Fox // 2007 // 92 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ian Visser (Retired) // September 28th, 2007
Hungry, hungry hillbillies.
Another direct-to-DVD "sequel" featuring none of the original film's cast, Wrong Turn 2: Dead End maintains a similar plot with only a fraction of the budget. Is it a walk in the woods or are viewers left up the creek without a paddle?
Where better to shoot the pilot of a reality show than the backwoods of Virginia? Opportunistic producer "M" (Matthew Currie Holmes, The Fog) has assembled the six cast members of his new show "Ultimate Survivalist: Apocalypse" for five days of filming. Accompanying "M" and his crew is host Dale Murphy (Henry Rollins, Heat), a hard-bitten marine colonel who doesn't take guff from anyone. Murphy's mission is to oversee the contestants as they are eliminated one-by-one until an "ultimate survivor" is crowned.
The contestants are a cross-section of modern youth, meaning they're young, dumb, and easy on the eyes:
Mara (Aleksa Palladino, The Ring 2): the girlfriend of
producer "M," who fills in as a last-minute replacement
Jonesy (Steve Braun, The Red Front): a laid-back skateboarder who only thinks about one thing
Elena (Crystal Lowe, Black Christmas 2): your friendly neighborhood tramp, who isn't above sleeping her way to stardom
Nina (Erica Leerhsen, Ghost Whisperer): the tough girl with a messed-up personal history
Jake (Texas Battle, Final Destination 3): a high school jock whose football injury has kept him out of college
Amber (Daniella Alonso, The Hills Have Eyes 2): the army girl/lesbian who talks tough and acts even tougher
Oh, there's one other contestant (Kimberly Caldwell, American Idol), but she gets "axed" before the show starts (ha ha).
Unfortunately, there's another group of survivalists roaming around in the form of an insane hill-country family mutated by pulp mill pollution. This cabal of cannibalistic crazies doesn't cotton to strangers on its land, and when their paths cross that of the city folk, its buffet-city.
There is nothing terribly original about Wrong Turn 2: Dead End. It's the usual set-up that puts a bunch of teenagers in an isolated location and has them pursued by crazies carrying pointy objects. The kids each get picked off until only one or two remain, and whoever is left somehow manages to escape with their lives. But credit first-time helmer Joe Lynch for making the results polished and gory (is that a contradiction?) as he avoids many of the genre's pitfalls. Rather than becoming an exercise in tedium Wrong Turn 2: Dead End turns out to be a decent slasher film with few shortcomings.
Let's deal with the hillbillies first. As in the original Wrong Turn, our band of teens has stumbled across a family of hill-people who have turned to cannibalism because, well, it's a living, I guess. The clan ambushes travelers, eats them, and stashes their vehicles in the same pulp mill that caused their deformities. The 'billies are understandably mutated from their diet of man-flesh and toxic waste and do a lot of grunting and gesticulating between killings. They are also semi-super-human, able to shake off broken bones and smashed heads with a mere shrug.
On the human side we get all the usual reality-TV character stereotypes, from the slut and the jock to the "nice girl" and the lesbian. The standout here is Rollins, who embodies his ex-Marine character with menace and bravado; you can certainly believe his resulting Rambo routine when he realizes the hosting gig is turning into a 24-hour smorgasbord for mutated hill-folk. The rest of the cast is actually quite effective, playing to type as required and doing what they can with their parts. Nobody is going to win an Oscar with this material, but the acting is superior to what a viewer expects with such B-grade fare.
The killings in Wrong Turn 2: Dead End start early and are well-paced throughout the film; you won't have to wait for more than a couple of minutes between stabbings, slashings, impalements, and other assorted un-pleasantries. Aside from a couple of obvious CGI effects, the blood-letting is old-school viciousness created with enough originality and style to keep fans interested. I don't watch a lot of this kind of thing, but a number of the offing's had me wincing as the hillbillies went to it. This film definitely earns its "unrated" classification, with plenty of Ragu on display for gore-hounds to enjoy.
Although the film is clearly a low-budget affair, it never feels cheap thanks to an inventive variety of kills and an abundance of the red stuff. Director Lynch does a good job of limiting the MTV-style edits and effects and avoids using the first-person perspective I dreaded seeing as each contestant strapped on a head-cam. Lynch has a solid grasp on his direction; it would have been nice to see what he could have done with a bigger budget.
Wrong Turn 2: Dead End is presented in the 1.78:1 widescreen format. As one would expect with a recent feature, the image displays few defects. The color balance is good and black levels appear deep and solid. Audio is the usual 2.0 Dolby Digital option, which does a nice job with the screams, explosions, and grinding chainsaws that populate the film.
On the special features front we have a bit of meat to chew on. First up is a 12-minute segment titled "Making Gore Look Good," which focuses on the stunts and special effects used in the film. Fans of the bloody stuff will get some nice insight into how the more-complicated effects were accomplished, although given the abundance of on-set material this segment could have been expanded.
Next up is a commentary track featuring director Joe Lynch with actors Henry Rollins and Erica Leerhsen. There's never any dead space in the commentary, largely because Lynch is constantly talking through, above, and over the other two participants. Yes, it's great to be excited because it's your first film, but let the actors get a word in edge-wise! When they do inject comments Rollins and Leerhsen largely go along with Lynch, mentioning many, many times how "great" everyone involved in the film was.
Viewers are provided with French and Spanish language dubbing, in addition to Spanish and English sub-titles. Although French sub-titles are provided, I could not get them to display. A trailer for the film rounds out the features.
Wrong Turn 2: Dead End is well-directed, but it possesses a lack of atmosphere about it. Despite the wooded setting, the cinematography is flat and the production lacks the atmosphere of recent horror examples like Silent Hill or the recent remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Granted, it's tough to get great style with only a fraction of the typical Hollywood budget, so I can overlook the film's journeyman appearance.
Wrong Turn 2: Dead End is a far more satisfying experience than its pedigree would suggest. While it won't gain entry into the halls of classic horror, it will make slasher-film fans happy for a couple of hours.
Amazingly, Wrong Turn 2: Dead End is fully acquitted by this court.
Review content copyright © 2007 Ian Visser; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Featurette: Making Gore Look Good
* Commentary Track
* MySpace: Wrong Turn 2