When I saw that there was a WRONG TURN 4 I had to think for a minute to remember if I had seen part 3. I did, so what’s one more gonna hurt? Nothing. That’s generally the best attitude to go into a movie with, right?
The first WRONG TURN was a competent but bland studio version of a savage cannibal movie. It didn’t work for me. Part 2 had some humorously over-the-top digital bodily mutilation, but a completely obnoxious “people making a reality show run into trouble” type of plot and characters. I forgot to write reviews of parts 1 and 3. I don’t remember what part 3 was about but if I remember right it was similar to part 2 but a little funnier and less grating. Maybe. They’re all kind of shitty movies with some bright spots. This is no exception.
Although I’m not really a fan of this series I guess I keep watching them because I have a soft spot for savage inbred cannibals. Not in real life – it’s just not a lifestyle I can relate to – but in movies I get a kick out of the sparks that shoot off when polite civilization bumps heads with crazy skin-wearing hillbillies or desert mutants who make trophies out of body parts and stolen junk or those type of individuals. It’s just a type of conflict I can appreciate.
In fact, before we get into the business of reviewing here let me share something with you that just came to mind, a little anecdote I remember reading in David Schmader’s Last Days column in The Stranger several years ago:
FRIDAY, JANUARY 5 “It seemed like any other Friday night at Ruth’s Chris Steak House,” writes Hot Tipper Greg, who was among the postholiday diners this evening at Seventh Avenue and Pine Street when “around 7:30, a large, sweaty, and completely naked man entered the restaurant in a frenzy. He’s shouting, calling random people ‘faggot,’ and throwing punches at anyone in his path. The ensuing chaos could be heard from across the restaurant. One gentleman was hit quite hard in the face, and his wife rushed to his defense, swinging her purse at the large, naked man, who seemed strung out on a variety of chemicals. Finally a few brave employees took the man down and held him until the SPD arrived to carry him off.” Thanks to Hot Tipper Greg for noticing and sharing, and further thanks to the Ruth’s Chris Steak House employee who corroborated Greg’s tale. “It took seven people to subdue him,” said the sweet female employee, who confirmed the ranting intruder was “naked—except for a watch. He accessorized.”
I mean, is it just me? Of course I feel bad for the guy that got punched in the face, and even for the naked guy (who in my opinion needs treatment). It’s a horrible story. But also it’s hilarious and beautiful enough that I remember it fondly four years later. Ruth’s Chris is a fancy rich person restaurant by my estimation. Maybe not an elitist foodie place, but expensive by my standards. They bill themselves as “the world’s largest fine dining company.” I just imagine the scene in there, the hum of quiet conversations all around, the clinking of silverware, some gentle music. Suddenly it’s interrupted by complete chaos and the unexpected violence of fat hairy sweaty crazy nudity, bizarre shouting and actual violence. The way I remembered it the column actually specified – but I guess it was just my hope – that people went on awkwardly finishing their meals while seven cooks and waiters wrestled the crazed nude homophobe somewhere off to the side. After a few minutes the diners probly got used to it and managed to get back to the conversations they were having before, the madman’s exhausted grunts eventually being drowned out by business as usual.
In the cannibal movies there’s no chance to get back to the conversation, the tribal clash always has to resolve itself. But it’s a similar appeal. The very existence of the inbred, mutant or naked-dinner-interrupter seems to reveal a sort of hole in our outlook. How can we go on acting like life is great and enjoying our oven roasted free-range double chicken breast stuffed with garlic herb cheese and served with lemon butter when there are people out there living like this? Isn’t it unfair? Don’t they have a right to hate us?
