Written by: Declan O'Brien (screenplay), Alan B. McElroy (characters)
Directed by: Declan O'Brien
Starring: Doug Bradley, Camilla Arfwedson and Simon Ginty
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
Fear will consume you.
Arriving less than a year after Wrong Turn 4, the fifth entry of this impossibly long-running franchise continues the tradition of churning out easily discernable (if not gimmicky) entries. Say what you want about the franchise, but it hasn’t given into simply recycling the same old “dumbshit kids go into the woods and die” routine. In some cases, it’s featured a different breed of dumbshit (like reality TV crews or prisoners), or the setting’s been slightly changed (the last one was a prequel and snowbound to boot), so it’s not like we’ve watched the same exact movie four times. Writer/director Declan O’Brien has clearly found his niche, and he’s back for Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines, where he brings the series out of the woods in an attempt to do a small town, killer hillbilly-laden riff on Assault on Precinct 13.
Set in a small West Virginia town that annually celebrates a Mountain Man Festival, the film reveals that Three-Finger, Saw-Tooth, and One-Eye are in league with a nearby weirdo named Maynard (Doug Bradley). While Maynard isn’t deformed or mutilated like the trio of brothers, he’s a psychopath who gets his kicks out of killing anyone who wanders into the woods. His latest target is a group of kids headed to the Mountain Man festival; after he causes them to wreck, they’re bailed out by a local sheriff (Camilla Arfwedson), who locks up both Maynard and the car’s driver (Simon Ginty) when she discovers his stash of drugs. Unfazed, Maynard ominously warns that his boys will come to bail him out.
They do, and they get a pretty big hand from the characters’ thudding stupidity. Wrong Turn 5 hardly qualifies as much of an Assault on Precinct 13 take-off after all since almost every character goes out of their way to encounter the homicidal hillbillies trying to make the jailbreak. Actually, that seems to be the last thing on their minds, too, since they’re far more preoccupied with savagely mutilating everything in their path. It’s hard to really fault the film for this since the slasher formula demands that the victims have to find a way to get picked off one-by-one, but this one really goes out of its way to defy logic since no one in their right mind would bail on a decently-fortified jail, podunk though it may be. In many ways, this makes it the antithesis of Assault on Precinct since there’s really no sense of momentum as it languidly degenerates into a standard but outrageously savage slasher.
As such, Wrong Turn 5 contains the best and worst elements of a slasher. In addition to being remarkably dumb (even the cops!), most of the characters are either forgettable or unbearable, so much so that Doug Bradley playing a total lunatic is the only noteworthy performance. There’s a ton of filler, most of it in the way of awkwardly hilarious sex scenes, and, once the film announces its intentions to be nothing more than a gory romp, almost every scene that doesn’t involve the cannibals feels like a holding pattern. Without any sympathetic characters to latch onto, there’s little suspense unless you’re all that worried that some of these people won’t get eviscerated. Thankfully, the film complies in that arena; had the previous entries not traveled to the backwoods recesses of my mind, I’d be pretty confident in saying this is the most disgusting and downright vile Wrong Turn so far. While most of the various dismemberments are over-the-top (there’s one featuring a lawnmower that completely obliterates a similar sequence in Sleepaway Camp III), there’s a real nastiness to them too. Wrong Turn 5 carries itself like the silly slasher, but it also has a brutal mean streak that makes it feel totally unhinged and tone deaf, especially since all bets are off in terms of which characters will be offed by the guys’ sometimes elaborate, Jigsaw-esque deathtraps.
Basically, Wrong Turn 5 is everything you need from the fourth sequel in a inbred hillbilly series, but it’s perhaps not everything you’d want. It easily skates by on the bare essentials of great gore effects, but it leaves you wanting for a little bit more. Oddly, the film has an awesome wrinkle that’s completely unexplored. The yearly Mountain Man festival is actually held on Halloween, which would conceivably give the film a cool seasonal atmosphere if it had any presence in the film at all. Despite a character’s insistence that it’s as big as Lollapalooza and Coachella, the festival is practically nonexistent outside of an opening sequence that gives you a glimpse of what could have been, as the streets teem with masked hooligans and festive decorations. Sadly, the festival can’t even be said to serve as window dressing the rest of the way, which is a missed opportunity. If your movie features murderous cannibals and a giant-ass festival of stoned and drunk revelers, the two should probably collide at some point.
Instead, I suppose the budget caught up to the film at that point, so we’re left with just another Wrong Turn movie that’s more or less in line with the rest of the sequels. At least it has the decency to have some wrinkles in the first place, even if it all but irons them out by the time manages to also bungle the Assault on Precinct 13 setup as well. I never would have guessed that I’d ever find myself taking a Wrong Turn sequel to task over wasting its potential, but here we are. At least Fox’s DVD and Blu-ray package is pretty nice; featuring an unrated version of the film, the presentation is stellar, and the DTS-MA surround track gives this one a livelier soundstage than most slashers. A bevy of extras include some behind-the-scenes features, the “Director’s Die-aries,” and an audio commentary with O’Brian. If nothing else, Wrong Turn 5 manages to give the series a bit of a new look by moving it into a bit more of an urban setting (even if the small town is woefully small-town America), and I have little doubt that it’ll be headed in another new direction when the inevitable sixth entry is announced. Let’s hope they make the right turn and rescue the franchise from the tedium it’s begun to sink into here. Rent it!
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