both ways, like she's both a patient and just a girl allowed to roam as she likes, but as the bodies keep piling up around her, one would assume that the authorities would have come for her soon enough.

This, I think, is where the film really falls apart (ans spoilers for a twenty-plus year old movie). While Brigitte and Ghost are well acted -- Maslany especially does a fantastic job as the tiny little psychopath -- the film has way too pat an ending considering everything we've seen and learned. If Ghost were a patient of the hospital then she should have been taken back there. Instead, she's left in her own house for who knows how many days, with Brigitte turning into a werewolf in the basement, all so that she can unleash the wolf on Barbara when she comes home from the hospital. As bleak and disturbing as that ending may be, I have my doubts about it playing out that way at all. It just doesn't work.

Still, there are enough ideas that help to carry this film along to its conclusion. The first two acts are solid, another interesting exploration of a girl descending into lycanthropy, only betrayed by too simple of a last act. I'm not sure exactly where I would have gone with this film from its initial setup, but this last act was not how I would have done it. I liked the movie up until the last act, then just felt let down by the conclusion. This film is decent, although I'd hardly say necessary, and the way it ends doesn't exactly leave you wanting more (even if a prequel did them come out a few months later).