Well, no. Not really. The diners have the right to enjoy their meal and the Carter Family have the right to keep on driving their RV through the desert and just because Eliza Dushku apparently made a left when she should’ve made a right doesn’t mean some weird looking dudes get to hunt and eat her. I’m gonna side with the non-cannibals on this. But I guess this type of conflict stirs up in me the survivor’s guilt, the not-wanting-to-make-eye-contact-with-the-panhandler-this-time feeling, and on the other side the jealousy or anger at all the people who have it better than me, that part of me feels like don’t deserve it. It puts me on both sides of the battle. It’s simple and primal (pretty girl vs. drooling monster) but it stirs complicated emotions in me. And makes me smile.
As the subtitle implies, WRONG TURN 4: BLOODY BEGINNINGS is a prequel. It begins long ago when the hideous inbred cannibal guys – I guess there must be 3 of them in the other movies because there’s 3 here – are kids locked up in a sanatorium. Then they escape and kill everybody. This is actually a humorously horrible scene like at the steak house, because they let all of the other patients loose and it’s total mayhem. I guess escape is not their primary goal, because they stick around and torture people with the electroshock machines and giggle. They somehow find a whole bunch of barb wire and rig a contraption that uses the force of the opening cell doors to draw-and-quarter their doctor. He screams as each of his limbs pops off and blood sprays everywhere and then it goes into the opening credits. The classy way to open one of these things.
Then all the sudden it’s 2003. I don’t know if you guys are familiar with the historical period of 2003, so let me set the stage. The Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated on re-entry. Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Ðindic was assassinated in Belgrade. The U.S. invaded Iraq. The Green River Killer was finally caught and confessed. Mr. Rogers and Nina Simone died. 50 Cent and that one Outkast song captured the world’s ear hearts. LORD OF THE RINGS 3: KING’S RETURN was the highest grossing movie and the Oscar winner for best picture. Also WRONG TURN came out so I guess this is supposed to take place right before the first one is all it’s saying.
But it doesn’t really have any reason to happen earlier. I’m not sure if it explains anything. I guess they live at the sanatorium instead of that watchtower thing. They haven’t discovered that. That will probly be explained in WRONG TURN 5: BLOODY BEGINNINGS 2: RISE OF THE TOWERS. I guess the “bloody beginning” is that they are already locked up and somebody verbally tells the story of where they came from. Couldn’t somebody have told that story in the present, though? I don’t get why we need to flashback for that. But I guess if it wasn’t in the title it would seem normal. It’s not so much part of the modern prequel mania as the old horror series tradition that the sequels have to start adding more backstory to the villains. Like in the Freddy movies you start learning about the nun that gave birth to him and the homeless guy that beat him and all that stuff. Here we just learn that they at their parents and were locked up for a while but then ate their doctors.
As often happens in these types of movies, a group of young people played by slightly older people go for a wild snowmobiling weekend or whatever. But they take a WRONG TURN and get lost in a storm and the only place they can find for shelter is AN ABANDONED SANATORIUM.
In some ways this is kind of a nod to the type of crappy horror movies we enjoyed in the ’80s, because there is lots of gore and lots of boobs. The first part is common these days but the second is not, so commence high fives. There’s a good looking interracial lesbian couple who get it on a couple times. It is cold so there is lots of hard nipples. The characters are all sexually liberated/promiscuated and do not tuck their tits under the covers after sex.
As in those movies there are no characters to care about because they’re all kind of whiny idiots without much personality to distinguish them from each other. This definitely holds the movie back, but also makes it a laugh when a girl suddenly gets decapitated by a barb wire noose or when a guy delivers the line “They’re eating him alive like some fucked up fondue!” with complete conviction. He says that because at that point one of the youths is laid out and the cannibal brothers are cutting him up and tasting different parts of him picnic style. I actually thought it was more of a fucked up shish kebab than a fucked up fondue, because one of them takes a slice of onion and skewers it along with a piece of the guy’s liver or something. But it’s true, he dips it in blood, that is sort of a fondue type thing, to dip it.
