Filmed in Bulgaria over a few weeks this spring, Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines is Declan O'Brien's second time writing and third time directing a Wrong Turn film. The producers have essentially signed over the future of the franchise to him and provided one's expectations aren't very high, it seems like a solid choice.
Hell, he got Doug Bradley (Pinhead) to join up in what may the biggest casting coup in recent low-budget film history.
Most of the cast does the best they can with the script, hiding their British accents and doing blandly efficient American accents (but nobody has a convincing West Virginia accent) and devoting themselves entirely to the performances. The friendships are believable and their murders are brutally emotional. The only real weak spot is Camilla Arfwedson as Sheriff Angela Carter – an in-joke that I appreciate, but that doesn't seem to really have any point other than to name check the writer with no real subtextual connection – who plays it a little stiff, lacking the authority the character needs.
Bradley is, as always, a joy to watch and he really seems to be enjoying himself throughout, playing a murderous cannibal who has been on the run for thirty years. With any luck, he'll be back for the inevitable next prequel/sequel – Wrong Turn 4 was a prequel to the first three films, providing the "secret origin" of the original trio of inbred hillbilly cannibals, One Eye (Radoslav Parvanov), Saw Tooth (George Karlukovski), and the breakout star, maniacal giggler Three Finger (Borislav Iliev). This film is all about documenting their team up with family patriarch, Maynard (Bradley).
If you're going into this looking for inventive murders and some gratuitous titties, then you should walk away entertained as O'Brien uses the backdrop of an Independent Music Festival, The Mountain Man Festival, to justify some twenty-something drug use and casual sex. However, once the murders start, the Festival is pretty much ignored as the town empties out and we follow our hapless heroes as they are killed off one-by-one in empty streets.
The video quality is above par for a film of this budget, and it looks like cinematographer Emil Topuzov knows how to stretch a buck. On the other hand the higher-quality look hurts some of the other special effects. Despite very effective kill effects, the facial prosthetics for the brothers could have used much more attention and the larger murderers are wearing padding that looks a lot like just shoving awkward stuffing up under their shirts.
A problem with the script is that apparently not only are the inbred brothers immune to pain, they can teleport. For example, in one scene, our heroine Lita (Roxanne McKee) stabs one of the mutants in the shoulder and runs away; then in the very next scene, that same mutant is with his brothers across town torturing Lita's boyfriend Gus (Paul Luebke). They magically appear wherever their victims might be, anywhere in and around the town, and are also magically able to set up elaborate murder scenes with no time passing whatsoever.
Maybe that's nitpicking, but maybe it's just sloppy writing. Given that Sheriff Carter tries to get a stoned kid on a short-wave radio to call the Virginia State Police in Moundsville I was less prone to excuse it as such. Hell, the reason I volunteered to review this was because being born and bred in West Virginia, I wanted to represent. And while Moundsville is in West Virginia, Virginia is a completely separate state (for the idiots and simpletons reading) and that slip-up is pretty insulting. Maybe it was just a mistake, but it was a sloppy one.
As we get closer and closer to Halloween, I've been watching more and more low-budget horror films from the past twenty years or so, and while this one has put all its money into the equipment and the murder scenes (and it shows), what it lacks in the rest of the script undermines any attempts to stand out from the crowd, despite Bradley's performance.
A Day in the Death: Behind-the-scenes home video footage of the actors goofing around and getting ready to shoot their death scenes. It's mildly amusing and the actors seem to have a sense of humor about the shortcomings of the script, so that's nice. There are also some brief glimpses of Bulgaria.
Hillbilly Kills: More behind-the-scenes home video, this time focusing on O'Brien and the effects team setting up and filming the various murders from the film. While this is a nice bit of information, I would have preferred a more in-depth look at the processes, as these were the strongest parts of the movie. Bonus points for using actual animal entrails in most of the kills.
Director’s Die-aries: Mostly useless home video of O'Brien setting up a few days worth of shots. These clips don't really give aspiring film makers any real sense of what goes into producing a low-budget horror film. A missed opportunity.
Commentary Track: O'Brien seems enthusiastic and proud of his work here, and admittedly, the kills are impressive. If only the rest of the script had as much attention paid.
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot, Streaming Pile O' Wha?, and Classic Film/New Blu, all here at Comics Bulletin. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is on sale now for Kindle US, Kindle UK, and Nook. You can also purchase his collection of short stories, Coffee, Sex, & Creation at Amazon US and UK. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi televisio
n. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.