Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead

2009

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.

“”Rod Lott

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