As a reader of reviews as well as writer of them, I know I'm on the forigiving side. I liked Declan O'Brien's Wrong Turn 3. I'm not sure fans agreed with me, especially in comparison to Wrong Turn 2 (which I agree is the better of the two), but now O'Brien is back with Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings, and it might top both of them. It's got all the staples of a good old Friday the 13th movie (more than the Friday the 13th remake!), complete with a full-force blast of 21st century intensity.
Although it hardly impacts most of the movie, Bloody Beginnings is technically a prequel, flashing back to everyone's favorite inbred mutant hillbillies during a brief stay in a sanatorium in the 1970s, then settling in during the distant yesteryear of 2003 (shortly before the events of the first film). The cannibal chow consists of a handful of college-age couples: Lauren (Ali Tataryn) and Kyle (Victor Zinck Jr.), Jenna (Terra Vnesa) and Vincent (Sean Skene, who also plays one of the hillbillies), Daniel (Dean Armstrong) and Claire (Samantha Kendrick), Sara (Tenika Davis) and Bridget (Kaitlyn Wong), and Kenia (Jennifer Pudavick), whose boyfriend Porter owns the cabin they're all planning on snowmobiling up to. Unfortunately, they take -- surprise! -- a wrong turn, and end up at the hospital instead, where the hillbillies are no longer patients, just hungry residents.
Wrong Turn 3 was two things that may have irked fans. The first: a change to the formula, offering burly prisoners instead of the usual young and sexy up-and-comers. I didn't mind it, but fans that did can rest assured, this one gets back to where the series began, while throwing in a few slasher cliches for good measure. Our first glimpse of these characters is during a double sex scene: Jenna and Vincent in one bed, Sara and Bridget in another (lesbian victims: exploitation of the new millennium), and they puff-and-pass before they get picked off. Although it'd be a stretch to say any one of these kids had a completely rounded or fleshed out role, they fall into distinct archetypes, and they're actually not too stupid -- they even come up with a successful plan at one point, which is quite remarkable for slasher movie victims. Really, it's almost commendable that none of these characters have a backstory, since a bit of personality counts for more in a film like this.
However, even I was unable to ignore the way 3's limited budget seemed to run out before many prosthetics could be constructed, resulting in several kills forced to rely on the kind of shoddy CGI afforded to DTV fare. Well, gorehounds rejoice: this is where Wrong Turn 4 really shines, going the extra mile to use prosthetics and makeup wherever possible. Only a few shots utilize digital wizardry, and it's easy to forgive given all the good stuff that's going on. Heads roll, skin is flayed, and limbs are ripped from their sockets, spilling gallons of blood in the process. I do suspect some of said blood is computer generated (it's unnaturally bright in the darkness, which seems odd...although O'Brien doesn't mention it on the commentary, so who knows), but if it is, it's the most respectable, realistic CG blood I've seen to date, and it doesn't detract from the ridiculous, Grand Guignol-levels of mayhem on display here. I can't even imagine what'd have to go in a theoretical R-rated edit.
The film's setting is the final piece of the puzzle. The sanatorium itself is pretty striking, and the snowy outdoors provide a good backdrop for the finale, turning the series' trademark woods into a visually different environment. Some people try to reinvent the wheel. Some people mess with a good thing. What O'Brien does with Wrong Turn 4 is work his inspirations inside the walls of the genre, finding the right balance between old and new influences, then sprucing things up with his own creative flourishes (like a gruesome right-to-left 180-degree panning shot, or the film's wicked ending). My only complaint -- which I even bring up solely because I have no others -- was a single confusing line of dialogue that works itself out in after a scene or two anyway. Even if you weren't blown away by the previous film, Bloody Beginnings is a significant leap forward that wears its Unrated status like an entrail-encrusted badge of honor, and just might give fans of the series a new favorite entry.
The DVD, Video and Audio
I can't assess the packaging, video or audio of this release, because 20th Century Fox sent over a DVD-R screener copy, but it indicates final copy should include a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio, English captions for the hearing impaired, and French and Spanish subtitles.
An audio commentary by writer/director Declan O'Brien and "behind-the-scenes" producer Brett Levison is a low-key but engaging little walk through the production of the film. Although many of these stories are inevitably repeated over the rest of the extras, O'Brien covers his reasons for writing a prequel, the constrained shooting schedule, the real weather conditions during the shoot, the location the film was shot on, and other production trivia and memories. Levison is helpful too, asking O'Brien questions to keep the comments flowing. A strong track.
"Director's Die-aries" (7:42) are hit-and-miss; clearly, these were made for the web and tossed together in a reel for this DVD, complete with intros and outros. "Making Another Wrong Turn" (12:37) is probably the best of the featurettes, rising above the usual EPK fluff to give a pretty good overall look at the production (plus, you get to see Dan Skene, Sean Skene, and Scott Johnson riding a water slide in full hillbilly makeup). "Lifestyles of the Sick and Infamous" (5:14) explores history of the set -- an actual sanatorium, built in the 1800s. Interesting, plus, it's funny to see Terra Vnessa giving a talking head interview covered in blood.
Beyond the featurettes, we get a spoilery music video (3:25), and the extras are rounded out by a reel of wisely deleted scenes (18:14) -- the line "dogs in a pound" might've dragged the movie down a whole star.
A promo for FX and the trailer for Martha Marcy May Marlene play before the main menu. No trailer for Wrong Turn 4 is included.
I liked both of the previous Wrong Turn sequels, but Wrong Turn 4 really ups the ante, delivering on all of its promises: a bit of backstory, the chilly setting, and more than its fair share of splatter. Fans of the series should warm up some popcorn, steel their stomachs, and consider this one enthusiastically recommended.
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