Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (2004) Revisited – Horror Movie Review

2004 was an odd year for horror films. We got masterpieces, we were gifted some of the best and worst so-bad-it’s-good films and unexpected sequels seemed to come out of left field regularly and one of those is what we’ll focus on today. With its lead from the first film dead, where could a sequel possibly go? Would they dare to introduce brand new characters, or would they continue the story of the Fitzgerald sisters? Join us on JoBlo Horror Originals as we revisit Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed (watch it HERE).

Coming out 4 years after the original, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed takes a turn for the darker side, or even darker side. Brigitte Fitzgerald survives the ordeal with her sister but in the process tasted her sister’s blood. So, like her sister, she starts turning into a werewolf. However, she’s one step ahead in that she knows more about lycanthropy and how to deal with it. She has isolated herself and takes a homemade drug regularly to keep the change at bay. While doing this, she is also researching better options and being hunted by something. Unfortunately, the drugs stop working and she finds herself in a health center where she is supposed to detox. There she meets Ghost, and a few other people meant to help or hinder in her quest. Of course, this wouldn’t be a Ginger Snaps movie without Ginger, so thankfully we do get Katharine Isabelle back in ghost form. Or maybe it’s just a hallucination. Either way she doling out warnings and advice for Brigette. This may not sound like much, but it does make for an excellent sequel that reinvents its own universe and creates new stakes for itself. Back in the day, I absolutely adored that film. Was I more easily impressed back in the day, or have I learned more about film that makes me more critical? Well, of course, it’s yes on both counts. So, what was an almost perfect film to me back in 2002 is now a solid 8. Of course, the first of the Fitzgerald Sister trilogy is the best and the third one is, well, a mess, but a mess that I love. Meanwhile, the second film is a solid piece of filmmaking and takes teenage themes explored in the second film and gets a bit more mature with them.

As a horror fan who was just starting to review films, I was about 1 year into the adventure. So getting to go to the premiere of this film at Fantasia International Film Festival was a huge deal. Perhaps my review may have been tainted by the experience. At the time, the premiere was something I wasn’t used to, but watching films was life, so in I went and out I came loving the film. I do remember thinking Emily Perkins was fantastic, but Tatiana Maslany stole the show as Ghost. She was phenomenal. Beyond that, I needed a rewatch to remember the movie better. So, following my recent rewatch, my 8 out of 10 rating was where I stood. Do I still think Maslany steals the show? Absolutely. However, Perkins is definitely the star here and she gives one heck of a performance. Changing it from being all about Ginger and Katharine Isabelle by extension and moving her to second, or even third or fourth banana here, was a bold move, but a necessary one. Ginger had died in the first film, so she needed to no longer be the lead. Making her a sort of ghostly or haunting presence in Brigitte’s life was a great move. It works well still to this day. Of course, a lot of folks were not happy with her having so little screen time and who can blame them? Katharine Isabelle is Queen after all. Here though? Emily Perkins and her character of Brigette take center stage. And it works. She is not going to be flashy about the whole werewolf thing like her sister was. She knows better, she’s seen death come from it, and she’s not interested. This is where you can see that the story is an extension of the first film but without repeating the same thing beat for beat. This isn’t a rinse-and-repeat sequel. They left that for the third film. Here, we get an older Brigitte, a Brigitte who has been through hell, a Brigitte who is ready to fight even though she is clearly traumatized and afraid. She’s not ready to die, but she’s also not willing to let the werewolf side of herself win. That allows for the story to go pretty dark and really deep, comparing her situation to addiction, going into depression, touching on the subject of self-harm, and just skimming the surface of PTSD. There is a ton here and a lot of it is about Brigitte, making sure the film is still very much about a Fitzgerald sister which works great. And I just love how they bring in Ghost, a truly messed up child. Her character feels almost superfluous at first, being the granddaughter of a burn victim slowly healing at the rehab center. However, it quickly becomes very clear that Ghost has some issues, serious ones. With her character, we get into co-dependency as well as what makes a person possibly psychotic and dangerous. The film doesn’t go super deep into these, but there is something here that could easily have received its own sequel. Ghost is a complex character and not just a werewolf girl’s new little sister.

