I’m not sure which I find most astonishing – that there’s such a thing as a sixth WRONG TURN movie, or that a (tiny, perverse) part of me was actually looking forward to it. The blame for the latter lies with low-budget schlock supremo Declan O’Brien, who directed numbers three to five in the franchise, and did rather a good job of it. Don’t get me wrong, his films are as dumb as they come, but he knows exactly what his straight-to-DVD arrested-development target audience wants, and he delivers in spades. But O’Brien has moved on to pastures new, and the latest WRONG TURN, subtitled LAST RESORT, is written by veteran documentarian Frank H. Woodward and helmed by Bulgarian director Valeri Milev. Injecting new blood into a franchise can be a good thing, but not here. Gone is the non-stop bloodletting and over-the-top gore of O’Brien’s tenure, replaced by a ponderous farrago that only stumbles into life in the final act.
Let’s start with the positives. It takes a while to arrive, but the violence is every bit as vicious as fans of the franchise (there have to be a few of you out there) have come to expect. The effects are exclusively practical (and all the better for it), and there’s lashings of unnecessary nudity. Old favourite ‘Three Finger’ is still in evidence, providing at least a sliver of continuity with previous outings, and the deaths, while more graphic than inventive, form the narrative’s centrepiece. So if all you demand of your horror is explicit death scenes interspersed with softcore sex, you probably won’t have much to complain about.
If, that is, you fast-forward to the sixty minute mark. Because even the most undemanding horror fan will struggle with the first hour. It’s not that WRONG TURN 6 is any more crass, cynical and superficial than its forebears, it’s simply that it takes much longer to get to the point. If you’ve suffered through previous instalments you’ll be used to the nonexistent characterisation, ludicrous plots, laughable dialogue and sledgehammer direction that typify the series, but at least the earlier films were interesting. O’Brien ensured the pace never flagged, delivering his guignol-on-a-budget excess right from the start. Milev opts for a more measured build-up, reserving his chills for the frenetic climax. It’s a time-honoured tactic, but one that only works if you have sufficiently engaging characters, and enough plot, to sustain the audience’s interest. He has precious little of either. The characters are the usual limited horror clichés, and the story barely qualifies as a conceit. To make matters worse, Woodward’s script is slow and stilted, the performances achingly amateur, and Milev directs with all the nuance and insight of a wrecking ball.
Let’s be honest; no one approaches something like WRONG TURN 6 with high expectations. As long as you take it for what it is – the fifth sequel in one of the genre’s least illustrious franchises – you probably won’t be disappointed. There’s enough boobs and blood to arrest the attention of your average adolescent, which is what the straight-to-DVD horror game is all about, and the deaths are suitably inventive. But even for a WRONG TURN movie, it’s a pale imitation of what came before.