Reviewed By Scott Weinberg
For a reported budget of $15 million, the producers of The Hills Have Eyes 2 churned out one of the driest, lamest, and least exciting "survival horror" flicks in quite some time. And yet, for less than one-third of the cost, Joe Lynch's Wrong Turn 2 turned out to be the much better flick. It's a fast-paced and completely unapologetic love-letter to the old-school '80s splatter sequels like Friday the 13th Part 2 and Texas Chainsaw 2 -- and obviously I'm not ashamed to say I had a damn good time watching the thing.
Forget all your preconceived notions that say "all direct-to-video horror movies suck," because let's face it: Most of the horror movies at your local theater are more than lame enough to earn "DTV" status. (Did you actually pay $9 to go see Skinwalkers? The Reaping? Captivity? Dang I hope not.) Plus, even if "ALL" direct-to-video movies DID suck, then logically you'd have to have a "first" one that doesn't suck. So here it is: Wrong Turn 2: Dead End. I'm not saying it's the greatest thing since sliced mutant, but taken for what it is -- the flick simply delivers the goods.
Loose sequel to the (seriously underrated) Rob Schmidt flick from 2003, WT2 finds a clever enough way to get a bunch of new idiots stuck deep in the West Virginia woodlands: It's a Survivor-type reality series called Apocalypse -- and if I told you that the Apocalypse host was played by the awesomely gung-ho Henry Rollins, you'd start to get an idea that this flick might actually be fun. So after opening with a nastily creative hatchet-job, we settle in for "the set-up." This is the part of the survival/slasher flick that generally sucks dry cheese -- but thanks to a surprisingly swift script by genre veterans Turi Meyer & Al Septien, we actually become somewhat ... interested in these characters! Really? Yeah! At least enough to give you a few "rooting interests" ... which lead to some unexpected (and yes, very nasty) surprises.
Here's who we got: Aside from Rollins' raucous presence we have a veritable who's who of recent horror flicks. The lovely Erica Leerhsen (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) plays snarling bad girl Nina; hardcore hottie Daniella Alonso plays a hard-bitten soldier gal -- and makes much more of an impression than she did in Hills 2; sensitive tough guy Texas Battle also has much more to work with than he did in Final Destination 3 ... and you drooling fan-boys simply haven't lived until you've seen Crystal Lowe (Black Christmas) take an ill-fated skinny-dip. Round it out with an amusing cameo by "American Idol" singer Kimberly Caldwell, a welcome return from Wrong Turn coot Wayne Robson, a surprisingly effective turn by lead gal Aleksa Palladino (The Ring 2) AND some effective grunt-work by former "Jason" Ken Kirzinger. Heck, that's a "low-budget cast" that any genre nut can get behind.
And hats off to passionate horror freak (and, hey, first-time feature director) Joe Lynch for taking what should have been just another disposable knock-off and turning it into a bona-fide treat for the chill-seekers. Once WT2 gets the plot tucked away and starts rolling with the chases, the escapes, the bloodshed, mayhem, cannibalism and craziness, heck, this scrappy little flick just doesn't slow down. (Hell, even the score is good! Well done, Bear McCreary.) Though it's a true-blue horror-show all the way, Lynch tosses in some solid action beats and frequent doses of dark, dizzy humor -- just to keep things fun. Special points due for actually injecting a little (gasp) tension / suspense amidst all the crazy carnage. Plus there are a few genuinely creative touches involving the reality series and its high-tech camera system -- but I won't spoil the fun.
Fox Home Video unleashes Wrong Turn 2: Dead End on October 9th, so feel free to place your Amazon orders, stuff your Netflix queue, write yourself a note, or do whatever it is you do when you catch wind of a horror flick that's probably worth 93 minutes of your time. Frankly I think Fox chose to release the wrong flick in theaters. I saw Hills 2 in a dead-silent opening weekend screening -- while Wrong Turn 2 has a few bits that'll have the splat-lovers cheering in ecstasy.
If you happen to be around Austin in late September of 2007, feel free to buy a ticket to the Wrong Turn 2 world premiere at the Alamo Drafthouse's Fantastic Fest. (And yes, I look forward to seeing it with a half-drunk audience!)