“We have 182 patients. Most are horribly deformed, due to inbreeding and birth defects.”
If you’re a horror fan at all, then you have more than a passing familiarity with three of those patients. Back in 2003 we were introduced to Three-Finger, Saw-Tooth and One-Eye in the sleeper horror film Wrong Turn starring Buffy and Angel favorite actress Eliza Dushku in her first staring role, capitalizing on her television fame. She was good in the movie, but our three deformed cannibals were something that we just haven’t been able to forget. Of course, with four movies now, we get the occasional reminder. The trio have been played by different actors over this 4-movie span, but it’s the incredible makeup that has remained consistent enough for us to recognize our favorite family of cannibals.
“These are the Hilliker Brothers. We call them that because Mrs. Hilliker found them in the woods standing over the partially eaten remains of what we think were their parents…Definitely the most dangerous patients in the hospital.”
And don’t we know it. Just ask the countless teenage fodder that have been unfortunate enough to cross their path over the last 8 years. By the fourth entry you might expect a direct-to video series to have run out of steam. When you consider that the first film and the only one to release at the box office took in a paltry $15 million, you might really be questioning the sanity of picking up number 4. I’m here to alleviate any concerns you might have. This franchise is actually getting better, and you could add a ton of worse films to your Blu-ray shelf than Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings.
“Okay, who’s up for a little winey roast?”
When a group of students heads to the West Virginia mountains for a little fun in the snow, why not party at an old abandoned sanitarium? It looks inviting enough … except for that little cannibal infestation, that is. But I’m getting a little ahead of the story.
The film starts with the breakout of the aforementioned inbred crazy people. Before they actually escape, they decide to hang around and have a little fun with the staff. After a little meet and eat the place is left in shambles, where apparently it continued to be 30 years later. That’s when our happy-go-lucky group of students wander inside. From there it’s a game of cat and mouse as the students attempt to survive their encounter with the Hilliker Brothers.
If you look at the title you might expect that this is a prequel of sorts, and in many ways it is. We do meet the three cannibals as children and learn how they ended up loose on society. There’s still about a thirty year gap that remains unexplored here and might well hold some material for future ventures. Now that I’ve seen some of the origin material, I’d like to see more of that gap.
Writer/director Declan O’Brien has been involved with the franchise since the third film. I think he’s been a wonderful addition to the series and appears to continue to take the films beyond just the simple horror formula. This film handles the fodder in a pretty unique way. One of those changes I won’t share because it pretty much gives away the ending. But another important difference lies in the teamwork aspect of the cast in trying to survive the cannibals. This isn’t your typical “everyone goes off and gets picked off one by one” film. The cast is above average and led by a solid core in the four female actors here. Jennifer Pudavick, Tenika Davis, Kaitlyn Wong, and Terra Vnesa deserve special mention here. Each of them are powerful characters and played quite convincingly. I didn’t ever have the feeling that I was watching a typical run-and-chase horror film. O’Brien sets a solid pace that never lets up; he knows how to take full advantage of all of the resources at his disposal, and the cast was one such resource.
Another very sweet resource was the use of a real abandoned mental institution for the location. It is about as creepy and convincing as they come. I half expect to see the ghost of Jack Nicholson’s McMurphy to come walking down the aisle chanting, “It’s medication time, boys”. Of course the production designers added their own nice touches to it all. Combine that with the truly brutal cold setting and this film has far more atmosphere than any of the other Wrong Turn films. No where is the atmospheric setting more evident than in a segment of the escape prologue. The inmates are having their way with the staff and surroundings in a manic explosion of chaos all to the sounds of Johann Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz. It’s like some twisted live-action Fantasia segment. What a wonderful study in contrast that you won’t soon forget.
The kills are also as imaginative as they come. One of the best you’ll ever see involves one of the brothers taking pieces of a student’s body and putting them on a fondue stick with onions and potatoes. They use a boiling kettle of oil to cook the flesh. This is all while the screaming victim watches, strapped down to a kitchen table. These guys don’t really need weapons. They have flesh-tearing teeth that they once sharpened on stone walls. You see, they also feel no pain. That isn’t to say that they can’t be quite creative with the occasional ax, bail of razor wire, or even a huge core drill. It’s all part of the fun, and O’Brien appears to know just when to deliver the goods.
Wrong Turn 4 is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average of about 20 mbps. This high-definition image presentation is hands down the best of the franchise. The low bit rate does offer some black level and shadow definition issues, but over all this is a good looking film. The colors are naturally quite cold and lean very much to the blue side of the spectrum. But reds in the blood and gore offer pretty solid contrast. With all of the snow your white levels are quite vital here. There isn’t any serious shimmer, and the snow both in the air and on the ground has pretty cool, pun intended, texture.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is not quite as impressive. The audio design isn’t quite on par with the really sweet production design. There are some creepy surround effects from time to time, but I don’t think the sound people took enough advantage of the natural environment. Outside we never hear the power of the winter storm that strands them there in the first place. Inside we don’t quite get the distant creep factor that the location offered. Dialog is fine as are the requisite squishy sounds. There’s not a lot of sub action to speak of, either.
There is an Audio Commentary with Declan O’Brien. It is moderated by Bret Levinson, who produced the disc’s extras. He kind of guides the conversation, but O’Brien would have been fine on his own. He offers up tons of info on the budget worries and the effect of the extreme cold on cast and equipment. Apparently the fake blood kept freezing solid. He even points out a messed up shot thanks to the craft services truck.
All of the extras are in HD.
Director’s Die-Ary’s: (7:37) This is one of those day-by-day production journals. It’s very lighthearted and offers tons of behind the scenes stuff.
Making Another Wrong Turn: (12:36) Typical making of feature with cast and crew talking about the production. They share plenty of stories from the set and it looks like a close crew even with the brutal conditions.
Lifestyles Of The Sick And Infamous: (5:13) Some ghost stories about the building.
Music Video: (3:24)
Deleted Scenes: (18:44) Nothing exciting. Mostly behind the story things. There is no individual selection menu here.
This is a franchise that started out on shaky ground. It’s more than a little surprising that it managed to live on this long. But, it’s done more than live on. How often is number 4 the best of a series? Not often, I can assure you of that. But that’s exactly what I found here. There’s something for every horror fan. All of the essential elements are there and we have an interesting group of victims and killers. Production used every cent of their limited budget. O’Brien managed to get a ton of value out of what little money he had. There’s a promise of a 5th in the extras, and I can’t wait. Wrong Turn 4 “gives a whole new meaning to the term freak show”.