At this point, you either love the “Wrong Turn” franchise or hate it with every fiber of your being. I happen to fall into the camp that appreciates the films for what they are: empty-headed, blood-soaked popcorn flicks designed to be taken very, very lightly. The formula isn’t that hard to screw up: Toss some kids in the forest, make them take of their clothes, and promptly unleash the mutant redneck cannibals. Gore and mayhem ensue. Fearing that they had, perhaps, taken this decidedly paper-thin storyline as far as it could possibly go, the masterminds behind the franchise have chosen to take us back in time, allowing us to properly explore the origins of our favorite flesh-eating hillbilly family. Problem is, their history really isn’t a story worth telling.
As it turns out, the aforementioned trio of backwoods brutes spent a large chunk of their insanely dysfunctional childhood inside a secluded sanatorium: Think “The State Home for the Ugly” in “Garbage Pail Kids: The Movie”. After getting their hands on a hairpin (don’t ask), the cannibals escape, freeing their murderous cellmates in the process. Pandemonium instantly sets in, the place becomes infested with crazy people, and that, as they say, is that. Cut to present day, which finds a large group of twenty-somethings embarking on a ski trip into the snowy wilds of the great unknown. Blinded by a snowstorm, our heroes make the proverbial WRONG TURN and wind up at a sanatorium in the middle of nowhere. Say, that wouldn’t be the same place featured at the beginning the movie, would it? I wonder if those mutants are still there?
Of course they are, and it doesn’t take very long for the body count to rise. Thing is, by the time the blood starts to flow, you’ve started to notice things about the movie that you wouldn’t pick up on if your attention was being directed elsewhere. The inept, poorly-written dialogue becomes nails on a chalkboard, the complete lack of logic makes your question your faith in humanity — these aren’t the sort of things you’d be thinking about if the film were doing its job. Declan O’Brien — who also directed the immensely enjoyable “Sharktopus” — might be good at staging memorable kills, but the stuff in-between leaves much to be desired. Instead of doing something interesting with the mutants’ back story, O’Brien just goes through the motions. I mean, human fondu? Really? I had expected something a bit more interesting. Not much, but something.
“Wrong Turn 4” isn’t all bad, I suppose. Once the ball gets rolling — and it does take a while — things do get interesting, viscerally speaking. The picture’s numerous kills are particularly well-done, and contain a bit of creative spark that the rest of the film sorely lacks. O’Brien and crew certainly don’t believe in shying away from brutal on-screen carnage, as evidenced by a protracted bit involving an endlessly screaming victim and lots of graphic filleting. None of the special effects rise above your typical SyFy original movie, though, as I’ve said before, this is probably part of their wonky charm. That having been said, the make-up work on our psychopathic hillbillies is surprisingly, not to mention inexcusably, weak. Given how much time they spend in front of the camera, that’s never a good thing, especially when they’re you’re star attraction.
If you’re drunk during the day and it’s streaming on Netflix, give “Wrong Turn 4” a go. Hell, apparently you don’t have anything else to do. Otherwise, I’d probably skip it altogether. The kills, while enjoyable in that goofy, low-budget kind of way, aren’t worth having to endure countless agitating conversations and some of the most unexciting sex scenes this side of Cinema After Dark. As an origin story, it’s pretty pathetic, especially since the filmmakers could have done so much more with it. This is just another helping of standard, everyday, direct-to-video malarkey, nothing more. Then again, I guess it’s exactly what most people would expect from the “Wrong Turn” franchise. Is that a bad thing? I suppose not. But for those of us who were hoping for something a bit more interesting, the bitter disappointment is hard to ignore.
Declan O’Brien (director) / Declan O’Brien (screenplay)
CAST: Dean Armstrong … Daniel
Tenika Davis … Sara
Scott Johnson … Saw-Tooth
Samantha Kendrick … Claire
Jennifer Pudavick … Kenia
Dan Skene … One-Eye