Review Date: October 20, 2011
Released by: Fox
Release date: October 18, 2011
Widescreen 1.78| 16x9: Yes
Sequels are often chastised as being a sign of creative bankruptcy, but prequels are far more deserving of that badge of shame. Even the most poorly conceived sequels usually have some spark or sense of purpose, whether it’s tying up loose ends, expanding the story or revisiting popular characters. Prequels, on the other hand, inherently lack a sense of discovery or suspense since we already know the ending point. That’s not to say that the filmmakers can’t surprise us, it’s just that they rarely ever do. With prequels it’s not the what but the how, and if the how is cleverly done then the prequel can over come its inherent weaknesses.
In exploring the origins of the cannibalistic clan introduced in the original Wrong Turn
, Part 4: Bloody Beginnings
doesn’t even come close to giving us an entertaining or surprising how.
It’s 1974 and the three brothers we first met in the original Wrong Turn
are incarcerated at the Glenville Sanatorium in West Virginia. Dr. Ryan (Arne MacPherson
) is giving musical therapist Ann-Marie McQuaid (Kristen Harris
) a guided tour of the institutions most dangerous inmates. Of special interest to her are the inbred cannibals known as the Hilliker brothers: Saw Tooth (Scott Johnson
), Three Finger (Sean Skene
) and One-Eye (Dan Skene
). When she strays outside the safety zone, Anne-Marie is grabbed by one of the inmates, who palms her bobby pin. It’s not long before the brothers have broken out and let the other inmates out to play. Many people die in gruesome ways, with the worst fates being reserved for the doctors.
Flash forward to 2003. A group of college students snowmobiling out to a cabin in the woods, gets lost and takes shelter in the now abandoned Glenville institution. Well, not totally abandoned: the Hiliker brothers have made a winter refuge of the facility and don’t take kindly to the intruders. They’ve already murdered Porter, who came ahead to get the cabin ready, and snatched restless insomniac Vincent (Sean Skene
– that’s right, one actor plays two roles) in the middle of the night. When the rest of the group wakes, they split up and search the facility for their missing friend. It doesn’t take too long for them to find out what happened to them. The group attempts to flee but find that their snowmobiles have been sabotaged and most of their winter clothes stolen by the cannibals. Lauren (Ali Tataryn
), the best cross country skier takes the last of the winter gear and leaves to get help with the rest are stuck until she gets back. The rest of the groups holes up in the head doctor’s office and bickers about what their next move should be to: stay and hide or try and fight back. Of course, their best laid plans are all for naught when the brothers come calling.
It’s a thin, thin premise that reads like an explosion in the cliché factory and, despite lading on oodles of gore, writer-director Declan O’Brien has a tough time getting and maintaining interest. A big part of this is the poorly established group of attractive but mostly indistinct characters. This is not the fault of the actors but of the writing, which doesn’t bother to give them personalities, and the direction which stages their dialogue scenes in most boring ways possible. It also doesn’t help that characters are never directly addressed by their names when they’re introduced. I’ve watched the movie twice now and I’m still not 100% sure who Lauren and Jenna are or what anybody’s relationship is to one another.
The slasher genre is not typically noted for its progressive attitude towards women and minorities, but the way the lesbian couple, Sara (Tenika Davis
) and Bridget (Kaitlyn Wong
) is portrayed is mildly offensive as well. Both are one-dimensional sluts and exhibitionists and there’s no genuine feeling of affection between them. Their exploitative lovemaking scenes are postured and there not to establish or develop their relationship, but to titillate the male members of the audience. Not further helping matters is that in their first scene together, where they’re interrupted by Kenia (Jennifer Pudavick
), their stilted and artificial sex is directly contrasted with the sex of a heterosexual couple who are allowed to be fun, messy and credible. At least Sara is allowed to develop a bit of a personality late in the film.
What else is wrong? Well, there’s a distinct lack of authenticity: the supposedly abandoned facility looks clean and well kept, with fresh linens and a decided shortage of dust. Obnoxiously, despite this film being set in 2003, one of the characters boasts an unmistakable Justin Bieber haircut. And, I may just be talking out of my ass on this one, but the driving snow of a Manitoba winter doesn’t strike me as an accurate stand-in for West Virginia (all the Wrong Turn
movies are set in West Virginia, yet not a single one has even been filmed in the United States). The 1974 scenes don’t read as any different than the rest of the movie, which really begs the question why they even bothered making this a prequel at all? O’Brien claims that it was the only way to have all three brothers return, but why was that such a pressing issue?
There’s a lot of gore in Wrong Turn 4
but most of it is the “been there, seen that” variety. One kill deserves special mention, even if in the end the scene doesn’t reach its potential. An unlucky victim is strapped to a table and slowly stripped of his flesh. The brothers dip the meat in a pot of boiling oil and consume it while the terrified victim watches in what another character describes as a “fucked-up fondue.” It’s pretty ballsy in concept, and the actor on the slab does a good job of trying to sell the danger, but I don’t know… something about the way it’s staged makes it seem a lot less perverse and grueling than it really should be. It’s the kind of gonzo gag that would have become the talking point of the film had it been handled better, but it just winds up eliciting a shrug. That was when I fully realized that Wrong Turn 4
was completely lost. When a cheapie horror flick can’t deliver on its very raison d'être – namely creative gore and gratuitous nudity – then it’s time to resign it to obscurity and move on to something more deserving.
