Direct-to-DVD horror flicks can be really, really bad. Anyone who wandered down the aisles of a Blockbuster has cast a wary eye on row after row of slasher movies, urban horror movies with zees instead of esses. Every now and again you can find a gem, either something that had had a limited release like Midnight Meat Train or the rare DtV flick made with talent.
Wrong Turn 2 definitely falls into the latter category.
I have a lot of fond memories of the first movie, perhaps more than is actually due. First, I have a lot of fondness for Eliza Dushku, regardless of whatever crap she finds herself in. And I enjoyed the unpretentious take on the backwoods cannibal horror story. Apparently I'm not alone in this assessment, either.
Wrong Turn 2 is also pretty cool. It's not as slick or as creepy, but it makes up for it with a fannish enthusiasm and nutty amounts of gore.
This time, our hapless cannibal bait are the cast and crew of a nebulously defined reality TV show. They're your basic slasher fodder, drawn with a broad brush, but they're attractive and likable. A cute twist is that girl set up as the final survivor is dispatched pretty early on and the damaged goods (and incredibly sexy) goth girl survives to the end. Even the token asshole gets a touch of humanity toward the end.
Even the cannibals, left mostly in the dark in the previous film, get new depth. As the victims make their way through the gauntlet of atrocity, they see their assailants really do act like a family. The father passes hunting skills to the son, the women lovingly tend to their men, and they have even created a perversely domesticated home life. It's all rather touching, if you're willing to ignore the rampant murder and incest. Particular shout-outs go to the father figure, who hits the right balance between affectionate patriarch and cannibal sicko.
The one misstep I had with the movie was the Henry Rollins character. Don't get me wrong, I like the guy and he did a good job. But his character, the ex-Marine survival host, was more capable and dangerous than the cannibal clan. Sure, he gets his before the end, but it always struck me as a weird inclusion for a horror movie. Horror depends on vulnerability, and if you have a character who can Handle His/Her Shit, you take away a core component of the point. It's like that one episode of Buffy where that kid makes a wish to be awesome. Sure, watching a badass is fun, but that's why we have monsters.
In typical Creature fashion, I am completely overthinking my reaction to the movie. I really liked this flick, but it shares a lot of similarities with Hatchet, a film I wasn't exactly glowing over. Watching the special features you can see the fan enthusiasm positively dripping off director Joe Lynch, and he delivers the predictable stuff you'd expect from a fanboy. It's not particularly scary either. The first film was a effective little woods-at-night tale, but this one takes place entirely in broad daylight, trading tension for amazingly rendered gore effects. So what made this a different experience for me?
The nearest answer I can come up with is that Wrong Turn 2 takes its story whole-cloth from horror history but doesn't constantly wink at the viewer like Hatchet. It's a good flick. Check it out.