Review Date: January 17, 2005
Released by: Seville Pictures
Release date: 9/7/2004
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: No
While Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed
starts right where the first one left off, Ginger Snaps III: The Beginning
starts about 100 years prior. Featuring the same two girls from the previous films (continuity be damned!), its 19th century locale is ambitious, considering the film was the second of a back-to-back shoot with Unleashed. Because of Unleashed’s failure at the Canadian box office, The Beginning has been given the status of direct-to-video in Canada. The Ginger Snaps
films have been a different beast altogether in the States, where all three have been direct-to-video. The titling of the third film is also a bit different in the States, cleverly dubbed Ginger Snaps Back
. Regardless of the title, how does the film itself stack up? Let’s sink our teeth into this werewolf spectacle.
Occurring in some alternate universe from the first two films, Ginger (Katherine Isabelle
) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins
) find themselves in the 19th century Canadian wilderness. They crash landed on shore after their father’s quest to explore westward failed, killing their parents instantly, or so they say. So alone the girls trot, horse reins in hand, as they search for shelter. The girls stumble upon a ravaged commune, where a mysterious native lady talks of how her sister was murdered. Brigitte gets her foot caught in a nearby bear trap…and the howling of wolves can be heard. As the cries get closer, Brigitte is rescued by a stern and silent native hero, Hunter (Nathaniel Arcand
). He leads her and Ginger to a remote trading post, at which they may seek shelter. As it turns out though, the girls are little safer on the inside of the Northern Legion Trading Company than they were on the outside…a creature lurks.
After a tension filled dinner, where horny men leered at the girls and others demonstrated prejudice against the native, the secret of the camp is revealed. A mere month ago, a trading expedition left to gather furs. Those that returned were no longer human, laden in hair, they bounded in on all fours with the taste of human blood upon their fangs. They had become werewolves, and one by one they had permeated the post walls to feast, leaving the group under-staffed and under-prepared. Wallace Rowlands (Tom McCamus
), who assumed leadership responsibility of the outpost, also had to deal with death, as both his wife and child were bitten. Unbeknownst to the rest of the survivors, Wallace keeps his child locked within one of the rooms, growing more and more werey as the days pass.
After Ginger is awaked after a nightmare, she finds herself in the same room that the Wallace boy lurks, where he promptly embeds his teeth into her flesh. So like the first film, Ginger is again the infected victim whom Brigitte must once again save. Ginger is not the only one however, as a band of werewolves wait beyond the camp’s walls, waiting for a chance to infiltrate the base. Will things end as they did for Ginger in the first film, or will everything get even more frantic and hairy?
The thread that has elevated the previous Ginger Snaps
films above the horror film clutter has been its clever and deft writing. The first film, still one of the best horror films on this side of the millennium, perceptively used werewolf lore as a metaphor for puberty and maturation. While this has been a common undercurrent of werewolf films right from the genre’s inception with The Wolf Man
, never had it been brought out with such perception, and never had it projected it upon two teenage women. The film had a powerful feminist message, and the metaphors ran bloody deep. The second film, while not nearly as sharp, still managed to cleverly extend the werewolf metaphor, this time applying it to drug use and addiction. Together, both films offered a commentary on high school life from a feminist perspective that had not been captured so fully since Carrie sent shocks back in 1976. Sad to say, Ginger Snaps
III, bearing none of the writers from the first two films, fails to capture the clever insight of the first films. The writing is where this movie fails.
The initial problem with the writing is the choice to uproot Ginger and Brigitte from their contemporary Bailey Downs location and place them in a totally isolated historical location. Ginger and Brigitte no longer have any peers with which to interact, thus removing the possibility for exploration of contemporary teen issues like peer pressure, sex and other things that are elemental to growing up. Instead, the two leads are warped into a Canadian history lesson they probably slept through in 9th grade social studies. That is not to say that the location is everything, but the way it is used in Ginger Snaps III
is far less insightful than it is in the first two films. Chances to explore female treatment, native prejudice and the capitalistic greed of the historical fur trading days are all largely overlooked for a witless, barebones script. This third Ginger Snaps
film, other than its Canadian locale, is little different from most horror films before it. It is Night of the Living Dead
with werewolves, and considering the creativity of the first two films, that is a major disappointment.
