OCTOBER 17, 2011
With expectations firmly below sea level and non-too-enticing advance word from friends who had gotten screeners, I had little reason to go see Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings; in fact the only reason I went is to preserve a “record” that will impress absolutely no one. However, I don’t regret going for a second; the movie is pretty bad, but it’s that exact right kind of bad that made it a hoot to watch with a few pals and a full crowd of the type of over-excited goons who come to free screenings like this.
Actually it starts almost legitimately good, back in the 1970s, when our hero mutants are still children and locked up in a sanatorium (the movie actually explains the difference between a sanatorium and a sanitarium. I actually learned something from Wrong Turn 4). Their fellow inmates are a bunch of other dudes who could probably lead their own horror movies, and for a while I thought it was going to be an Alone in The Dark/Don't Look In The Basement scenario. But after a new nurse accidentally lets one of them grab her barrette through the bars on his cell, they pick their cell lock and all get loose, running rampant and killing the head doctor in a Saw-esque barbed wire trap that pulls his hands and feet apart in delightfully gory (and practical!) fashion, while the other inmates just sort of goof off and enjoy their freedom. So far, so good.
Then we meet our idiotic teens, of which there are too many (ten!), and things look grim again, as they’re all obnoxious and horny and largely interchangeable (points for offering a lesbian pair though, skewing the male/female ratio a bit to make it slightly less confusing who’s who). The snowbound setting is a nice change of scenery, and by taking place in 2003 we can have all three of the (adult) mutants again, but they do a lousy job on the makeup – they look nothing like their counterparts from the first film, even though they are set only a few months apart. They also seem remarkably stupid, getting lost instantly and then seeing the abandoned sanatorium in the background, resulting in the following exchange:
Idiot #1: “What is that?”
Idiot #2: “I think it’s a building!”
However, once the killers show up (thankfully not TOO long of a wait) it improves considerably, even if for not the reasons writer/director Declan O’Brien intended. All of a sudden our protagonists become master strategists, coming up with complicated plans instantaneously, and even weirder – they work! These schmucks, who couldn’t even positively identify a building an hour ago, are able to lure all three mutants into a cell and lock them up. They’re also adamant about sticking together more often than not, which is a nice little touch, except for one guy that they inexplicably leave on the floor covered in the blood of his girlfriend, whose death was more or less his fault. The dialogue even improves a touch; the “porterhouse steak” line got the best non-kill response in the entire movie.
Then the movie enters total batshit lunacy territory, with the kids taking votes on whether or not to go save an injured friend, stabbing the ever loving shit out of one that they assume is one of the mutants, and momentarily breaking the “we stay together!” rule when one drops a crowbar or something and insists on going back (alone) to get it, defending her decision by pointing out “It’s a really good weapon, we need it!” (they’re in the giant heavy branch-filled woods at this point, I should note). Not two minutes ever went by without me howling and applauding at something that I probably wasn’t supposed to be laughing at. It’s hard to get a read on Mr. O’Brien, I should note that this is the first of his three films that I’ve seen that he wrote himself, so perhaps his dull and unfunny (intentionally or not) previous films could have been saved if he wrote their scripts himself? He also delivered the exact same speech to the crowd that he did before WT3, so there’s no telling if he had a different approach this time around or just made an entertaining movie on accident.
He’s also improved with his kills, opting for practical more often than not. And that’s a relief, because his approach to CGI remains as awful as ever. You know when you look at a bright light for a while and then shut your eyes and see this amorphous blob in the middle of your blacked-out vision? That’s what the blood “spray” looks like during what should have been the movie’s best kill, involving a snowmobile. Bad CGI mars the film’s final kill as well, though at least in that case it’s so wonderfully ridiculous I was too busy laughing and applauding to mind much. I will never understand why they would put their best looking effects up front and make the final couple so bad – I guess they figure by then you’re either on board with the movie or not so it doesn’t matter?
If I had any serious critique, it would be that I wish they used the snow setting more. They get to the ‘building’ pretty early on and don’t go back outside until the final 10 minutes, which just seems like a waste of a fun setting (our guys ARE survivalist mutants, after all). Especially when the plotting inside is painfully repetitive; one male character goes off to look at something and then returns to the others, no exaggeration, FIVE TIMES in a row. Sometimes he brings a few others along to “explore”, but it still feels like the movie is caught in some sort of loop. They also take time to point out that the idiots parked their cars in a tow zone, but it has no bearing on anything since their lack of cars isn’t a problem (they’re lost and the sanatorium is shown to be quite far from where they parked anyway). It feels like a remnant from an earlier draft or something. Dammit, I demand tighter plotting from my Wrong Turn sequels!
So yeah, it’s a bad movie, but the good kind of bad. That I was sober and still having this much fun laughing at the nonsense flashing by on the screen is quite telling, I think. If I was watching alone I probably would have hated it, but I’m quite sure this is an improvement on every level from the 3rd, as after all I saw both in the same exact setting (a free Screamfest screening). Still not up to the legitimately good levels of the first 2, but all I can ask from one of these things is that I am entertained on SOME level for most of its runtime, and that it kills a bunch of idiots in satisfying manners (if you recall, the awful CGI on EVERY kill in WT3 ruined any chance of them being worth applauding). I believe it hits DVD next week – invite a bunch of friends over and have a good time!
What say you?
*I have now seen all FOUR Wrong Turn movies in theatrical screenings. I have to be one of the very few who can make this claim. Please ensure it is included on my tombstone.