Has there ever been a really good prequel? Does such a creature exist? Anybody? Beuller?
I can’t think of one. Of recent vintage, we’ve had The Exorcist: The Beginning, Red Dragon, and the most recent Star Wars trilogy. The best of these we can call only inoffensive.
So why do we keep getting prequels? To squeeze more money out of existing properties that can’t go forward, of course.
I’m sorry to say that Ginger Snaps Back, the third film in the beloved-by-me Canadian girl werewolf trilogy, is another in the unremarkable line of prequels.
The film is visually stylish, and of course stars Isabelle and Perkins are luminous as always, but the film is mired in cliche, bad choices, and a sense of purposelessness.
Ginger Snaps Back throws the Fitzgerald sisters into Canada in the early 1800s, apparently as the direct and distant ancestors of the two characters who were the focus of the first two films. You read that right: the two actresses from the first film play their character’s ancestors who have the same names and talk the same way. That doesn’t even start to get into the lame ideas of timeless curses, reincarnation, and Magical Indian hokum that the script rests on.
Add to that the stoic, badass Native American character, the native-inspired visionquest (are these required by some sort of union? Can we do away with this claptrap, which really borders on passive racism at this point?), and you’ve got a big mess of cliches strewn across the snowy landscape.
The landscape, as captured by director Harvey’s jumpy, slick camera, is among the film’s most appealing aspects. In fact, all the visuals in the film are lovely, with horror effects previously unseen in the series providing interesting, sometimes arresting, variety.
The film is shot like a music video – in the best sense – with horror scenes coming quickly, with jump cuts, smearing effects, strong visuals, and a dreamlike languidness.
Isabelle and Perkins are excellent, as usual, though they’re saddled with a poor script (all the characters speak in an antiquated style, except when they need to break into 20th century slang for comedy or effect; a bad, bad idea).
Screenwriters Stephen Massicotte and Christina Ray have clearly seen the first two films since they make reference to a number of scenes in them – Brigitte dropping the syringe under the stairs in the first film and Ginger doing the same with another weapon in this film and the slow pan into a teepee in Ginger Snaps Back mimicking the pan into the doghouse in the first film both stand out immediately. This doesn’t help the film, though. Instead, it makes the script seem even more threadbare, as if the screenwriters couldn’t come up with enough original material and so had to reference the stronger earlier films.
Despite the script, the film reinforces the power contained in both actress’ faces. The repulsion on Isabelle’s face when she confronts the child Geoffrey in her room reveals depths of experience and slow-dawning understanding. Perkins’ eyes are more expressive than ever in this film, able to portray dread, fear, and seriousness with intensity and skill. In the visionquest sequence, her eyes are blacked out and almost supernaturally round and large. And though this isn’t a new image in horror films, when couched in Perkins’ face, it seems fresh and one feels that they could become lost in her eyes – and not in a romantic sense.
Director Harvey was the second unit director on the first, excellent Ginger Snaps. Unfortunately, his entry into the series isn’t nearly as strong as either of the first two films.
The film’s weak, cliched script, and the lack of a clear purpose for the film (is it to fill in backstory to inform how we got to the first two films? Allegedly, but nothing in this film is required to understand the first two. In fact, like most rectons, not only does this installment seem unnecessary, it also diminishes the original by association.) makes the final film in the trilogy a major disappointment.
As much as my fondness for the first two movies makes me want to like this film, I just don’t. Ginger Snaps Back is strictly for completists.