Written by Tio Esquelto
Let me start by stating that I absolutely love Wrong Turn. I just love it! It was this little movie that nobody went to, by a no-name director, that unknowingly ushered in this new era of R-rated horror and over-the-top gore that have become the industry standard over the last few years. It predated the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake (often thought of as the start of the new wave), The Hills Have Eyes remake, as well as the more torture-driven Saw and Hostel films. Up to this point it had been PG-13, WB-casted tripe, still riding the Scream wave. That, or another American remake of an Asian horror film that wasn’t that great to begin with.
Wrong Turn recalled a simpler time in the horror genre. A time when kids would end up in the woods, a monster/killers (or in this case one in the same) was in the woods, and the kids are done in one by one, each assigned a more gruesome and interesting death than the last. A tried-and-true method, with somebody bound to survive, just who would it be?
To better stack the deck in their favor, they enlisted creature-effects artist extraordinaire, Stan Winston, to helm the special effects. Winston’s team delivered brilliant creature effects with their three, comic-bookesque, inbred psycho mountain men. Most importantly, they went no-holds barred with good old-fashioned splatter-effects-laden kills. Human-on-human gore, not excluding decapitation, cannibalism, severed limbs, torn flesh, and guts-guts-guts! All of which had all but dried up by the start of the 1990s.
Throw in a couple of extremely likable protagonists, a simple-but-relentless script with the necessary clichés firmly in place, and an unknown director who has a knowledge of and seems to genuinely care about those that came before him, and you’ve got a damn fine little horror film in Wrong Turn.
Then, there is Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, which with nearly all of the above went straight out the window, down the crapper, or whatever cliché you prefer. Instead, you get seven unlikable, unbearable nitwits, and Henry Rollins, who is no less unbearable. Why Henry? Why? You also get a ridiculous reality TV show premise, misplaced and unnecessary over-the-top camera work, and some piss-poor creature effects. The one thing that remains is the hard ‘R’ gore. The kills are single-handedly the one thing Wrong Turn 2 has going for it although even that runs its course prematurely.
The film starts out with real-life American Idol reject, Kimberly Caldwell, driving through the West Virginia backwoods on her way to a yet undisclosed reality show taping. She’s lost and late, and calls her agent (played over the phone by comedian Patton Oswalt – Why Patton? Why?) for a little direction. While on the phone, she turns off the beaten path and loses cell phone signal. It’s pretty much a carbon copy of the opening to Wrong Turn but reference can be a good thing when done right, especially when setting up a sequel. Throw in a Patton Oswalt cameo, and we’re off to a pretty good start. She glances down to fidget with her phone and when we pan back up – SMASH! She hits something, or somebody, scurrying across the road. Let the “horror” begin!
Upon closer inspection we find that the victim is more than a little disfigured, and it has nothing to do with the accident at hand. Here, we get our first taste of hillbilly horror and gore. It is one of the better splatter effects I’ve seen in quite some time. Hell, it’s one of the best splatter effects that I’ve ever seen. Period. It involves cleaving a woman in two, long ways, with an axe and it is both stylish, and flawless in its execution. The killers then drag her remains, one half at a time, across the old road (again flawlessly), and we get our “directed by” credit, signifying the official start of the madness. I was floored, and here we are only five minutes in. Wow! What was I in store for? Turns out that was as good as it was going to get. It’s like eating your desert before you’ve even ordered dinner.
From its ridiculous reality show premise (because we have to make it relevant to the times, right?), to its hatable cast and characters, likened more to its burnable script and direction, Wrong Turn 2 has very little going for it. What it does have are its kills and its overall nastiness therein. They are ultra-violent, mean-spirited, nauseating, and for the most part are executed quite well. There is another memorable effects scene with a hatchet to the head that is very unexpected, and totally original.
Normally, if someone were to say to me, “It’s a piece of shit, but the body count and the gore are great. Oh, and there’s tits and a simulated blowjob”, that would be all I needed to hear. Sign me up! Throw in the raunch (I’m serious, here. There is a fantastic topless scene and a good and, down right, gratuitous BJ), and the splatter, and you’ve totally got the makings for a great slasher horror movie. I’m sure the filmmakers were thinking the same thing. They just should have left out all the other crap that I’m assuming they thought gave the film depth. Guess what? Depth? Not necessary. The groundwork was already laid - Inbred monster hillbillies picking people off who shouldn’t have gone into the woods. What more do you need? What’s not to love? We didn’t need to know where they come from. We certainly didn’t need to know how they got that way…they are inbred!! The inbred teenagers actually having sex with each other I also did not need to see. Toxic waste backstory? Again, totally unnecessary, and it takes away from the fun and quasi-realism of the original, which kind of had you thinking twice, and wondering “Those monster hillbillies could exist, I guess…right?” It’s Deliverance turned up to 11, and I loved it! Some things are best left unsaid.
Lose the Reality TV plot. Lose the Henry Rollins 1980s action hero character, complete with one-liners. Lose the gratuitous inbred sex and unwanted backstory (it was as if they consciously lifted the two worst aspects of the Hills Have Eyes 2). Lose all these things, just stick with the basics, and you’d have had a pretty good little horror movie on your hands, but then again, then you’d just have the first Wrong Turn.