"Don’t leave town," Sheriff Angela (Camilla Arfwedson) tells the group of co-eds she has just released from her holding cells - to which blond, bland Cruz (Amy Lennox) replies: "Oh, we won’t go anywhere."
Cruz is right in more senses than one. Sure, she and her friends Billy (Simon Ginty), Lita (Roxanne McKee), Gus (Paul Luebke) and Julian (Oliver Hoare) are, like pretty much every non-mutant character in the Wrong Turn franchise, headed inexorably for the pot, with little hope of escape – but there is also something rather redundant about Wrong Turn 5 (the third instalment directed by Sharktopus’ Declan O’Brian and, along with his Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings, a prequel), which fails utterly to take the hillbilly horror anywhere new.
The actors beneath the masks and makeup may have changed over the years, but appetitive antagonists Three Finger (Borislav Iliev), One Eye (Radoslav Parvanov) and Saw Tooth (George Karlukovski) have become so familiar in these movies that they are now the franchise’s default heroes, while their constant giggling, comic movements and baroquely inventive murder methods make them increasingly resemble Larry, Curly and Moe rather than fraternal figures of fear.
This creates an awkward dynamic: the teens-in-peril are so thinly drawn and - let’s face it - annoying, that we are confronted with our own desire for their painful and grotesque demise, yet it is equally difficult to get behind their sniggering, inarticulate killers, who are like the Beavis and Butthead of genre. None of these ‘characters’ makes for good company, not least because O’Brien’s writing is so perfunctory, and you will soon find yourself, like the co-eds, longing for escape or an end, but knowing that you too are going nowhere. The murder set-pieces – involving mutilation, electrocution, hammering, burning, slashing, gouging and of course chowing in a range of perverse permutations – quickly become the only relief (of sorts) from the meandering dramatic tedium.
This is movie-making strictly by numbers. The presence of the brothers’ older serial-killing kin Maynard is clearly intended to bring new blood to the proceedings, not least because his menacing garrulousness (expressly irritant to those around him, implicitly to viewers too) contrasts with the muted mutterings of his relatives – but the fact that he is played by Doug Bradley, who has for decades been Pinhead in the never-ending Hellraiser franchise, serves to underline this film’s tired, entirely unnecessary status. In America, Wrong Turn 5 was released with the subtitle Bloodlines; and no doubt the Wrong Turn series, too, will soon, like the similarly subtitled Hellraiser: Bloodline, be resorting to space- and time-travel, in a desperate, flawed bid to survive – but the butchered meat on offer here has long since lost its freshness. Even the ‘original’ Wrong Turn was a stale stew of used parts from Deliverance, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. Now only slim pickings remain – chiefly tits, ass and innards - offering little nourishment and nothing to digest.
There are other things here that go nowhere. A po-faced text at the film’s beginning about nineteenth-century disappearances from Fairlake, West Virginia is never made particularly relevant to the present, nor does it exactly furnish ominous foreshadowing of what is to come (surely most people watching Wrong Turn 5 will already have a fair idea where the story is headed). Little is made of the fact that Fairlake is playing host to the annual ‘Mountain Man’ music festival - an event which is never actually shown (presumably for budgetary reasons) and whose sole narrative purpose would appear to be to empty the town centre of its denizens so the brothers’ slaughtering can go on unwitnessed and uninterrupted. “I think I took a wrong turn,” says one young female festival-goer before granting a local policeman free access to her body in exchange for free entry backstage – and in a film bereft of any actual wrong turns, this is the only (and entirely ironised) reference to its own title.
Indeed, what most characterises Wrong Turn 5 is not deviations nor digressions, but an arrow-straight trajectory down the road of gleeful nihilism. “You’re dead but you don’t know it yet,” taunts Maynard from his police holding cell, “You’re all dead.” It is only one of many such threats (“You won’t live that long”, “one more dead body to add to the pile”, “Your reckoning is on its way”) that he utters, a captive prophet with an equally captive audience – and while there is little in Wrong Turn 5 that is not entirely predictable, there is at least something to be admired in the unflinching strength of its narrative conviction. If Maynard says that something, no matter how horrific, is going to happen, it inevitably does, making him the scriptwriter of a Sadean scenario from which no-one is spared. Unfortunately, though, that includes the hapless viewer…
Wrong Turn 5 is available on DVD rom 28th January – as is a boxset of all five Wrong Turn films.