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If you love horror movies then you’ll be more than familiar with the idea of the indestructible killer.  Brought to life in brilliant fashion by John Carpenter in Halloween (1978), the unstoppable serial killer has become a staple of horror movies ever since, and if you’re a movie studio with a death-defying killer on your books, what can you do?  The answer is: make as many movies featuring them as you can before the public gets too tired of them.

This is the way the makers of the Wrong Turn series have gone, and since the debut of Three Fingers, Sawtooth and One Eye back in 2003 – yes, it’s been that long – they’ve sliced and diced their way through unlucky teen after unlucky teen and carved out a place for themselves in the world of low budget, made for home video horror movies.  And if anyone thought, eleven years ago, that the original would spawn five sequels, then they should be predicting lottery numbers and not how many cheap variations can be made out of one less than expandable idea.  Which leads us to:

Wrong Turn VI

aka Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort

D: Valeri Milev / 90m

Cast: Anthony Ilott, Chris Jarvis, Aqueela Zoll, Sadie Katz, Rollo Skinner, Billy Ashworth, Harry Belcher, Joe Gaminara, Roxanne Pallett, Radoslav Pardanov, Danko Jordanov, Asen Asenov

Part four – the aptly titled Wrong Turn 4 (2011) – attempted to provide an origin story for the series’ trio of maniacal cannibals, but this instalment ignores that attempt altogether and creates another one.  It’s no better or worse than the previous idea, but is indicative of the problems in making a fifth sequel to a movie that told you all you needed to know in the first place.  No one expects a brilliant plot or storyline from a movie with VI in the title, but it’s the feeling that the makers are content to put in as little effort as possible that rankles the most.  There’s the requisite handful of horny, less than whip-smart faux teens to be despatched in occasionally inventive ways, and absolutely no sense that any of the series’ less than iconic trio will ever be put in any meaningful danger or even be injured.

Wrong Turn 6 - scene

Wrong Turn VI tries to be different by having its three deformed murderers involved in a bizarre plot to maintain the “purity” of their hidden community, and which is set largely in a hotel that is “inherited” by troubled twenty-something Danny (Ilott).  It’s ridiculous, nonsensical stuff, a badly constructed hook on which to hang a series of gory murders.  It’s a movie that’s tension-free and treats its audience with a large dollop of contempt, and yet the producers are already planning a seventh movie to foist upon us in 2015.  With all that, it seems equally clear that fans of the series have a low tolerance for the repetitive vagaries of the franchise, and aren’t too bothered if the acting and direction are poor, the dialogue is atrocious, and the trio’s make up varies in quality from movie to movie (Three Finger looks awful in this instalment, as if he’s part melted in the sun).  It’s all about the kills, and one surreal murder involving a fire hose aside, Wrong Turn VI offers little that’s new or inventive or even interesting.

Rating: 2/10 – a chore to sit through, Wrong Turn VI is a waste of ninety minutes of anyone’s life; as mentioned above, the movie is a contemptuous, cynical exercise that deserves to be avoided like the proverbial plague.

So, then, what about…

See No Evil 2

D: Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska / 90m

Cast: Glenn Jacobs, Danielle Harris, Katharine Isabelle, Kaj-Erik Eriksen, Chelan Simmons, Greyston Holt, Lee Majdoub, Michael Eklund, Nancy Bell

Where Wrong Turn VI puts every deformed foot wrong in its efforts to achieve some degree of plausibility, See No Evil 2 is surprisingly nimble on its feet, and, for a sequel appearing eight years after its predecessor, does more with its Halloween II (1981) set up than you might expect.

This is largely due to the involvement of the Soska sisters, Jen and Sylvia, who made genre favourite American Mary (2012, and which also starred Katharine Isabelle).  For once, a horror sequel is in the hands of directors who really understand what works and what doesn’t work, and who manage to elevate material that’s sorely lacking in some departments to a level where those failings can be readily forgiven.  The movie spends time introducing its characters, and does it so well that even Simmons’ airhead gains the viewer’s sympathy.  As with any horror sequel – or pretty much any stand alone horror movie – there’s nothing here that hasn’t been seen before, but it’s the way in which it’s put together that makes all the difference.  And it has a major plus in the presence of Danielle Harris, an actress with a great pedigree in horror movies.

Despite being a WWE produced movie (not always the best advert for a movie – see Leprechaun: Origins (2014) if any proof is needed), See No Evil 2 has a great feel to it, and the Soska’s display an ingenious ability in framing shots and using large areas of unoccupied space to often unnerving effect.  They can’t quite overcome Jacob Goodnight’s uncanny ability to navigate the morgue where the action takes place with such incredible ease, and the flashbacks to the first movie are more for the sake of newbies than anything else, but it’s all done with such confidence that when other things happen just so the movie can move forward, the viewer doesn’t feel like they’ve been treated as if it doesn’t matter.  There’s the expected nihilistic ending, an unexpected twist around twenty minutes from the end, and kills that are effective if not too flashy (or even that gory).

See No Evil 2 - scene

Rating: 6/10 – not so good that you can’t predict how things will turn out, but a well directed and solidly paced sequel that in many ways, improves on the original, See No Evil 2 has a lot going for it; Isabelle provides an amazing turn as the not-quite-on-the-same-planet Tamara, and for once, watching characters running up and down deserted corridors isn’t as demoralising as in other movies.

Comparing the two movies, it seems obvious that care is a forgotten word in the world of horror sequels, and that while See No Evil 2 is clearly the better of the two, it only achieves that position by being lucky enough to have the right directors in place.  Without the Soska sisters, Jacob Goodnight’s second outing would be just another derivative stalk ‘n’ slash horror, with no verve to offset its jarring lack of ideas and solid if unspectacular retread of Halloween II.  Wrong Turn VI doesn’t even have that luxury, and shows how bad a movie can be when it appears that the template is more important than the finished product.  The future for both series’ antagonists is likely to see an even further reduction in the quality of their respective instalments – just how worse the Wrong Turn movies can get will be interesting by itself – but unless their producers really put some thought and effort into what they’re doing then these movies will remain for aficionados only.