Directed By Declan O’Brien
Starring Victor Zinck Jr., Terra Vnesa, Jennifer Pudavick, Sean Skene, Daniel Skene and Scott Johnson
Following up a character getting brutally and bloodily drawn and quartered with not one but two nudity-filled sex scenes (both straight and lesbian) all in the first five minutes, Wrong Turn 4 certainly knows its target audience. But despite being filled with enough bloodshed and boobs to keep horror fans reasonably entertained, it’s a tremendously dumb film that embraces every slasher cliché without any trace of irony, topping it off with a puzzlingly pointless prequel setup that hampers the movie to no end.
In 1974, a West Virginia sanatorium is the home of hundreds of deformed, dangerous and insane patients, not least of which are the child versions of the three inbred hillbillies from the original Wrong Turn film: One Eye, Saw Tooth and Three Finger. They engineer a bloody escape and the psychotic inmates messily butcher the staff and flee. Thirty years later, a group of friends head up to snowy mountains for a ski adventure in a pal’s cabin, only to get lost in a blizzard and head into the now abandoned sanatorium for shelter. It’s not long before they realise that they’re not alone and the twisted hillbillies have been living there all along, killing and eating stray hikers – a dinner menu they just jumped right to the top of.
Prequels are almost always a terrible, redundant idea, but that’s no more true than when it comes to horror movies. Things are inherently more frightening the less we know about or understand them, so by nature, horror prequels only serve to dilute a monster’s power to scare people. Halloween’s Michael Myers, for instance, is more frightening for being “simply…evil” – we don’t need to relate to him, understand him or discover that his murderous impulses are the result of a druid curse or because someone stole his Lego when he was four or whatever, and doing so only makes him less effective as a scary villain.
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Not only that, but the very nature of slasher prequels naturally rob the viewer of any real sense of surprise before the movie has even started: We already know the villains won’t die and we can easily infer that none of the cast will make it to the credits. Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings suffers from both fundamental problems, following up its hilariously dumb and ultimately pointless inbred cannibal origin opening with a slasher movie that would be a lot more enjoyable if it had any real surprise, purpose or tension.
The 1970s prelude exists only to deliver some laughably clunky and unnecessary backstory including such hilariously silly information as how and where One Eye, Saw Tooth and Three Finger got their respective deformities and nicknames. Writer/director Declan O’Brien also throws in some medical mumbo-jumbo about their inbreeding giving the trio “an advanced form of congenital analgesia”, giving the series a silly and convenient retroactive excuse for the hillbillies’ superpowered invulnerability to pain and injury. Weirdly, after a preposterous asylum escape, that’s it for the actual prequel stuff, and O’Brien quickly jumps ahead to 2003, some short time before the events of the first movie. The whole bizarre prequel angle adds nothing, but paints the whole film into a corner in terms of plot.
None of Wrong Turn 4′s hillbilly villains can die since they all show up later in the series chronology, so there’s a fundamental lack of satisfying tension. O’Brien not only saddles his characters with zero chance of surviving or dispatching any of the bad guys, but has them make the dumbest decisions in horror movie history to make sure no harm comes to the inbred monsters. Despite having one or all of the group of backwoods murderers who just butchered half their friends incapacitated or captured several times, they just up and decide not to kill them off for no reason at all, guaranteeing their own demise. Were the random hillbillies from Wrong Turn really interesting or iconic enough to warrant all the trouble of bringing back considering how much of a detriment it is to the script? Wouldn’t it have been easier to just make another sequel and throw in a few new imposing, creatively deformed rednecks instead?
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At least O’Brien makes the rest of the script just as stupid and devoid of logic to even things out. God only knows when or how the hillbillies are supposed to have managed to learn to ride snowmobiles, or why there’s barbed wire readily available in an active insane asylum. One of the hillbillies is a lumbering hulk who lugs a humongous industrial wood drill around, but getting past wooden doors quickly proves to be an insurmountable problem for him for some reason. But hey, at least he has being the product of inbreeding to use as an excuse for his stupidity. There’s no rational explanation for the group of pals-in-peril choosing to barricade themselves in an office with a gigantic, exposed hole in the door, considering it to be “secure”, or responding to one of the group mentioning safety in numbers by splitting up at every possible occasion anyway.
In the post-Scream landscape of horror cinema, even casual moviegoers are savvy to the clichés of slasher films, so it’s increasingly moronic that movies like Wrong Turn 4 go out of their way to check every one off the list without a trace of self-awareness or irony. A bloated cast means zero chance for the vaguest sliver of character and plenty of “Wait, who the hell is she?” moments as actors fail to make the remotest impression and then step on-screen to deliver some exposition. Toss in some horrendous overacting and the film as a whole drowns in a sea of slasher clichés and terrible writing without ever quite crossing into ‘so bad it’s good’ B-movie territory.
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Still, while the acting is terrible and the writing bafflingly dumb, at least it hits the mark more when it comes to gory exploitation. Tossing in plenty of nudity and enough fake blood, gore and grisly dismembered prosthetics to fill Tom Savini’s garage, O’Brien has fun putting together messy horror set-pieces. There’s limb removal, people getting hanged and beheaded with barbed wire nooses, shredded to mulch by the tyres of snowmobiles and cut up, cooked and eaten alive in a cannibal fondue. The occasional use of distracting CG is disappointing, but if you like your slasher movies filled with creative bloodshed then there’s more than enough here. There’s even a couple of decent gags courtesy of the gang’s Bieber-haired leader, who looks and acts disconcertingly like a more cartoonish version of Shaggy from Scooby Doo.
Some creative gore aside, Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings borrows every tiresome cliché from the slasher movies of old without a modicum of self-awareness. A profoundly dumb script offers up intensely stupid, paper-thin characters, plot holes aplenty and a senseless prequel setup that railroads the movie, stealing away any sense of tension or surprise. If you’re easily entertained and after a mindless slasher with blood and boobs, then this’ll check those boxes, but if you’re looking for a genuinely good horror movie, Wrong Turn 4 will leave you sorely disappointed.
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Shot on DV, Wrong Turn 4 is certainly a nice looking film for what it is and the sharp A/V transfer brings out the best in it, with the jump scares and ambient atmospherics well catered for by the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. Extras-wise, it’s a surprisingly stacked disc, even if it’s not the most deserving movie of the effort:
O’Brien is a talkative, likeable enough guy and offers up an informative track if you happened to love the film, but otherwise it’s still not likely to be biting incentive to watch the movie again.
A few promotional behind-the-scenes production diaries.
The obligatory ‘Making Of’ feature, with on-set interviews with the cast and crew.
A short featurette focused on shooting in an actual insane asylum.
A surprising amount of cut footage is included, all of it wisely removed and nothing that restores sense to the film’s numerous plot holes or lack of logic, but it’s interesting to see.
Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings is out on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK now.
Click here to order the Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk.