Bring the kids inside and lock the doors – something is very, very wrong. Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, the sequel to the critically ignored Wrong Turn that went straight to video, that features no returning crew or stars, and clocks in at 11 minutes longer than the original, is quite good and in some ways better than it’s predecessor. Like the first it also borrows heavily from other well known horror movies, but someone in charge obviously didn’t get the memo that they weren’t supposed to care about making this movie. Someone accidentally decided to enjoy this.
Dead End cruises past the original in its opening scene, in which Kimberly (Kimberly Caldwell), an actress on her way to the set of a reality show pilot, argues with her manager Tommy (Patton Oswalt(!)) about whether or not this whole pilot thing is a good idea. Distracted, she makes the traditional wrong turn this time and ends up cannibal fodder. Unlike the open of the first movie, which involved two rock climbers getting murdered who had no relation to the rest of the story, this bit with Kimberly, shrill though it sometimes is, sets up pretty much the whole backstory of the movie and ends with a helluva gore gag.
Once we’re in the movie proper, the greatness slows down a bit as we get some stock characters who trade heavily on the sarcasm. Right at the top, no one seems that likable except for Mara (Aleksa Palladino), the only character humble enough to not want to be in front of the camera. Clearly, this will be your final girl for the evening. There’s also the ‘funny guy’ Jonesy (Steve Braun) who wants to get in the pants of Amber (Daniella Alonso), the tough as nails marine. There’s also Nina (Erica Leerhsen), the loner, the one who says things like “I’m not here to make friends.” And Jake (Texas Battle), an ex-football star looking to start the next phase of his life. Elena (Crystal Lowe) is a money hungry fame whore and Michael (Matthew Currie Holmes) is the sleazy director of the show. Rounding things out is Dale Murphy (Henry Rollins, in the best casting of Henry Rollins in the history of ever), a retired marine and host of ‘Apocalypse: Ultimate Survivalist’.
Given these characters, it’s easy to figure out where things are going. Rollins is the biggest name here, so he’ll die soon because who can afford him for a whole shoot? Elena will die fast because she’s greedy, Michael because he’s sleazy, Amber because she’s too tough, Jonesy because he’s so annoying and Nina because she’s so cold. Jake and Mara will survive, because they are sincere and good people. And because at one point Dale tells Mara he thinks she’s a lot stronger than she looks. The set up is so blatant that there’s nothing to do but wait for the obvious pay off.
Except – the obvious pay off doesn’t come. Mara is not our hero, friends. And Mr. Rollins does not die a grisly death in the first reel. So even though the dialogue sometimes lives down to expectations and the production has a low-wattage sheen to it, this is a movie reaching for and occasionally grasping greatness.
Kudos must be given to the makers for not simply making a re-tread of the first movie. While the setting and some of the villains are the same (Three Finger, the surviving cannibal from the first film, kicks things off in part 2), the rest of the set up wanders off in its own direction. While the first movie brought a group of regular American kids out into the wilderness for a good old fashioned camping get-away, the second sets it up as survival from the word go. The use of a reality show backdrop isn’t the freshest idea on the block (Halloween: Resurrection took the same route back in 2002), but sadly it’s also not totally irrelevant, considering that the reality TV genre is still going strong.
West Virginia also gets a little more love in this version. Dale fills in a gap from the original, screaming in Jonesy’s face after the goofball makes an off color remark about the locals of West Virignia – “I grew up two counties from here and I never had sex with a pig in my life! You promoting stereotypes, son?” Nice to least give a nod to the underpinnings of crazed hillbilly characters. There’s also more explanation of how the cannibals came to be mutated freaks – and it’s not just because they live in the mountains.
The make-up effects are also strong, with every opportunity taken to pull a gross-out. In the original movie, when the heroes need to make an escape, they go through the front door of the cannibal’s shack. Here – they escape through the toilet. And why merely stab someone when you can chop them in half, length-wise? None of this devolves into torture porn, though, keeping the fun quotient high and the gross-out gags coming, including a dinner table bit hacked directly from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
A little hackery is expected and forgiven, but only because there are surprises to be had here, too. Though the movie falters a bit with some so-so dialogue and stock characters, it also twists some genre conventions perfectly and that makes this movie worth a look.
The film is presented in a vibrant 1.78:1 1080p that comes off grainy much like the original. Audio is 5.1 DTS-HD in English, Dolby Surround in Spanish and 5.1 Dolby Digital in French with subtitles in Spanish. The soundtrack is clear, though sometimes it lacks atmosphere.
Feature Commentary w/ Director Joe Lynch and actors Erica Leerhsen and Henry Rollins – an okay but not must-hear commentary on the film. Focusing mostly on production, there are no stellar revelations.
Feature Commentary w/ Writers Turi Meyer and Al Septien – another so-so commentary. Valuable to those who are aspiring screenwriters, but otherwise fairly skippable.
More Blood, More Guts: The Making of Wrong Turn 2 – Standard behind the scenes piece. (9:32)
On Location with P-nut – Short piece focusing on behind-the-scenes of the scene in which the Brother and Sister cannibals get it on in the woods. If that’s your cup o’ tea, then consider this indispensable. (2:14)
Making Gore Look Good – A solid behind-the-scenes piece focusing on stunts and make-up and making the two work on film. (11:32)
Wrong Turn 2: Dead End has absolutely no right being as good as it is. This is a pretty amazing find for something that went direct to DVD.
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment presents Wrong Turn 2: Dead End. Directed by: Joe Lynch. Starring: Erica Leerhsen, Henry Rollins, Texas Battle, Kimberly Caldwell. Written by: Turi Meyer & Al Septien. Running time: 93min. Rating: Not Rated. Released on DVD: September 29, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Henry Rollins, Patton Oswalt