Written and Directed by: Declan O'Brien
Starring: Jennifer Pudavick, Tenika Davis and Kaitlyn Wong
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
“Where are the spark plugs?!"
The notion of a Wrong Turn prequel is inherently silly to me; I mean, it’s kind of like when Platinum Dunes went back to explain the events of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre--isn’t the fact that these homicidal cannibals are a bunch of inbred southern hillbillies explanation enough? As a southern native, I can vouch that it’s really not that much of a stretch because I’m assuming cannibalism probably ranks just behind Nascar and moonshining as the great southern past-times. Besides, have you seen some of the headlines coming from these parts here lately? Killer cannibals would probably be one of the least embarrassing things we’ve spawned in the past few years. But anyway, Fox’s direct-to-video department is betting that there’s an audience just chomping at the bit to uncover all of those pressing questions raised by the epic trilogy of mountain man films.
Wrong Turn 4’s bloody beginnings take us back to 1974, where a trio from the previous movies (One-Eye, Three Finger, and Saw Tooth--who knew these guys had names?) are incarcerated in a sanitarium. Taking no time to reveal the script’s laziness, the three manage to escape when a fellow inmate slips them a hairpin, which must make these guys the Rain Men of prison breaks. They kill everyone in horrific fashion, and then the film proceeds to jump to 2003, apparently months before the events of the original film. Not that it matters, as, at this point, it just becomes yet another installment where a bunch of college students have decided to take a retreat into the mountains. They stumble upon the sanitarium, which must double as a winter home for the cannibals, who are still there and ready to make a stew out of anyone who enters.
There’s an obvious joke that the franchise’s title lends itself to describing this film, but it likely got worn out the last time around, as the third installment must have took such a sharp, wrong turn that it ended up in a black hole in my mind. I literally remember nothing about it, and, as some of Wrong Turn 4 has managed to stick to my gray matter, I’m going to make the bold proclamation that it’s better than the last one. Unfortunately, the sheer, stupid insanity of this movie will be about the only thing that remains as the rest swiftly evaporates. Of course, this is Wrong Turn 4, so that’s to be expected, and, to its credit, I think it’s embracing the genre and attempting to be one of the most outrageously cliché and blasé slashers in recent memory. Logic and common sense are consistently skewered as the movie escalates from inane sequence to the next.
Even the cast kind of has to be seen to be believed. An unfortunate assortment of obnoxious bros and hos, they managed to remind me why I avoided parties throughout college. They’re all defined by the usual caricatures, though some separate themselves by being “the black and Asian lesbian couple” (how progressive!), and one girl kind of reminded me of a young Lea Thompson (which I will never, ever complain about). However, my favorite was the John Stewart lookalike (Dean Armstrong) who looks to be pushing 40 and is dressed like he’s in 50s greaser flick (maybe the wardrobe department thought this really was a prequel after all). Despite the script’s half-hearted effort to make them distinctive, they were all the same to me in that I wanted them to die horribly within in minutes of meeting them.
And the best news I have to offer is that they do! Sure, a lot of the kills are saddled with some distracting CGI, but the splatter is generally good, and it comes early and often. People get torn apart, tortured in agonizing fashion, and this even features one of the funniest double decapitations I’ve seen in a long time (even if it makes absolutely no sense, much like the rest of the movie). If you’ve ever wanted to see severed heads stare at each other in disbelief, then Wrong Turn 4 is absolutely recommended. Of course, all of the humor is far removed from the original film (which was legitimately intense and suspenseful), but, if memory serves, this is the mode the last two have taken anyway, so it’s really more of the same. At least it unfolds in the backdrop of a wintry Manitoba landscape (once again, the Great White North somehow doubles as the wilds of West Virginia) to somewhat distinguish itself. The order of deaths are also quite unpredictable, which was a nice treat--I thought I’d pegged down who the last two standing would be (maybe because they were the closest thing to decent human beings among the cast), but I was somewhat surprised by who lasted the longest.
Perhaps the best thing about Wrong Turn 4 is that it’s swift, crisp, and is probably the best a crappy direct-to-video sequel can be. A mass of contradictions to be sure, but I dare you not to laugh during the characters’ ill-fated search for spark plugs or a scene that sees four of the gals going off like coked-up switchblade sisters. As far as illuminating the franchise’s complex mythology goes, it’s quite delightful in that the big revelation is that they are, in fact, inbred cannibals, just as we always suspected. Maybe this is really just a brilliant deconstruction of prequels and a gag on Hollywood’s insistence to explain everything. Alright, I’d better wrap this up before I convince myself that Wrong Turn 4 is smarter than it really is.
Fans of the series should check it out on the DVD or Blu-ray that Fox just released; the standard def offering is fine, if not unremarkable. This movie isn’t a visual powerhouse, but the transfer is fairly strong, if not a bit soft looking at times. On the other hand, the 5.1 surround track is quite good and will envelop your room with the sounds of flying guts and snowmobiles (sometimes at the same time!). A decent amount of extras also accompany the main feature, including the “Directors Die-aries,” which seem like mini behind-the-scenes webisodes. “Making Another Wrong Turn” is similarly some typical press kit stuff that walks you through the process of getting the film made, while “Lifestyles of the Sick and Infamous” details the actual mental institution that served as the film’s primary shooting location. Rounding out the features is a silly little music video and nearly 20 minutes worth of deleted scenes that wisely remained on the cutting room floor, as almost all of them involve spending more downtime with the characters. Finally, director Declan O’Brien lends his voice to a feature length commentary to complete a pretty good DVD package. I’m hesitant to say that Wrong Turn 4 gets the series back on the right path, but, hey, I have no doubt there will be a fifth venture that I’ll be more than willing to give a shot, so it can’t be all that bad. Rent it!
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