Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #104
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: October 9, 2007
Sub-Genre: Backwoods Slasher
Country of Origin: Canada/United States
Box Office: $9,000,000
Running Time: 96 minutes
Director: Joe Lynch
Producers: Jeff Freilich, Erik Feig
Screenplay: Turi Meyer, Al Septien
Based on Characters by: Alan McElroy
Make-up Effects: Keith Lau, Vince Yoshida, Monique Venier
Special Effects: Bob Comer, Dan Keeler
Visual Effects: Andrew Karr
Cinematography: Robin Loewen
Score: Bear McCreary
Editing: Ed Marx
Studios: Summit Entertainment, Constantin Film, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Stars: Erica Leerhsen, Henry Rollins, Texas Battle, Aleksa Palladino, Daniella Alonso, Steve Braun, Matthew Currie Holmes, Crystal Lowe, Kimberly Caldwell, Wayne Robson, Ken Kirzinger, Ashlea Earl, Clint Carleton, Rorelee Tio, Jeff Scrutton, Cedric De Souza, John Stewart, Bro Gilbert
Suggested Audio Candy:
Bear McCreary Ending Theme
The dreaded sequel can really piss from a great height on a decent concept. I’ve seen it happen far too many times, where a new venture amasses a tidy cult following and performs well enough to allow for expansion,only to fall at the very next hurdle. Our hopes are raised when the original director returns to their chair and carries on where they left off but, more often than not, they pass up on the opportunity for franchising, and the ominous pleasure falls to another young hopeful with an entirely different vision of how to proceed. This can have disastrous results and lead to a brand being desecrated, should said upstart be content with doing the absolute bare minimum. Mercifully, Joe Lynch doesn’t fit that particular bill.
Wrong Turn was a more than commendable effort, of that there can be no doubt. However, it benefitted greatly from being in the right place at the right time. Marcus Nispel’s 2003 reboot of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre surfaced at around the same time and, despite not being the travesty it could have been, was considered a little too glossy and lacking any of the raw terror of its notorious predecessor. Rob Schmidt’s flick then materialized seemingly from thin air and capitalized on Leatherface’s faltering fortunes, leaving Schmidt to walk away with head held high and pockets bulging. However, when he declined to return for the inevitable sequel, the omens were starting to look decidedly ominous.
Enter Long Island-born director Lynch who entered the fray as something of an unknown quantity. This was to provide him with his first stint behind the camera and an opportunity to place himself squarely on our radars. With Wrong Turn 2: Dead End landing four years after the original, any momentum had now been lost, and I’ll be the first to admit that my expectations were set somewhat realistically. However, barely five minutes in, as the axe slammed the asphalt, amidst entrails and a sheared cross-section of our first sorry victim, I settled back into my seat like Blofeld (minus the cat) and gestured it to the fore with my fingertips, complete with self-satisfied smile and protruding lower jaw. He certainly had my attention.
Somehow, Lynch delivered in his opening scene, something worthy of the horizontal treetop axe dispatch from the original, nay worthy of any splatter flick out there period. Using entirely practical effects, his team went to great lengths to ensure their prop corpse looked authentic. Every miniscule detail, down to the freckles on the legs of our haphazardly hacked hot-pot, was up to snuff and evidently a lot of care and attention had been lavished on giving the desired effect. The result was irrefutably handsome and Wrong Turn 2: Dead End had arrived with a most welcome splat. However, the cocky grin was soon wiped from my gormless face when I considered where the hell Lynch could go from here and I returned to earth with a startling bump. With original heroine Eliza Dushku declining to return (ironically as our delicious entrée), it was left to a whole new cast of hopefuls to carry the torch.
Set one year after the events of the first film, Wrong Turn 2: Dead End provides a much larger pool of protagonists than previously. Retired military commander turned TV personality Colonel Dale Murphy (Henry Rollins) and his crew are shooting a simulated war game reality show in the same West Virginia woodlands and have a cluster of spoiled celebrities all chomping at the bit to earn their imaginary stripes. All stereotypes are present and correct, with token slut, goth, jock, goofball and tough as nails Latino chick all present and correct. With all pawns firmly in place and Three-Finger and his cohort lurking in the undergrowth with intent, it’s game time.
Whilst hardly the most ingenious premise, we can work with it, so long as other factors play to form. They do and Lynch makes up for any lack of originality with a breakneck pace and numerous well-staged set-pieces. Moreover, he flings a cat amongst the pigeons early doors by snuffing out his potential final girl at an untimely juncture, leaving the field wide open in the process. I applaud this courageous approach as Wrong Turn 2: Dead End doesn’t provide anyone with a free pass and it soon becomes a frantic dash for the finish line, with our remaining celebs meeting the sharp edge of whichever weapon the inbreds have handy at the time.
Rollins Band Hotter And Hotter
Rock and roll legend Rollins offers the most pleasant surprise as our no-nonsense troop leader and takes to his action hero role remarkably well. Musicians traditionally struggle to make the transition to the silver screen but he sets his sights with reticence, slotting in like a well-lubed Johnson. We may not see him lighting up Broadway any time soon but a future in horror is certainly on the cards, should he opt for this career path. Meanwhile, everyone around him rallies round and there are no weak links in the chain.
Of course, much of the impetus is placed on the kills themselves and, after such a magnanimous start, it seems inevitable that the only way be down from hereon in. The dispatches are something of a mixed bag and some solid practical FX is tempered by the occasional (and totally unnecessary) use of CGI, sadly a staple for later entries. Quite frankly, these instances stick out like a buffalo in a burger bun and feel lazy after an opening eradication worth its weight in gold bullion. However, thankfully it is used sparingly.
Wrong Turn 2: Dead End is the kind of follow up I hang out for. It knows its boundaries and stays obediently within them, delivering the requisite splatter and plenty of amusement to break things up. It’s chief crime is actually its epic budget-depleting intro, as Lynch sets himself a mountain to climb and, whilst clambering valiantly towards the summit, never quite gets to plant his flag. That said, I never once checked my watch or pondered what to have for supper once the credits rolled and that, in itself, is cause for celebration. I’ve sat through some soul-destroying sequels in my time and am thrilled to report that this ain’t one of them.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: There is plentiful splatter on the platter here, to the tune of around 300 gallons of deep red coulis and enough innards to feed a family of hillbillies for a month. Lynch focuses wisely on upping the grue quota significantly and over double the body count attests to his endeavor. However, our crowning moment arrives so early in the game that it spends the rest of its 96 minutes on catch-up detail. Thankfully, we are provided with a pair of perky pink pretties as an additional bargaining tool and my grandmother always taught me never to look a gift horse in the mouth so I’m not about to complain.
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Copyright: Crimson Quill: Savage Vault Enterprises 2013 (Revised Edition 2016)