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Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning DVD Review

Written by Steve Pattee

DVD released by Lionsgate Entertainment

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Directed by Grant Harvey
Written by Christina Ray and Stephen Massicotte
2004, Region 1, 94 minutes, Rated R
DVD released on September 7th, 2004

Katherine Isabelle as Ginger
Emily Perkins as Brigitte
Nathanial Arcand as Hunter
J.R. Bourne as James
Hugh Dillon as Reverend Gilbert

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Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning opens with two girls on horseback, traveling through the snow-covered woods — apparently lost.

However, things start looking up when they come to what appears to be a campsite. But it is abandoned except for one lone old lady — a Native American.

Now, we all know what happens when two girls, lost in the wilderness, stumble across a campsite that is deserted, save one Indian. There's always a warning of some sort. And it is Ginger (Katherine Isabelle – Ginger Snaps, Freddy Vs. Jason) who receives it. “Kill the boy, or one sister kills the other,” the old lady warns. Oh, boy.

At this point, the girls’ horse freaks out and takes off running. That’s as good an excuse as any, so the girls hurry after their horse and they get the hell out of Dodge.

They don’t get very far when Brigitte (Emily Perkins – Ginger Snaps, Ginger Snaps: Unleashed, Stephen King's "IT") gets her foot caught in an animal trap. Ginger, who always protects her younger sibling, tells her she'll go get help — and to start counting, because she'll be back before Brigitte reaches 100.

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With Ginger off looking for help, a terrified Brigitte begins counting. Things are never safe when you are alone, lost in the woods, with your foot stuck in a trap — and this is no exception. Shortly after Ginger runs off, another Native American, Hunter (Nathaniel Arcand — Black Cloud, Elektra), and his trusty wolf chance upon Brigitte. Fortunately, Ginger comes back just in time to aid her. But Brigitte was never in trouble, as this is a simple misunderstanding. After everything gets cleared up, the mysterious man leads the girls to a nearby trading camp.

Ginger and Brigitte's arrival at the camp raises more than a few eyebrows. Lately, the village has been under sporadic attack from wolves, and it's more than a little strange that these two girls were able to make it through the woods without any problems.

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The two soon find out things are not all they seem in this camp; it's not just wolves the traders are worried about. It's werewolves. Add the fact that a party sent to get goods has not returned in weeks, and there are a lot of scared, angry men in the camp. And to make matters worse, Ginger has been bitten.

Wolves on the outside.

Dissention and infection on the inside.

Ginger is right on so many levels: “These people are fucked.”

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Making a sequel to a popular movie is always risky, because you not only have to please the fans of the original, you also have to keep the people unfamiliar with the original entertained as well.

Making a trilogy is even tougher because, generally, you have more fans to appease and you still have to make things understandable and entertaining for new fans — particularly if you are using the same characters.

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The third film in the Snaps franchise, Ginger Snaps Back is surprisingly good — not just as a sequel (or, rather, prequel, as it takes place in the 19th century), but also as a stand-alone movie. Traditionally, once a series hits its third film, there is a noticeable decline in the quality of the franchise. This was evident in movies such as Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Terminator 3:Rise of the Machines, Friday the 13th Part 3: 3D and Jaws 3-D. However, there are also exceptions, such as A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (which made a surprising comeback, considering how dismal part two was) and Army Of Darkness (although Evil Dead 2 was basically a remake of Evil Dead). You can add Ginger Snaps Back to the exceptions list because not only does it not hurt the franchise, it left me wanting more, more, more!

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The first Ginger Snaps was a great movie: novel, well-written, well-acted and gory — an instant cult-classic.

Its sequel, Ginger Snaps: Unleashed, had a great story, great acting and pretty good gore, but it was missing that little something that made the first movie so great — Ginger.

Back doesn't have the great stories the first two Snaps had.

Back doesn't have the great scripts the first two Snaps had.

But Back is just as strong as the first two Snaps.

Because Ginger is back.

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While Ginger played a major role in the first Snaps movie, she did not play much of a one in Unleashed — she only appeared in dream-like sequences, and very short ones at that. Fortunately, Emily Perkins was a strong enough actress to carry that film without Katherine Isabelle — something she wasn't quite capable of yet in the first movie.

Ginger Snaps was released in 2000 and since then Isabelle has starred in quite a few films, including the made-for-TV movie Carrie and Freddy vs. Jason, while Perkins has appeared as a recurring character on Canadian TV’s “Da Vinci’s Inquest.” The actresses have not only been busy since Snaps — including the American Insomnia, which both had a bit part in — they have made great strides since then. And, because they have always played so extraordinarily well off each other, their reunion in Back made me realize how much I missed the chemistry they share.

That said, what about the other actors?

Well, they were great — solid performances all around. But let's not fool ourselves here. Ginger Snaps is the Isabelle and Perkins show — and the other actors are "tonight's special guests." This is not to say they were second rate — far from it, actually. Hugh Dillon, as the Reverend, and Nathanial Arcand, as Hunter, were tremendous assets to the movie. But when Isabelle and Perkins get together, there is nothing more important on screen. Not the camp, not the trees, not the wolves. Nothing.

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In addition to Isabelle and Perkins working together again, Back has something else the other two films didn't have. Werewolves. With an "s."

That's right, many werewolves onscreen at once. And those werewolves, along with the carnage and destruction they reap, are beautiful.

However, the story behind Back is a bit of a disappointment. Part of the appeal of the first two movies was their novel ideas. The first film may have looked like a simple werewolf movie on the surface, but it was much deeper than that because of who the werewolf attacked — a teenager on the verge of womanhood. So not only must the young woman deal with her new-found tail, she must also deal with the angst of growing up. As if her teen years weren’t bad enough. Added to the uniqueness of the film was Brigitte’s finding of a potential cure for lycanthropy and the ability to kill werewolf sans silver bullets (one got hit by a car!).

The second film, Unleashed, had Brigitte locked up in a rehab because of an apparent drug problem. The drug, of course, was the wolfsbane she was injecting in order to stop from becoming a werewolf. Again, a novel idea, because it picked up right where part one left off. It had to be original in order not to cheat the viewer.

Back, however, is basically two young women with a shady past wandering into a camp during the 19th century. A camp that has to protect itself from werewolves. Sure, there are some subplots (such as the werewolf that bit Ginger), but the story doesn’t hold a candle to the previous two films. The idea is certainly passable, but compared with its predecessors, it hurts the film a bit.

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Something else that hurts this movie is the script. The story of werewolves attacking an isolated camp is just good enough to be believable, but it is unfortunate Isabelle and Perkins did not have better dialogue to work with — especially when you consider how well they worked together in the first film. Now that they have more films under their respective belts, a better script could have helped Back possibly surpass the original. Part of the problem could be attributed to Back and Unleashed being released the same year. As good as Back is, you can tell it was somewhat rushed. And that's a shame.

While the first two films concentrated on the story more than the wolf's screen time, Back makes up for its weaker story with more wolves and more action. And, thankfully, if CGI was used, it was not noticeable.

Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning is a solid, solid addition to the Snaps franchise. It doesn't have the writing (in either story, or script) the first two have, but it does have the same outstanding performances that made the others shine. And, since it is a prequel, it is also a great introduction to the franchise for those fans who either haven't seen a Ginger Snaps film or prefer action over story.

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Video and Audio:

Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, Back looks good. The exterior scenes are gorgeous, having a bluish hue, emphasizing the desolation of the camp in the winter cold. The interior shots are reddish, falsely giving a sense of warmth and security. The blacks are adequately dark and there are no noticeable artifacts.

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Alex Khaskin’s score sounds fantastic in Back’s 5.1 Dolby Digital. The dialogue is always crisp and clear and the rears are used nicely to create suspense and tension.

A 2.0 Dolby Stereo track is also offered, as well as English and Spanish subtitles.

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Special Features:

Like its predecessors (with the exception of the abysmal American release of the first Snaps), Ginger Snaps Back is loaded with extras. In addition to a commentary by Grant Harvey (director), Ken Filewych (editor) and Stephen Massicotte (co-writer), there are four deleted scenes and seven featurettes.

The commentary is an interesting listen, as it provides information on the various nuances of making the film and some behind-the-scenes tidbits. There is a little “back-patting” throughout the commentary, but it is never overwhelming and it seems quite deserved.

Next, the four deleted scenes are offered with optional director’s commentary. Of the four, only one — “old wives’ tales” — should have been kept, as it adds character development to Finn, the quiet map-maker. The other three — an extended dinner scene, “you lie” and an extended burial scene — are better off on the cutting room floor, as they add nothing to the movie but length.

The seven featurettes have a total running time of about 35 minutes and they range from the director’s “video diary” to “fun on the set.”

The first, the “video diary,” follows the director around at various stages of the filming. It’s a lighthearted watch with a few behind-the-scenes tidbits, but, for the most part, it’s the director poking fun at himself.

The next, “wolf boy,” runs just under two minutes and briefly shows a glimpse of the special effects and make-up involving, well, the “wolf boy.”

“Blood, guts & fire,” is a personal favorite of mine. At about eight-and-a-half minutes long, it shows behind-the-scenes shots of some of the cooler effects of the movie — including a gunshot and a man on fire.

“Production design” and “Costume design” together run almost nine minutes. They basically cover the trading camp set and the costumes some of the actors wore.

The final two, “behind the scenes” and “fun on the set,” run almost six minutes and could have been combined into one featurette, as both show the fun had during the filming.

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Movie: 3.5 Stars – This easily could have been a four star movie, or even a four-and-a-half if just a little more time were spent developing the story and/or script.
Video: 4.5 Stars – Great photography and a solid picture.
Audio: 4.5 Stars – Good use of the rears and sides, with a complementary score.
Features: 4.5 Stars – Another winner from the Ginger Snaps series.
Overall: 4 Stars – If you are a werewolf fan, this one is a no-brainer.

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Even with the issues of the story and script, Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning is a welcome addition to the franchise and it’s a must own for both old and new Snaps fans.

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About The Author
Steve Pattee
Author: Steve Pattee
Administrator, US Editor
He's the puppet master. You don't see him, but he pulls the strings that gets things done. He's the silent partner. He's black ops. If you notice his presence, it's the last thing you'll notice — because now you're dead. He's the shadow you thought you saw in that dark alleyway. You can have a conversation with him, and when you turn around to offer him a cup of coffee, he's already gone.
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