Hey, remember when I reviewed Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed and I talked about how great the first film was? Well, since that was the first film in the series, I bet you thought that was where the story began, right? You could not be more wrong. I’m ashamed of how wrong you are.
Clearly the genesis of the Ginger Snaps saga begins with Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning. I don’t blame you for not knowing that, though, since Ginger Snaps Back was the third part of the trilogy to be released. An honor generally reserved for the final act of a trilogy, the makers of these films decided to give logic the middle finger (in a lot of ways, but we’ll get to that later) and tell the start of the story at the end. If you were told to read the titles of these films in no particular order and then place them in the chronological order of the story, you would probably put Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning first, since it has the words “The Beginning” right in the damn title. But for those of us who watched the movies as they became available, it got a bit confusing. But after all, in the world of bad movie sequels, confusion springs eternal.
The story of Ginger Snaps Back begins in Canada circa 1815 (seriously) and it centers around two sisters, both named Ginger and Brigitte, both portrayed by Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins, respectively. That’s where things start to make no sense (yes, the very start of the film). So, are the sisters from the first film immortals who have lost all memory of being alive in 1815? That would be an interesting twist, but I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. I think it’s more like that episode of The Brady Bunch where Robert Reed and Florence Henderson play dual roles as Mike Brady and Mike’s grandfather Judge Hank and Carol Brady and Carol’s grandmother Connie, respectively.
But I know what you’re thinking. “Did you really just work a Brady Bunch reference into the review of a werewolf movie set in 1815?” Yes. Yes, I did. But if you’re like me, you’re probably also thinking “Wait, if they’re not the same characters, why are their names Brigitte and Ginger? Those could not have been common names in 1815. Not even in Canada.” There’s never an explanation as to how or why the pair of Canadian sisters in the year 2000 are seemingly cloned from a pair of Canadian sisters in the year 1815, names and all, but if you’re able to overlook that bit of insanity, you should be able to focus on the story. Which is also insane.
Ginger and Brigitte find themselves (and their horse) lost in the vast and harsh Canadian wilderness with no reason given as to how they come to be in this situation. They wander the forest without so much as a “Hey, it sucks how we were traveling to far away town to visit family and we got lost and ended up in the woods, huh?” or a “Oh man, this doesn’t look anything like Cupertino. We are definitely lost” until they come across an Indian settlement that has clearly been ravaged by some sort of wild animal. Torn up tepee, blood everywhere. The girls become understandably freaked out, until they notice an elderly Indian woman in a red cape and hood. She talks about her sister being “gone” and holds out a pair of snazzy necklaces made from bird skulls. The sisters put them on and thank the kind old Indian lady, who then says “Kill the boy, or one sister will kill the other.” Ginger and Brigitte respond to this by staring at her blankly, but the horse shows the real wisdom in this scene, by going crazy and galloping off into the woods at full speed. The girls give chase, because no four legged animal alive can outrun a Canadian woman from the 1800s in a foot race, but soon lose the animal when Brigitte gets her leg caught in a bear trap.
Ginger says “Smooth move, Ex-Lax” and runs back to the torn up camp to get help from grandma Red Riding Hood, leaving her sister alone. It’s not until she reaches the camp and finds it empty, that she hears a wolf howl and decides that maybe she shouldn’t have left her sister by herself with a bloody leg. Brigitte is startled when a wolf (not a werewolf, just a wolf, GOT YA!) jumps out and growls at her. It turns out the wolf belongs to the Indian hunter who set the bear trap in the first place and who is now walking toward Brigitte with a hatchet. Brigitte pleads with him to maybe not cut her up today, before Ginger attacks the hunter with a branch. The hunter throws a rope thing at Ginger’s face, knocking her to the ground, and proceeds to remove Brigitte’s leg from his obviously successful woman trap. He rubs something that looks like oregano on her wound and brings them back with him to Fort Bailey, where he acts as a token Indian guide in a fort full of angry white dudes. The front of the fort is protected by the double whammy of a bunch of sharpened wooden spikes jutting out from the ground and a shit ton of crucifixes hanging all over the place. If that wasn’t enough of a red flag, the front door to the fort is also covered in deep claw marks and is stained with what looks like blood. So, party central basically.
Ginger and Brigitte are brought in and shown to the crazy old doctor who performs a test on Brigitte to make sure the leg wound is actually from a bear trap and not from a werewolf’s mouth. Interesting side note: Did you know that if a leech absorbs blood tainted by lycanthropy, it grows into a huge mutated version of itself? Well, now you do. Because that’s the test. If the doctor puts a leech on you and everything is normal, you’re fine. If the doctor puts a leech on you and you scream in agony while the leech grows to three times it’s size, you’re a werewolf. Remember that when you go in for your next check up. Brigitte gets the all clear and they’re invited to stay because, you know, werewolves.
From this point on, the movie is about a group of people trapped in a fort because they are simply too isolated from the rest of the world to go get help or supplies. Every so often, people leave the fort in an attempt to fetch supplies for winter, but no one ever returns. Essential supplies are dwindling, winter is getting colder, and these poor bastards are stuck in a fort in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of werewolves trying to get at them. There is already a werewolf in their midsts, however it’s not who you might think it is. Eventually Ginger gets bitten (just like the first film) and Brigitte spends the rest of the movie trying to come up with a cure (also just like the first film). A bunch of other shit happens, there’s a kid who everyone thinks is dead (but who really isn’t), there’s a prophecy about two sisters, one red, one black (get it? because of their hair? no? okay), there’s even an angry perverted preacher.
The visual effects in all three of these movies are pretty decent, though the acting in the later two leaves a bit to be desired (with the exception of both Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins, who do a bang-up job as Ginger and Brigitte throughout the trilogy), and I enjoyed the fact that this movie packed a bit more action (in regards to scenes of the werewolves actually attacking shit and being werewolves). I like to think that if this was a stand-alone movie with no connections to anything else, I might have enjoyed it more. The idea behind it, a secluded fort full of people with dwindling supplies being harassed by werewolves every night, is not all that bad. The execution of this idea isn’t even that bad, to be honest, but as with Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, it all comes down to how disappointing the film is when viewed as part of the bigger trilogy. The first Ginger Snaps needed no sequel, it certainly didn’t need a prequel set in 1815, but even so, if they had done more to tie all three movies together into a larger (read: more important) story, then it could have been a neat series of films. But as it stands, it’s one genuinely good and unique werewolf movie, then two other werewolf movies that have the same actors playing the same people but, story-wise, have very little to add, or really to do at all, with the original film.
If a person with no prior knowledge of the other films came across Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning on the SyFy channel or something late one night, they might get a kick out of it in some ways (and they might be completely confused in other ways).
After watching both the sequel and this prequel to Ginger Snaps, all it does is prove my point: A truly good werewolf movie only comes along once in a (full) blue moon.