Daytime scenes where dark objects are contrasted against the snow show a lot, and I mean a lot, of artifacts. From the smeary reds in the opening title card, to tree branches that look like pixelly messes. The interiors shot in the typical blue-green Bousmann-vision reminiscent of most of Lionsgate’s horror output of the last ten years. The image in the interior scenes is a bit soft, but close ups and gore shots are sharp and well represented.
Typical straight-to-video 5.1 mix: competent but unspectacular. It’s front heavy, lacking in strong low end or discreet directional effect. Given the location you’d expect voices, footfalls and screams to echo in the abandoned hallways but the mix is flat and artificial sounding. There’s no sense of ambiance. This movie really could have benefitted from a well mixed audio track but, like everything else about Wrong Turn 4
, the 5.1 track feels sparse and underdone.
Fox didn’t spend a huge amount of money on Wrong Turn 4
but the sheer volume of the supplemental package is more extensive than some of this season’s biggest blockbuster releases. Not all of it is quality material, however, and sitting through all the supplements will likely have you wishing that the bonus materials were more focused with less overlap between features.
The major, and best, supplement is an Audio Commentary by writer/director Declan O’Brien, with Brett Levisohn from Trailer Park acting as moderator. Despite O’Brien’s less than sterling resume he actually comes across as a technically knowledgeable guy. He touches all the bases, striking a good balance between talking about story conception and writing, dealing with the actors, production anecdotes and technical nuts and bolts of filming. Levisohn helps keep the mood light and prods O’Brien with questions whenever the pace starts to slacken. The two have a good rapport from the outset and the track is easy to listen to and fun, even though the film itself is not. Listening to O’Brien on this track made me curious to see what he could accomplish with some time, money and a project he was passionate about. Hopefully he’ll get that opportunity instead of slumming for a paycheque with Sharktopus 2
or whatever straight-to-video or made-for-cable shit-fest he helms next.
Moving on, the oh-so-cleverly titled Director’s Die-ary (7:42) is a series of vignettes consisting of behind the scenes footage from a particular day. The feature really seems like it was produced as a web based promotional tool so there’s not much revelatory here. The clips are padded out with footage from the finished film, so it’s an extra pointless watch for those who have seen the film.
You probably won’t ever find a supplement as accurately and ironically titled as the behind the scenes feature Making Another Wrong Turn
(12:38), which is comprised mainly of talking head fluff interviews and some amusing footage of the staging of some of the gore effects.
I’m not sure what the point of Lifestyles of the Sick and Infamous (5:14) is; it’s concerned mainly with the history of the abandoned institution where the bulk of the film was shot. It may have been a terrifying and atmospheric place to shoot for the cast and crew, but none of that comes across on screen.
Unusual for a direct-to-video feature, Wrong Turn 4
had a few original songs composed for the soundtrack. A Music Video (3:26) for the one songs, Wrong Turn
by the Blackout City Kids, is included and is one of the worst songs I’ve heard in a long time.
Finally is a collection of deleted scenes running an impressive eighteen minutes. The scenes are rough around the edges, some haven’t been fully color corrected yet, but they’re still presented in 16:9 widescreen and 2.0 audio, though a lot of the audio is hard to discern given that it’s location sound and not ADR. There’s a scene from the prologue that better establishes the 1970’s setting but makes Dr. Ryan seem like an unconscionable douche. The rest are short scenes or scene extensions that wouldn’t help solve the film’s character development problems, and there’s no additional gore. Sorry, guys.
The first Wrong Turn
was a slightly better than average horror film that valiantly (for the time, at least) didn’t go the PG-13 route. The second, the direct-to-video Dead End, was a perverse, balls-out gore fest. It was a blast from start to finish and seemed to signal that this would become a franchise to watch. Part 3 made an unfortunate wrong turn in mediocrity and part four takes the series even further down the wrong path. There’s an easy way to correct course: give any further installments to young, up and coming directors that show promise and a real passion for the genre. Give them the creative freedom and enough resources to realize some sort of vision. You’re not even selling the movie at this point, you’re selling the name, so why not take some risks? That kind of bravery paid off with Dead End
. There’s no reason this series can’t get back on the right track.
*Note: The copy of Wrong Turn 4 I received for review was a studio screener. It has been my experience that these screeners don’t always accurately represent the quality of the final retail versions. Please keep this in mind when reading my evaluation of the technical aspects of this disc.
Movie - D
Image Quality - C-
Sound - C
Supplements - C+
- Running time - 1 hour and 33 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Digital 5.1
- English SDH subtitles
- French subtitles
- Spanish subtitles
- Audio Commentary with writer-director Declan O’Brien
- “Director’s Die-ary” Featurette
- “Making Another Wrong Turn” Featurette
- “Lifestyles of the Sick and Infamous” Featurette
- Music Video: “Wrong Turn” by The Blackout City Kids
- Deleted and Extended Scenes