Wrong Turn 2: Dead End

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 10/10/07 04:39:55

"A smart, sharp DTV horror sequel. Who'da thunk it?"
3 stars (Just Average)

Remind me to take Henry Rollins with us next time we go camping.

Rollins’ general badassery is one of the reasons the direct-to-video sequel “Wrong Turn 2: Dead End” turns out to be one of the better surprises of late. I have no fond memories of the first “Wrong Turn” - indeed, I have few memories of it at all, other than a few key plot points and the notion that it was dreadfully boring, derivative, and just plain lousy. “Dead End” may be derivative, but it’s definitely not boring, not even in the last fifteen minutes or so when things get stretched a bit too thin and the whole thing starts running out of steam. And lousy? Nope. For all its sloppiness, this is a film that’s smart about its horror, and it uses those smarts to dump in a few strong surprises and a whole lot of fun.

Fun’s the key word here. “Dead End” was made with and overflow of verve and gruesome glee; you can practically feel director Joe Lynch giggling with sadistic delight from behind the camera. Lynch, a short film and music video vet making his feature debut here, displays a visual flair, but more importantly, he reveals a genuine love for the sort of grotesque slasher pic he’s offering up. The film is packed with beautifully (if that’s the word) constructed visual surprises, unexpected shocks that lend the picture a brutality that really works.

Of course, some of that credit goes to the writing team of Turi Meyer and Al Septien, genre veterans who work up some unexpected scream scenes, thanks mainly to a rule they seem to follow, which states that no character is ever safe just because he/she is “the likeable one.” Attacks come from nowhere, and even the sweet, smiling sorts are allowed to be the first to drop. Except the black guy, because - spoiler alert! - he’s not the first to drop. So much for slasher cliché.

I could mention character names, but for all its intelligence, the script still fails to give us anything but cheap, easily recognizable types: the black guy, the obnoxious horny dude, the tough-as-nails Latina, the angry vegan, the sexed-up slut, the nice girl. They’ve all come together to take part in some reality show, a “Survivor”-meets-“The Condemned” survivalist something-or-other with vague rules (something about being the “last one standing”), unnecessary add-ons (a plot point about tripping an alarm that leads you to certain tasks is dropped early on, only to return later, long after we’ve all forgotten about it), and a kick-ass host (an ex-marine with the machismo of the aforementioned Mr. Rollins). Cameras and microphones are conveniently planted all over the backwoods where the game will commence.

Fortunately for us, the video camera concept is ignored fairly early in the movie, so we’re not left watching webcam-quality images of our heroes wandering through the wilderness. What could have become a visual crutch is instead merely punctuation during a few key scenes.

Anyway. Our hapless stereotypes wander a bit too far into those woods, as it’s not long before those inbred hillbilly cannibal mutants from the first movie show up with their hatchets, arrows, and appetites. You can pretty much figure out the rest from there: run, scream, choppity, repeat.

The movie has plenty of fun with its numerous gross-out sequences, and its villains are so over-the-top that their gory excesses sort of become the point of the film. “Dead End” revels in the very idea of extremes while keeping such a light tone about it that the grisly never becomes the ugly. Lynch has found a nice middle ground between disgusting and entertaining, and he holds that balance throughout the picture.

It’s only in the final stretch that the movie begins to slow down too much, perhaps giving us too many mutants and not enough heroes. The finale drags, but even then, we get to see Rollins go ballistic (why hasn’t he ever become an action movie superstar?), and his high-octane brawls with the baddies earn the kind of cheers that make up for stock characters and flat premises. “Dead End” is dirty, wicked fun, a nice apology for the first film’s terribleness, and a giddy reminder that not all of these direct-to-video sequels turn out to be junk.

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