Horror movies are not supposed to get better with each successive sequel; nature demands for the law of diminishing returns to kick in, and often heavily. For whatever reason, the “Wrong Turn” franchise has bucked the trend “¦ and who ever thought there’d be a franchise?
The first film was a 2003 box-office fizzle “ a mediocre effort at hillbilly horror that was more boring than anything else, right down to the lifeless gaze on star Eliza Dushku’s face. Enough people liked it for a follow-up, I guess, but not enough to keep it from going straight to DVD, as 2007’s “Wrong Turn 2: Dead End.”
Turns out the destination didn’t matter, because “WT2″ was markedly more fun than its higher-prestige predecessor. Now, “Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead” is here, also debuting on DVD. And surprise of surprises, with more of an action-movie bent, it’s the best one yet.
How is that possible? Like “WT2,” it doesn’t even attempt to take itself seriously “ something the somber original couldn’t wrap around its head. They all concern a group of people trapped in the woods, only to be offed one by one by a family deformed rednecks, but the sequels play like Mad magazine parodies of their forefather, and the franchise is better off for it.
This time, it’s neither a car nor a plane that lands in the crooked neck of the woods, but a bus “ and one full of convicted felons on a prisoner transfer, at that. The bus crashes “Fugitive”-style, sending everyone free. That freedom will be short-lived at the hands (if you could call them that) of Three-Finger, the disfigured patriarch of the cannibal clan.
And that’s where “WT3″ pays off. Admittedly, the film is dumb; purposely, even. But here’s the trick: It knows that and celebrates it, dispatching its cast of annoying characters in a string of elaborate traps that suggest Three-Finger has been taking correspondence classes from Jigsaw. These scenes are gorehound-friendly, to put it mildly. You could accuse the flick of not having a brain in its body, but that’s clearly not the case when Three-Finger makes a meal of one.