Another problem with the writing is the fact that the film has no real historical context. Other than the costumes and location, there is little else to distinguish the film as 19th century Canada. The most glaring oversight is in language, since all the characters talk as if they were in present times. I could be wrong, but terms like “you fucked us!” and “you prick!” seem to be outside of the vernacular of the age. The film has even less respect for the characters, which are carelessly killed whenever there seems to be a lull in the story. Nobody, aside perhaps from the two girls, seems to act with any sort of believable conviction, killing members in their already small group for week reasons like failing to put down a jar of leeches (the horror!). Not only is the plot derivative, but the writing is sloppy, and for a series founded on cleverness, that is the kiss of death.
It is a shame too, because Katherine Isabelle and Emily Perkins have a wonderful screen chemistry with one another. The way Brigitte, despite her strengths, leeches onto her more domineering sister shows the bond they hold with one another. Many scenes are spent more or less silent; the two are able to communicate with subtle glances, it just seems natural. Although not nearly as seductive as she was in the first two films, Isabelle still fires up this film (despite an awful wig) with some much needed sexuality. Perkins has always been the core though, and she even though she isn’t given much to do this time around, she makes the moments she is on screen count. While Katherine Isabelle has achieved success in mainstream horror for her brief and bare performance in Freddy vs. Jason, Perkins still has yet to make her much deserved leap to the forefront of genre films. She has an ugly duckling sensibility, with a crooked nose and innocent eyes that really are beautiful in their own little way. For a movie as by-the-numbers as Ginger Snaps
III, it is good to know that at least the two principal actresses continue to radiate their sisterly roles.
Given that this was a very low budgeted western Canadian film, the production values are surprisingly good as well. The visuals are striking, with the snowy Albertan whites lending to an ethereal look. Some of the dream shots, with Perkins smeared with blood and her eyes dilated, eerily resonate long after the film is over. Other technical aspects, like the sound and the make-up effects are also very notable too. The sound is unbelievably crisp, and the blood flows by the bucket in the third act. Still though, the film ultimately cannot overcome the flaws inherent in the script. The two girls and the production values do a great deal to make the film at bare minimum watchable, but once it is over, that is it. The bite from the first two films is sadly missing.
Ginger Snaps III
was exhibited at the 2004 Calgary International Film Festival in a fresh 35mm print, and it looked stellar. Michael Marshall’s cinematography is stunning considering the budget this film had, varying between expertly shot night scenes and desaturated winter scenes. What a shame it is, that this DVD of the film is presented non-anamorphic. Although the back of the case reads 16x9, this 1.85:1 transfer certainly isn’t. The print looks grainier than it should, and colors seem a bit murky as well. The browns in the cabins look particularly drab during the night scenes. This transfer really doesn’t do the cinematography justice, and the lack of anamorphic enhancement in these days of DVD is a total snafu. The print is certainly watchable, and still looks great at times, but this is a real missed opportunity. The American release by Lions Gate Enteratinment is presented in anamorphic widescreen, so that release is clearly the one to get.
The sound design of the film was also intricate in theatres, and thankfully it has been preserved here on DVD. The Dolby Digital 5.1, presented in both English and French, sounds incredibly crisp, with every little effect – a twig snapping, the fire crackling and wolves howling – all sound incredibly clear, as if they are occurring right in your living room. There is good directional separation, especially effective when the characters are lost in the woods and the howls come from all over. The backs could have been utilized more, but still, a very sharp and effective sound mix.
