It's nice to know that creativity and the need for artistic expression don't drive every moviemaking decision. It's just so refreshing to find situations in which the lure of easy money, the need for the almighty dollar, and the rarely used concept of the commercial cash grab mandated what films are made as well as what we get to see. Take the Wrong Turn franchise, for example. Instead of struggling with competent scripts, original ideas, and any real sense of genre movie imagination, this low budget artistic ATM just liberally borrows from better films and sets up its numerous Swiss bank accounts. Now at installment number three and showing no signs of stopping, this flimsy, flaccid fright excuse can't be bothered to do much except manufacture expectations and then take poor horror fans of their hard-earned dosh. But since that's all it ever strived for in the first place, is it fair to marginalize this latest movie? In the case of Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead the answer is YES!
Having never seen Deliverance, a group of college age river rafters head out into the West Virginia wilderness for a little rest and recreation. Cannibalistic hi-jinx ensue with one gal escaping. In the meantime, a prisoner named Chavez is preparing a break-out. Thanks to some inside information, his plan is thwarted and he is carted off with some fellow inmates to another institution. Along the way, they are ambushed by Three Fingers and Three Toes, the aforementioned flesh eaters. Soon, the inmates, along with genial guard Nate and the previously mentioned last girl, are battling it out with these blood-drinking baddies, struggling to survive against all odds and numerous inbred booby traps. When they stumble upon an old armored truck loaded with cash, things go from dangerous to downright lethal among the convicts. Only greed can keep a group of able bodied individuals from worrying about some deformed mutants on a murderous spree.
Frankly, we liked this film a lot better when it was called The Hills Have Eyes (pick your particular era-appropriate version - '80s or '00s). Better still, the Sawyer clan from the far superior Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies (or, again, if you're playing with current house money, the Hewitt/Hoyt clans) should step up and sue for defamation of character and outright theft of their skin-snacking terror trademark. In fact, the entire horror genre should gather together and class action this boring little turd back to the cinematic stone age (or the direct-to-video shelf of the Reagan years) where it belongs. Certainly there's nothing wrong with inventive kills that test the boundaries of human physicality and gorehound proclivities, but at least old school scary movies rendered said deaths in a semi-believable manner. Between the added CG blood (validating the "unrated" label on the cover), the equally lame computer generated kills (including a downright laughable "egg slicer" gag) and the substantially 'less than Savini' mutant character make-up, and you've got a joke in search of some legitimacy.
Of course, it never finds any. Director Declan O'Brien, stepping in where fellow shoulder shrugs Rob Schmidt and Joe Lynch have dared tread before, shows the Sci-Fi Channel chops he exhibited with such stellar made for TV macabre as Rock Monster, Monster Ark (a personal fave) and Cyclops. While competently put together and decent in a genuine journeyman style, the overall level of dread he creates is inversely proportional to the actual amount of dumbness on display - and this film is basically brain dead. As a result, the viewer has little to do except sit back and wait for the Threes to show up and start slaying. The dynamic between the rest of the cast, victim fodder all, plays out like a poor version of several made-for-TV police/prisoner dramas. And if that wasn't bad enough, we get a bloated local sheriff who stumbles in with his far too fetching deputy to make sure we have enough grist for the gruesome movie mayhem mill. Like a creatively vacant slasher film, Wrong Turn 3 is all slice and dice set-up. That's it - no social commentary or attempt at redemptive real world meaning.
Some can argue that the kills are clever and fun, and while it is intriguing to see some dork trifurcated, if you've witness one onscreen statistic buy it via a long spear in the mouth, do we really need the same death repeated twice over? Even worse, we get some surreal cage/stake snare that supposed to impale someone, but all its ends up doing it trapping one of our carnivorous killers before exiting the film forever. For every bravura moment of brain tasting, there's way too much barbed wire fu - and since most of the nastiness was added in post, these digital deaths have far less impact. We don't care about the individuals being picked off and the entire escape storyline seems pointless and anticlimactic (you just know the inmates are deliberate dead meat). As a result, Wrong Turn 3 turns dull rather quickly. If you liked the first two films, you'll probably discover something to enjoy here. Otherwise, this is just another in a long line of rip-offs targeting the always gullible genre crowd. You think we would know better by now. Sadly, horror hope, and crap like this, springs eternal.
Here's a word of advice for studios looking to supplement their income with cheap, off the cuff sequels to already sketchy films - don't release the results on Blu-ray. Every production defect, every 'must be Bulgaria' backdrop, every obvious use of greenscreen (for driving sequences) and CG effects become sore thumb evident and wildly distracting. At first, the AVC-encoded transfer looks pretty good. The 1080p 1.78:1 widescreen presentation offers nice contrasts, balanced colors, and an excellent level of detail. As the movie moves from the opening kills to the prison set-up, the situation is the same. Once we get into the main portion of the film, however, the forest setting and attempted gloomy atmosphere render the picture problematic. There is evident grain, some poorly executed "day for night", and a finale that fails to offer any real "red blooded" pizzazz, if you get the meaning. While somewhat polished and professional, there is a still a significant low budget patina to both the movie and the blu-ray.
On the sound side, things improve significantly. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix uses the back channels quite a bit, providing a nice level of mood and ambience. You will hear leaves rustling, rivers running, cannibals screeching, dogs yelping, and grue splattering as the speakers spark with an interesting level of immersion. The dialogue driven middle section (yes, this is one of those fright films where everyone talks incessantly like an exposition machine) is easily understandable, and the overall effect is clear and crisp. Standard Dolby Digital 5.1 is provided for Spanish and French speakers, as are subtitles in said languages, English, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Korean.
There are only two bits of added content here, and only one warrants your time. The deleted scenes consist of two pointless moments of non-action (in standard definition). The three-part behind the scenes featurette is intriguing for the production information it provides. Director O'Brien makes no excuses for his film - he realizes he is creating pure genre schlock and doesn't really mind. He champions the ex-Soviet locations (interesting fact #1) and the various multicultural cast members (interesting fact #2). Indeed, many in the cast are Australian or European, and hearing them speak in their native accents is a treat (interesting fact #3). We do get a bit of backstage F/X work, as well as some EPK level praise, but overall, the Making-of is the best part of the Wrong Turn 3 blu-ray experience.
While there are some compelling moments here and there, Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead should have taken its own titular advice. Fans of the franchise might want to rent it, while the vast majority of the movie going public would be best served with a score of Skip It. Unfortunately, no amount of critical advice will keep someone who sees the words "cannibal" and "gore" in the same article from foaming over the potential arterial spray on display. Here's a caveat - there is indeed blood. But when you consider the premise, and the ability to release practically any level of sluice on an "Unrated" disc, the amount of vein juice present is underwhelming. At least Wrong Turn 3 doesn't try to get all artsy fartsy on us. It wants to make its money and be done with it. Take the last part of said sentence and save yourself the trouble....and the tedium.
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