BUY FROM AMAZON: CLICK HERE!
STUDIO: 20th Century Fox
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
3 Behind-the-Scenes Docs
Oh no! You got cannibalistic mutant hillbillies in my escaped criminals on the run action-thriller!
Tamer Hassan, Tom McKay, Tom Frederic, Janet Montgomery
Director: Declan O’Brien
A motley crew of law enforcement officers and surly convicts find themselves stranded in the woods, pursued by the world’s most badass mutant hillbilly. This outside conflict doesn’t stop all the squabbling in the group, especially when they discover a vast quantity of cash in the back of a truck. Who will come out on top – the convicts, the cops, the mutant hillbilly? And who will get the money? I hope the hillbilly. Think of the possibilities! Wrong Turn 4: The Beverly Cannibal Mutant Hillbillies!
With this third installment the Wrong Turn series has officially established itself as one of the conceptually weirder horror franchises currently operating. Wrong Turn was a fairly standard city-person-trapped-in-rural-hell horror flic, and was followed by the shockingly superior Wrong Turn 2, which took things into cheekier meta territory. Now Wrong Turn 3 continues keeping things conceptually fresh by pulling the story away from the horror world a bit and into the crime/action genre… with unfortunately mixed results.
If I’m following the continuity correctly, this film takes place roughly seven or eight years after the end of Wrong Turn 2, as our two villains are an adult mutant hillbilly and a young mutant hillbilly boy; presumably the remaining adult and infant hillbillies revealed in the final scene of WT2, now all grow’d up. The film’s cold-open sees our lone wolf and cub mutants attacking a coed foursome of river rafters. The sequence is awful in nearly every way film can be awful (aside from one girl taking her top off, I guess), and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t dreading the remaining 85 minutes of the film after watching it, but then the film surprised me with its lengthy and uncharacteristic set up…
The previous two WT films began with our heroes already out in the middle of nowhere, with little to no backstory necessary. WT3 suddenly throws us into an entirely different kind of film: prison escape! We witness a tenuous escape plan alliance formed between a Mexican gangster, Chavez (Tamer Hassan), and a skinhead, Floyd (Gil Kolirin). Then we meet the prison guards, including our de facto hero, Nate (Tom Frederic). Then we learn that one of Chavez’s buddies is an undercover Fed, and Nate and his crew are given the task of chaperoning Chavez, Floyd and a veritable Con Air of other convicts to another facility. Then we meet the small town sheriffs of the area they’ll be driving through (ie, cannibal mutant hillbilly country). And this is all before we learn that one of the river rafters is still alive – Alex (Janet Montgomery). Now I was getting a little excited. That’s a lot of potential bodies.
Of course the prison transport bus ends up crashing (thanks to papa hillbilly), and the guards and convicts find themselves stuck in the woods, the convicts still in shackles. Things get even stickier once Alex shows up, babbling about monsters, and even stickier yet when the gang finds an old armored money truck upside-down in the woods (presumably crashed by the hillbillies long ago). Now there’s a bit of Treasure of the Sierra Madre thrown onto our cannibal hillbilly and criminals on the run Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Alas, the movie basically plateaus around here and never recovers.
While I fully respect what WT3 was going for, the film just can’t quite pull it off. If I’m supposed to be engaged by characters in-fighting with each other instead of simply fighting the monsters trying to kill them, then I need to be interested in the characters and their motivations (see Pitch Black). Here I wasn’t. The acting is average-to-bad depending on the character, and the characters are standard horror movie 2-D. For example, we learn that our hero Nate wants to be a big city lawyer in his first scene. This is meant to give him depth, but they might as well have said he wants to be a painter or astronaut, as it’s ultimately a trivial detail and never really informs anything he does in the film. He’s a generic hero. Alas, character in-fighting is really the heart and soul of the film. Who has the guns – and controls the group – seems to change hands back-and-forth every ten minutes. The movie needed to kick it up a notch with the crime-thriller shenanigans at some point if it was ever going to truly work. As it is it simply gets monotonous.
When the film pokes its head into slasher territory now and then it starts to feel more sure-footed. There are some fun and decently inventive kills; the best of which will seem all the more fantastic if you’ve never seen the it-slices-it-dices opening scene of Cube. Though even on the horror front WT3 comes up a little short. The hillbilly cub dies very early on and we’re left only with papa cannibal, and despite being seemingly bullet proof, he just isn’t that scary. He’s small and skinny and looks basically like an ugly old man (annoying cartoon cackle and all). I realize they were trying to stay on book with the continuity, and that’s respectable, but I found myself missing the grand mutant family from WT2 nonetheless.
And this is admittedly incredibly nitpicky, but the film never actually features a wrong turn. The prison bus isn’t lost – this is the route it’s supposed to be on. Which makes it seem more like the mutants are calling an all-out war on civilization if they’re attacking entire buses now. I realize the series is not built solely around the idea of wrong turns, but come on.
Fans of the series should definitely check the film out. Those hoping for a repeat of the surprise magic of WT2 can stay away.
I had some minor issues with the image compression, but I think that might just have been my player. The special features are actually quite excellent, namely a three-part featurette which really takes you into the production and gives you some insight into the film – like the fact that the film was shot in Bulgaria with a 100% British cast, which will retroactively explain why so many of the performances in the film feel slightly off.