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CampBlood Reviews: Senseless Rants from a Picky Sissy

 

Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed Brett Sullivan 2004

Never Mind the Wee-Wee Pads

Expectations can be brutal, especially when sequels are involved. A quick look at the sequels and spinoffs of entertainment history reveals the disappointing trend that one can only chalk up to the Law of Diminishing Returns. For every Happy Days, you've got a Joanie Loves Chachi; for every Golden Girls, a Golden Palace; for every Blair Witch, a Book of Shadows. Successful sequels, particularly at the non-megabudget level (bloated cash-cows like The Scorpion King, Matrix: Reloaded and Kill Bill Volume 2, no matter how crappy they may be, seem to skip past the box office unscathed), are as rare as Y-chromosomes at an Indigo Girls concert, and unfortunately, Unleashed is no exception.

The story picks up basically where Snaps left off: Brigitte, still contaminated with lycanthrope blood and looking too much like the Wicked Witch of the West for her own good, is on the lam, having killed her sister and fled her crazy mom and suburban prison. She's strung out on wolfsbane and apparently being tracked by a male werewolf, who can smell her naughty bits and wants to mate with her (I'll just take this on good faith, being patently unable to understand such things). After an apparent overdose, gets thrown into an unused set from Girl, Interrupted, where she is labeled a junkie, her wolfsbane is taken from her, and her transformation rapidly begins to accelerate, much to her chagrin. With the help of a creepy little girl named Ghost, she is able to escape just as her hairy suitor finds a way into the institution and eats one of the other patients (that romantic schemer!). She and Ghost shack up in Ghost's grandma's house (Granny is in the hospital covered in third-degree burns as a result of an accident) and wait for the horny little fella to arrive, at which point they hope to dispatch him with an array of home-crafted traps that look like things McGyver would create if he were a designer on Trading Spaces (an exploding dummy made of gasoline-filled Orangina bottles and a muumuu? Fabulous!). A few unfortunates from the clinic get pulled into the fray, some blood is shed, and things surprisingly (or not surprisingly, if you consider the ending to the original) don't end too well for our hirsute heroine.

This is one of those toughies that is hard to discuss because it features a third-act about-face that really changes things, but which I can't really mention here. But I can start by saying that the first 45 minutes of the films are nearly intolerably boring -- much like the new Dawn of the Dead, which plops a group of ragtag survivors in a mall and then ignores the fact that they're in a mall, Unleashed sets the scene in an instutution for druggie teen girls, and then ingores the fact that it's an institution for druggie teen girls. Where are the histrionics? Where's the hot lesbian sex? Unlike Freeway, Twelve Monkeys, and other flicks that have really mined the institution goldmine, Unleashed plays out more like Halloween 2, where you're constantly asking, "where the hell is everyone in this fucking hospital?" and waiting for the killer to show up and start earning his paycheck with a few nasty murders. Luckily, though, once our Seventeen Magazine Thelma and Louise make it out of the clink and back to grandma's (a clever "Little Red Riding Hood" reference, really), things do start to pick up and the culminating twist is genuinely unexpected and surprising, and forces you to look at the whole film in a different way, if you have the time or energy to do so (and you've managed to stay awake through the first hour).

It's really a shame that Unleashed gets so bogged down with plot that it passes up so much potentially interesting material -- I mean, a ward of hot teen ladies and a horny werewolf is a combination that screams "This WB Presentation is Intended for Mature Audiences". Instead of a by-the-numbers clinic-escape plot (complete with the "sneaking through the vents" scene, the "orderly who trades drugs for favors" scenes, the "abandoned hospital wing" device, and the ever-popular "pretend to be taking a bath to fool the duty nurse" trick), I was hoping for some truly twisted rehab hijinx, especially considering how wry and icky the original was. Nope - the closest thing we get is a chaste and confusing "group masturbation class" scene that reeks of being added at the last minute to add some spice (which it doesn't) and a dead dog. Even the requisite Predatory Lesbian Administrator (who does, thank god, at least sport arm tattoos) is surprisingly restrained, and is more living-room-friendly Ellen Degeneres than the bare-ass-spanking Mary Woronovs of days past. The other girls are immediately forgettable, which is unfortunate, especially considering how much fun even one Brittany Murphy can add to an ensemble of self-mutilating loonies -- but I suppose she's too busy poledancing and babysitting Dakota Fanning to squeeze into a fitted straight-jacket these days.

On to what does work -- the last 20 minutes are very effective, but again, I can't really talk too much about them without ruining the surprise. I can say that although I was very much "over" the film by the time the last act rolled around, the twist did actually make up for it and put the whole ordeal into an interesting context that was worth getting to, as long as I cleared the whole hospital section out of my mind. I'd almost suggest skipping through the first 8 or so chapters and starting with the escape -- you honestly won't miss anything and it'll give you more time to watch those TiVo'd episodes of The Apprentice you've been wanting to catch up on. The actress who plays Ghost, Tatiana Maslany, is frighteningly good -- more frightenening than anything else in the film, actually -- and the fact that in reality she is 19 years old is absolutely horrifying, as I got the impression that she was about 12. Although alum Emily Perkins plays her part well, she's really not given much to do here other than twitch a lot and scowl (one gets the idea that she might behave the same way when ordering a Happy Meal -- perhaps not too much of a challenge, acting-wise). Ginger herself (Katharine Isabelle) is brought back in a few hallucinations, and one gets the impression that she was hanging out on set doing crosswords and waiting for her check from Freddy vs. Jason, and they decided to throw her a few lines.

Like the first Snaps, Unleashed does have a very strong queer undercurrent, in this case focusing on the bond between women and how the invasive attention of males strives to destroy this bond through extortion, violence, or sexual ownership. There is one very funny queer joke early in the film during a group session: when asked her "best-case scenario", Brigitte replies with a list of body terrors ranging from hair all over her body to elongated incisors to a taste for feces, prompting the doctor to casually jot "Lesbian?" in her notebook. The group masturbation scene might be a turn-on for some, although it's really so boring and confusing that I can't imagine it would be. The master-and-servant relationship that is the film's strange conclusion also speaks to the balance of power in queer couples, but I may be digging a bit deep there -- it's really just kind of disturbing. In the end, Unleashed is watchable, too detatched for its own good, not very scary, and nothing to get too excited about, but it does make a comment that builds on the resolution from the first film, and is worth a look. We can only hope that Ginger Snaps Back, the upcoming prequel, will be the Laverne and Shirley to this Joanie Loves Chachi. But for now don't bother breaking out the Wee-Wee Pads -- it's a dry watch.

Rating (out of 5):