There’s one guy in the group who everybody makes fun of for wearing a helmet when they go snowboarding and for asking “are you sure it’s okay to park here?” when they leave their cars at a place where it clearly is not okay to park and where they’re going to get their car towed and get trapped out in the storm and all of them will be murdered and eaten. I mean can you believe that guy trying to make sure they don’t get their cars towed? What a stick in the mud. Loosen up, nerd.
At one point the movie seems to be trying for social relevance. The non-inbreds manage to trick the inbreds and lock them in a cell, then one of the dudes gets all macho and vengeful and wants to torture or kill them. There are definite echoes of the war that was starting around when this takes place. He doesn’t end up putting them in butt pyramids or anything, so it doesn’t get into the weird rapist and sadomasochistic aspects of war. But when one of the girls makes him promise not to kill the cannibals you can’t help but think of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, the debates about torture and how ugly things got with the treatment of some of these prisoners, and the people taking out “revenge” for 9-11 often on people that weren’t connected to it at all, even by nationality.
If WRONG TURN 4 is supposed to be about that, though, these guys are definitely guilty of the crime they’re accused of and they get out and cause more harm, so it could be more of a pro-detainment message than anything. It might be saying that imprisonment without charges and forced butt pyramids are not going far enough.
Okay, it never feels like it’s trying to be as heavy as the topics I’m bringing up here. But the overall tone is serious. The actors don’t ever seem like they’re going for laughs. I appreciate that the movie doesn’t on the surface seem jokey but does have a sense of humor at times. For example it’s pretty funny when these freaks are eating human meat and then one of them starts choking. The other guys are all concerned and moaning like “are you okay?” before one gives him the Heimlich maneuver.
Another highlight is a part that’s just so overwhelmingly horrendous that it becomes laugh out loud funny. (BIG SPOILER here.) Four of the girls decide to man up and take out one of the cannibals. Even the girl who wanted to take the high road when they had them captured is on board, she knows it’s their best chance at survival. So they jump him and they all stab him with sharp objects and it becomes four women hunched over this guy’s body, just stabbing over and over and over and over like maniacs, turning his whole chest into goo, like furies trying to break the speed record for hacking open a giant barrel of strawberry jelly. Just some girls reverting to complete maniacal savagery to defend themselves. It’s so over-the-top brutal and at the same time so completely obvious that it’s not the cannibal they’re mutilating, it’s their friend with his tongue cut out and a bag over his head. Whoops!
by which I mean this next part is spoiling the end, not that this is the end of a spoiler part. This is the beginning of a bigger spoiler part is what I’m saying.
The end is actually my favorite part of the movie, so I’m gonna give it away here. If you might see the movie stop reading. The climax is alot of running and screaming in the tradition of TEXAS CHAIN SAW, but in the snow and with the cannibal on a snowmobile. One last bloody girl is pathetically trying to stumble to safety when suddenly another girl, previously thought dead, leaps out and brains the snowmobiler with a log. Then the girls hop on the snowmobile together and take off, clinging tight and screaming in celebration after a long ordeal.
Even though these aren’t characters that I gave even a small number of shits about, I have to admit I was kind of happy to see a lesbian couple making it through the gauntlet together, snowmobiling off into the sunset. It was sweet.
And I honestly believed it was about to happily fade to black when suddenly they hit a strip of barb wire and were both decapitated, their heads twirling through the air in a long, bloody slow motion shot. One of the cannibals pulls up in a truck and, very workmanlike, hauls the bodies away for processing. That’s a nice touch too, but what I love is that as far as I could tell the barb wire was not one of their traps, it was just a fence that the girls didn’t see. They really won, really could’ve escaped, and bit it hard anyway, just by stupid unlucky accident.
Well, at least they didn’t have to pay to get their cars out of impound. That would’ve been frustrating after all they went through.
Overall this is a pretty typical dumb horror movie, but I have to say there are enough good parts that by the end I felt it was worthwhile, and probly my favorite of the series. But I don’t remember enough about the other ones to be sure.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.