Like with the visuals, the supplemental description on the back is somewhat misleading. The back lists an entourage of supplements, but truth be told, most supplements are around four minutes in length. Still, there is a wide assortment to go through. First up is the commentary with director Grant Harvey, writer Stephen Massicotte and editor Ken Filewych. The three get along well together, and there is plenty of joking about, particularly in the scenes when Katherine Isabelle begins to remove clothing. They also give a good background to all the performers in the film and present a number of interesting anecdotes. They are overly self-congratulatory though, it would have played much better had they been more humbled. A good listen.
Next up are three deleted scenes with optional commentary by the three principles from the feature length commentary. One is a cut scene of one of Finn’s dialogue driven scenes, as well as some dinner scenes. None are particularly great, but still, this 11 minute inclusion provides some good background of the stuff that was excised. “Fun on Set” is an amusing 4 minutes of outtakes and behind-the-scenes joking around. There are some good bits with Katherine Isabelle giving some of the actors a hard time for giving her a small bruise on her arm. A brief 3 and a half minute costume design featurette follows, and it documents the various period clothes used in the film, and how Hunter’s clothes had to be changed to make him seem more like a superhero. Overall, pretty forgettable.
“Blood, Guts & Fire” is a much better featurette, 9 minutes long and offering a look into the gore and pyrotechnics employed in the film. The make-up for the ending throat slit is pretty interesting, and it is nice to see how the man-on-fire scenes were shot and how they ultimately looked in the film. A 5 minute production design featurette follows, which shows how sets were constructed, how they dealt with the snow conditions, and how sets were dressed with various props to make it look as if it was in the 19th century. Another yawner. A quick 2 minute look at the construction of “Wolfboy” follows, and it shows the make-up being applied, and the shooting scene from multiple perspectives.
The biggest featurette, “Director Grant Harvey’s Video Diary” starts off well enough, with some distinctly Canadian eccentricities, like moose sightings and liberal “eh!” usage. It starts in pre-production, and gets a couple weeks into production, with Harvey driving around and offering tidbits of information to his assistant director. It promises to document the production, but surprisingly ends after only 10 minutes and only a few days into production. This could have been a great supplement, had it covered the entire production, but as it stands, it seems incomplete.
The disc is rounded off with a solid trailer for the better Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed
, as well as a 2 minute photo montage. The trailer for the third film was actually very effective, and it is a shame it could not make it on the DVD. Overall, the DVD does not really deliver on all the extras promised on the back of the box. Still, there is more than usual for horror films. However, the lack of interview or behind-the-scenes footage with Emily Perkins or Katherine Isabelle is a huge blow. These movies are ultimately all about them, so the supplements should try and follow suit.
Ginger Snaps III: The Beginning
exceeds at mediocrity, and in the excellent Ginger Snaps
franchise, that is a real shame. The film lacks the sharp wit of the first two films, and instead seems more like a history lesson. Still, for those who appreciate the two leading ladies, they continue their strong repartee with this final(?) film in the franchise. The video transfer is a huge letdown, promising 16x9 and ending up non-anamorphic, totally ruining the great cinematography. Those wanting anamorphic enhancement should seek out the American release, Ginger Snaps Back
. The sound is much better, and the wealth of short extras should satisfy those who made it through the movie. For those who haven’t seen the groundbreaking original, do so immediately, and all those who enjoyed it could do a lot worse than finishing the series off with this title. Still, the fangs aren’t as sharp this third time out.
Movie - C+
Image Quality - C+
Sound - B+
Supplements - B
- Running time - 1 hour 33 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- French Dolby Digital 5.1
- English Dolby 2.0
- French Dolby 2.0
- Commentary with writer, director and editor
- Deleted scenes with optional commentary
- "Fun on Set" featurette
- "Blood, Guts & Fire" featurette
- "Wolfboy" featurette
- "Production Design" featurette
- "Costume Design" featurette
- "Fun on Set" featurette
- Grant Harvey's video diary
- Photo slide show
- Trailer for Ginger Snaps II: Unleashed