2003 was the year in which backwoods and redneck horror made a comeback, with "Cabin Fever" (my favorite of that years bunch), Marcus Nispel's remake of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and Rob Zombies directorial debut "House of 1,000 Corpses" coming to theaters. Then there was "Wrong Turn", which took a basic concept (pretty young people are stalked in the woods by inbred cannibals) and managed to make it entertaining again-and brought forth a franchise. Here, without further adu, is a look at said franchise.
The first "Wrong Turn" deals with Chris Flynn (Desmond Harrington) who ends up taking a different route and crashes into a car that has some kids-Jessie Burlingame (Eliza Dushku), Carly (Emmanuelle Chrique), her husband to by Scott (Jeremy Sisto) and couple Evan (Kevin Zegers) and Francine (Lindy Booth.) It turns out though, that there was barbed wire on the road-planted by Three-Finger (Julian Richings), Saw-Tooth (Gary Robbins) and One-Eye (Ted Clark)-three deformed, inbred killers with cannibalistic intents.
The first "Wrong Turn" is pretty by the numbers plot wise, but it makes up for it with energy and enthusiasm, as well as better than usual performances and some choice kills. It also helps that director Rob Schmidt clearly knows what he's doing-a throwback to 70's and 80's horror-and manages to give it a modern sheen without betraying the roots of the backwoods sub-genre. All in all, an enjoyable little slice of slasher cinema. 7.5/10
Though it wasn't a huge theatrical hit, it proved to be successful enough on DVD to warrant a sequel. This one takes place in the woods again, in which a reality show called "Apocalypse: Ultimate Survivalist" is being filmed, and is hosted by former Military Colonel Dale Murphy (Henry Rollins.) It's contestants: loner Nina Papas (Erika Leerhsen), former high school football player Jake Washington (Texas Battle), Iraq war vet Amber (Danielle Alonso), obnoxious skateboarder Jonesy (Steve Braun), and slutty model Elena Miller (Crystal Lowe.) Long story short, it turns out that this family is bigger that we thought it was, and they're hungry for seconds.
Going the route of 80's slasher and splatter movies, "Wrong Turn 2: Dead End" takes a horror/comedy route, with amplified black humor, nudity and gore-and thankfully, director Joe Lynch takes advantage of the "Unrated" status for this direct to DVD sequel, which also features some good performances (Rollins in particular is great, clearly having a blast with his role) and inspired kills (this sucker is filled with them.) Best of all, it manages to tell a story about the family without ruining them. Though it does have a few flaws (Braun is really annoying), this is a rare sequel that improves on the original. 8/10
Unfortunately, the law of diminishing returns ends up being the case from here on out, as "Wrong Turn 3: Left For Dead." It opens strong enough, with some always welcome female nudity and gore, only to go route to a broken down prison bus, with Nate Wilson (Tom Fredrick) running into Alex Hale (Janet Montgomery), who survived an attack from Three-Finger (Borislav Iliev.) While the cannibal hunts the prisoners and officers down, the crew needs to know who they can trust, as Carlos Chavez (Tamar Hassan) is losing his mind, and the fact that Three Fingers' son was killed isn't helping matters.
Though it boasts some fine kills and a nice performance from Hassan, "Wrong Turn 3" feels a bit too by the numbers. Having two killers on the loose instead of three or a whole family kind of take some fun out of it, as does the bad CG effects and lifeless direction from Connor James Delaney. It's your basic straight-to-DVD sequel and nothing more. 4/10
A very minor improvement is Declan O'Brien's prequel "Bloody Beginnings", which starts twenty nine years before the original. Here, we learn that Three Finger, Saw-Tooth and One-Eye were originally in an asylum, where all hell broke loose and they killed the doctor and nurse. Cut to winter years later, and a few months before the original, in which a group of college kids go to the now seemingly abandoned asylum...
Thankfully, there's less CG in this one, and the amplified gore and nudity of the first sequel returns. Unfortunately, this skips on the black humor and inspired mayhem of that movie, and ends up being yet another entry in a franchise that should probably end already. The acting is mostly bad (same with the prior entry), and much of it feels as if it's going through the motions. Not essential viewing unless you love all three of the prior movies. 4.5/10.
So there you have it, a look at all four entries in the "Wrong Turn" franchise. If you must, watch the first two, and skip the rest.