Now, looking at this movie 20 years or so after its release means that some things have changed. Some of what was hitting hard back then hit differently. But it is still a very emotionally fraught film about sisterhood, changes in one’s life, and depression and it adds PTSD, self-harm, childhood trauma, co-dependence, mental instability, the yearning for a connection, and a bunch more. The film quickly becomes about much more than “just” a werewolf film. Much like the first one is about crossing from childhood into womanhood and all that comes with it, this sequel takes those themes and puts them into adulthood. But it doesn’t just feel like a silly retread. There is a ton here to latch onto. Overall, though, this film hits home like the first one had but also in a different way. With the first one, being someone who didn’t think she’d see 25, seeing sisters decide that they were going to be “out by 16 or dead on the scene” was something that hit harder at 19 than expected. As an adult, the PTSD angle, along with depression both seem to hit home a bit harder. Especially considering I made it way past 25 now, but I did make it out of my hometown, so I guess I did what the Fitzgerald sisters were planning after all. Maybe that’s why I like this series so much?

Let’s circle back to the film at hand here. The original Ginger Snaps was a tough act to follow. The film was on its way to being a cult favorite already by the time the sequel came out. This wasn’t just a cash-in, this was a sequel that needed to hit hard, and it did. These days, the first film is most definitely a cult film with a huge following. Plenty of 90s teens saw themselves in this movie when it came out, whether they were still teens or had hit their 20s by 2000. By 2004, the first film had time to find an even larger audience, and that audience had aged a bit. And so had I. Of course, nowadays, the Fitzgerald sisters could practically be my kids, so it’s a different connection but the nostalgia for the first and second film is strong. Again, the third, not so much. Rewatching Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed this month was a new experience of sorts, looking at life as a 21-year-old me was a bit of a weird thing, and not much stands out for that period of my life, except the movies.

Let’s look back at the other aspects of the film beyond the themes which are strong and well-executed and the acting which is still solid looking back. The writing by Karen Walton and Megan Martin is still strong, showing that the two of them had a grasp of the characters. But what makes their writing great is that they were not afraid to bring the Fitzgeralds into a new direction, shifting the importance of each sister and making a new film that could easily stand on its own. The direction by Brett Sullivan works. It’s moody, it’s emo, it’s something that works just right for the script. The film has a solid hand leading it with emotionally connected writing, something that helps it tremendously this far down the road as properly emotionally connected stories can become timeless more easily.

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows as there are a few issues. The storyline with Ghost feels a bit forced at times, but Maslany sells it just right to give the character the impact the film needs. And as a werewolf venture, it’s a bit light on the wolf, something that is both bad and good. It’s bad because most people who come to this series want werewolves and want to see them, but it’s good as it separates it from the more generic werewolf fare. To some, including myself, bringing the werewolf into the female space, making them connected to a woman’s monthly cycle, was simply logical when the first one came out and with the age of the sisters. Following this up with the issues brought up in the sequel was also quite logical and it works beautifully well. The Ginger Snaps series has never been afraid to go for real issues and the sequel does this even better than the first one.

Where Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed loses some points is in the special effects. In the first film, there was something special about the final form of Ginger as a werewolf. Something animalistic. Something connected to who she was before her transformation. In the sequel, we still kind of get this, but the werewolf design on Brigitte is just not hitting right. It’s incomplete on purpose and once she gets more transformed close to the film’s end, it’s just not it. It’s somewhere along the lines of the first film, but also not. Brigitte’s wolf-self doesn’t really look like a sister-wolf to Ginger’s wolf-self. Yes, there’s a resemblance, but it’s not quite right, something is off and it’s hard to pinpoint what it is. Basically, her wolfed-out self doesn’t feel right. This is of course a very personal thing as some love her that way, I just didn’t like it back in the day and still don’t like it now. Thankfully, we see her with her wolf face for only a few minutes. The other special effects here are related mostly to Brigitte’s self-harm and it looks rather realistic, showing the damage she does to keep track of her transformation and potentially to keep some control over her life. There are other special effects here and there, but nothing that requires shouting out good or bad.

Overall, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed is a solid werewolf as a metaphor for life’s issues sequel. It’s not quite as fun as the first one. Actually, it’s not a fun film at and that is exactly the point. The first one has some “we got the power” moments for the sisters, this one is very much introspective and leads to a brainier film than the first one which was already a fairly deep teen horror film. This is why I believe I still love these movies, they have more than teens in danger, more than pretty people getting killed by a beast or turning into a beast. Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed is a solid sequel that does more than repeat the same formula as the first with new players, it brings back some of the original casts and issues, adds new ones, shakes things up, and gives us a surprising secondary character and performance. It’s one werewolf sequel worth adding to your lineup.

Two previous episodes of Revisited can be seen below. To see more of our shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals channel – and subscribe while you’re at it!

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