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Thursday, 18 October 2012

OCTOBER 18, 2012

GENRE: MUTANT, SURVIVAL
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (SCREAMFEST)

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Wrong Turn 4 was a pretty fun entry, since it was from Declan O'Brien, the same guy who made the abysmal Wrong Turn 3. And thus, I was somewhat hopeful for Wrong Turn 5, since O'Brien was back and maybe now he knew how to go about it. But alas, it's just as bad as (possibly worse than) WT3, so now I'm at a total loss - my only explanation is that 3 and 5 (the bad ones) were shot in Bulgaria, whereas the other, GOOD ones were made in Canada. Score one for our Northern brothers!

But I still think perhaps Mr. O'Brien just tapped into something on WT4 that he tried to recreate here without understanding what it is we liked about it. It wasn't so much that the deaths were elaborate and over the top - the movie actually had some genuine (accidental?) suspense and a good setting, and the kids were likable enough to care about their fate but not so much that we wouldn't laugh a bit when they died. Here, he opts for something horribly mean-spirited, where the nice people are killed most viciously, and the traps are so elaborate that it becomes ridiculous (even for a horror movie) that they're going to all of this trouble. For example, they grab two of the guys in the group in the middle of "town" (more on that later), but rather than just kill them there, they for some reason drive them out to the local school's soccer field, buries one of them up to his head, and chops his head off with a snow plow. Even Jigsaw would be wondering why they went through all of that, even if we somehow believed that a trio of mute mutant rednecks would have that much patience and brainpower to pull it off. Plus, they're cannibals - why would they bury their food?

And it's just VILE. When the nicest girl of the group is killed early on, it's fine - it works as a nice sort of Psycho-ish twist because she seems like the most likely Final Girl. But when another girl gets her eyes poked out and then Doug Bradley (as the brothers' caretaker - the familial relation, or where the hell he came from, is never explained) threatens to rape her, and then seemingly will get his wish at the film's conclusion, it's the furthest thing from the fun or funny tone that O'Brien was seemingly going for. Oh, and another character has to blow their own head off with a rigged shotgun in order to avoid being immolated to death. Yeah, real knee-slapping stuff.

Oh, and everyone is a complete idiot. The kids, fine - they're a group of assholes going to a "Burning Man" type festival (albeit one that only lasts a few hours, apparently), so we know right off the bat that they're not the best decision makers (or math prodigies - "Four tickets at 90 bucks a pop, that's 260 bucks..."). But the local police are just as stupid; one cop sees three armed mutants running for him and he just says "What the hell?" instead of drawing his weapon, and the sheriff makes carefully thought out plans like giving shotguns to the town drunk and a kid who was taken in for carrying drugs and assaulting someone, utilizing a ham radio to ask a kid in New Hampshire to call the state police, etc. And there are only 3 of them, I guess (the other one is too busy banging some girl in his car at the festival), because despite this huge festival going on, no one thought to hire extra security, bring in cops from the next town, etc.

Then again, the festival doesn't seem to exist anyway. We see people walking the streets and news reporters early on, but when night falls and the action focuses on the police station, it becomes a ghost town - we can't even hear the festival, let alone see it, despite the fact that it was established to be pretty much on the same block. Also, the town set is one of the worst I've seen; you know those tram tours at Universal Studios where they show you the sets for old west towns or whatever, and they look fake in the daylight without movie coloring and appropriate actors nearby? Well this movie looks faker than that, somehow. Hell, they could have green-screened disproportionate still images of a town behind the actors and it wouldn't look as cheesy. The accents don't help the movie's complete lack of authenticity, either - it's supposedly West Virginia but everyone sounds like a European trying REALLY HARD to hide the fact that they're not, which makes the painfully stupid dialogue sound even worse.

The plot also has zero drive. Hilariously they seemingly took my suggestion from my review of WT3, opting for an Assault on Precinct 13 type story where a bunch of folks are assembled at the police station as the mutants attempt to free one of their own (Bradley). But they sure drag their heels doing it; despite having weapons and brute strength (and even more intelligence, it seems), they never really try to get into the station - they will drive nearby and kill someone that comes out, but then they'll take off again. In fact, they never really enter the building at all; Bradley more or less frees himself, probably because he got sick of laughing and saying "My boys will come for me" every five minutes, which is pretty much the extent of his role.

Of course, beloved genre icon status aside, we're here to see the three mutant brothers, not a guy in a jail cell, so that's fine. After all, the reason that this and 4 are prequels is because most of the mutants were dead, so this was a way to get them back into the series without resurrecting them, Jason Lives style. But they don't do shit! Three Finger gets his usual amount of screentime, but One Eye and Saw Tooth spend most of the movie just sort of lumbering around nearby, if at all - they seem to disappear a lot. Then again maybe that's for the best, since the makeup job is atrocious. There's a bit of irony to the festival subplot; people are wearing "hillbilly" masks as part of the "Mountain Man" celebration, and honestly the kids pulling pranks don't really look much different than the film's should-be scary villains. And (spoiler) not a single one of them is killed or even injured, so the ending, which is already unpleasant, takes on an extra bit of ickiness. Since Bradley isn't around in the first film, they could have at least killed him off and led this one up right to the beginning of WT1 (with the two random rock climbers), but no, it hints at a Wrong Turn 6 that continues this story, instead of pretending it never happened.

There are a few inspired moments that keep it from being a complete failure, I should note. I loved the way that the title is delivered; "Wrong Turn" appears on screen and then a disembodied hand sticks out its "5" fingers - it's the wittiest thing in the entire movie. There's a pair of pretty good car crashes that seemingly ate up half the movie's budget, and even though it was nihilistic on all levels, at least it wasn't easy to pick the order that the characters die, offering moments of minor surprise. But they don't stick; no one is missed when they're gone, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of it was unintentional - maybe an actor only SEEMED like they would be killed quickly because there was no way that an actor that incompetent would be hired for a major role. Good tune over the end credits, too. So there you go, out of an 89 minute movie, there's about 47 seconds that I was enjoying myself.

Since they're seemingly locked into a certain setup for the next one, I hope they at least ditch O'Brien and hire someone who understands the difference between joyful meanspiritedness (think Silent Night Deadly Night) and just plain contempt for the audience. I know I had the "Bulgaria vs Canada" theory, but come on - the supporting actors and grips aren't responsible for such a hateful script. They can certainly find a director that doesn't try to make jokes about his own movie during a very sparsely attended free screening. Real classy guy!

What say you?

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