|Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (2007)
Starring: Erica Leerhsen, Henry Rollins, Texas Battle, Daniella Alonso, Steve Braun, Aleksa Palladino, Crystal Lowe, Matthew Currie Holmes, Kimberly Caldwell
Director: Joe Lynch
Not that anyone goes into a straight-to-video sequel of a not-all-that-good-to-begin-with horror flick, but, God help us, “Wrong Turn 2” actually started off with a certain amount of promise. Sure, it ends up wasting that promise by the time all’s said and done, but for about 10 minutes or so, you’re downright convinced that this could be the exception to the rule.
It isn’t, of course. But we’ll get to that.
If you somehow managed to miss the original film, you missed Eliza Dushku (Faith on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), Jeremy Sisto (late of “Kidnapped,” now on “Law and Order”), Emmanuelle Chriqui (Sloan on “Entourage”), Desmond Harrington (Troy on “Rescue Me”), and a couple of other pretty 20-somethings getting stuck in the woods of West Virginia and terrorized by a bunch of inbred, horribly disfigured, cannibalistic hillbillies. While we wouldn’t want to completely give away the ending, we should mention that at least two of the aforementioned individuals make it out of the film alive, but if you’re a fan of the first flick, you shouldn’t go into the sequel expecting to see either of those characters pop up. The only things the two films have in common are the aforementioned inbred hillbillies, and, even then, we’re now asked to factor in a new piece of information: they’ve also been irradiated by chemicals from a now-closed paper mill. (Helpfully, the waste for the mill is packaged in huge barrels which read, “May cause birth defects.”)
As the sequel begins, we’re treated to an amusing cameo by former “American Idol” contestant Kimberley Caldwell – playing herself, no less – as she gets lost in a familiar-looking set of West Virginia woods while on her way to film a new reality series: “Ultimate Survival: Apocalypse.” This opening sequence strikes just the right chord between dark comedy and gore, and it leads directly into a brilliant bit of faux TV footage where we’re introduced to this reality series, a show pitting a handful of individuals against each other in a post-apocalyptic scenario. Former Marine commander Dale Murphy, played by the one and only Henry Rollins, hosts the show. The contestants, meanwhile, tend toward being completely loathsome individuals, with the character clichés including a sexist jackass, a bitchy slut and a sneering Goth girl.
At this point, two things will likely occur to you:
- This reality show is awesome, and if they were ever actually to put it on the air, you would totally watch it.
- Maybe, just maybe, the folks behind “Wrong Turn 2” have made the rare bad horror sequel where they’re actually in on the joke.
The good news is that, yes, they are in on the joke; the bad news, however, is that the joke in question grows less and less funny as the film moves on. What begins as a good-natured jab at bad horror movies, turns into a bad horror movie itself, and the moments intended to be darkly funny are, in fact, so dark that it’s impossible for the funny to escape from their clutches. The biggest creative misstep comes from making the cannibalistic hillbillies so grotesque that you can barely stand to watch the screen during the moments when they serve as the film’s focal point. It’s also unfortunate that Rollins’ character, who could’ve been an awesomely over-the-top action hero, is imbued with far too little humor; he gets a single brilliant one-liner after taking down one of the hillbillies, but, otherwise, he spends the film all too silent. Still, if there’s one compliment that must be bestowed upon the proceedings, it’s that your initial guessing about the order of who’s gonna get killed will almost certainly be wrong. Well, except for the guy who goes off by himself to pee. But, then, that guy always dies.
It’s faint praise to say that “Wrong Turn 2” is better than your average straight-to-video sequel, but there’s enough in the film to recommend it to genre fans. Ultimately, though, most will be left depressed by the fact that it falls apart so substantially after those first 10 minutes of such considerable creativity.Special Features: It’s hard not to smile when the audio commentary for “Wrong Turn 2” begins with director Joe Lynch offering giddy appreciation of the fact that he’s been able to make a film that opens with the same fanfare as both “Star Wars” and “Alien.” Lynch teams up with Rollins and co-star Erica Leerhsen for the track, and it’s consistently entertaining, if admittedly full of self-congratulatory back-patting from Lynch (who fully acknowledges as much). There’s also a featurette about the special effects, entitled “Making Gore Look Good,” along with the trailer for the film, laughingly described as a “theatrical trailer,” even though the movie never scored a theatrical release.