As a sequel to two cult favorites, “Ginger Snaps Back” (aka “Ginger Snaps 3: The Beginning”) is a 2½-star film. As a standalone movie without any ties to the series, it manages 3 stars. Unfortunately for the film, everyone knows it’s the third installment of Canada’s best horror franchise (or is that only horror franchise?), and no matter how creative they get with the title, that “3” still belongs at the end of it.
“Ginger Snaps Back” returns its two stars, Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle, playing sisters Brigitte and Ginger, respectively, to the werewolf hunting ground. The setting this time around is the wilderness of 19th century Canada, where the orphaned sisters trek their way across a frosty landscape to an isolated fort besieged by werewolves. The sisters are joined by a mysterious Indian warrior called the Hunter (Nathaniel Arcand) who seems to know what is going on and how to stop it. But while the occupants of the fort prove to be less than hospitable, at least they’re not trying to rip out the necks of our favorite sisters with their teeth. At least, not all of them.
As a prequel, part 3 does manage to achieve some measure of relevance (even if it doesn’t make very much sense) to the franchise by introducing the concept of a werewolf curse. The “curse”, we learn, is supernatural and destined to continue until someone has the courage to kill it off once and for all. Toward the end of the film, the Hunter reveals that he has been hunting the curse for a while now, which seems like a good idea unless you consider that actor Nathaniel Arcand, while excellent as the silent but very deadly type, is way too young to play a hardened warrior on a mythical hunt.
A major hurdle for “Ginger Snaps Back” gaining any sense of foothold in the suspense and tension department is its audience’s familiarity with the rules of the franchise. It’s a bit silly for the scriptwriters (neither of whom, it should be noted, were involved with writing the scripts for the previous two films) to try to create some kind of mystery surrounding the werewolf attacks. It’s not until almost the hour mark that characters in the film accept that they’re being hunted by werewolves, even though they’ve seen the wolves attacking them in broad daylight and have even killed some of the furry buggers. Of course the intent was to prolong the mystery, and it might have worked — that is, if we didn’t already know what was going on from the word “go”. If everyone already knows the secret, and you know that they know, why keep pretending no one knows?
As a result, most of the first hour of “Ginger Snaps Back” is waiting for the inevitable to occur. The same can be said about Ginger getting bitten by a werewolf child hiding in the fort. As Ginger goes through her changes, it becomes clear the film has gotten it (wrongly) into its head that we don’t know what is happening or will happen. Again, I should remind the scriptwriters that the chances of a completely oblivious audience member seeking out their movie are very narrow. As a convert from the very beginning, I found this attitude to be insulting, not to mention tedious. What, not a single scrap of goodwill for my loyalty?
On the plus side, the two returning stars are a welcome sight, and are as dependable as ever in roles they’ve been breathing and living for the last four years. Also, there are some nice direction by Grant Harvey, who takes full advantage of the gorgeous and snowy Canadian wilderness, striking an excellent balance between the natural wonders of our friends up North and the film’s bleak, unforgiving atmosphere. And Nathaniel Arcand, while much too young for the role as written, also deserves praise for keeping “Ginger Snaps Back” as entertaining as it is.
In the long and short of it, I don’t think “Ginger Snaps Back” will convert any new viewers to the franchise. For the already converted, “Back’s” one contribution to the mythos is the transformation of a bad luck werewolf bite (from the original) into a mythical, supernatural curse that stretches across time. I can’t say if this completely works, because if anything it seems to be an attempt to make a small cult movie into something it was never supposed to be, or could possibly shoulder.
In short, I liked Ginger and Brigitte better when they were just two kids that inadvertently stumbled across a werewolf and had to deal with repercussions not of their own making. Injecting fate and destiny and all that New Age hubbub into the series seems a bit of a stretch.
Grant Harvey (director) / Stephen Massicotte, Christina Ray (screenplay)
CAST: Emily Perkins …. Brigitte
Katharine Isabelle …. Ginger
Nathaniel Arcand …. The Hunter
David MacInnis …. Cormac