Directed by Joe Lynch [Other horror films: Chillerama (2011, segment ‘Zom-B-Movie’), Mayhem (2017)]
When I first saw this one some years back, I found it underwhelming. I know, though, that there is a decently-sized contingent that find this a generally solid sequel, so I was sort of excited to see it again and perhaps wondering if it would move up in my rankings. And after doing so, while it is a little better than I initially gave it credit for, I still don’t think it’s all that memorable.
Aside from, of course, Henry Rollins, who is the sole reason to watch this film if you’re hesitant to do so, as his kick-ass character, from beginning to end, is just fantastic. I’m not saying that Rollins makes this movie great – honestly, while portions are good, I think the film still hovers around average to below average – but without Rollins, I think this movie would lose a lot of the charm it managed to create, as he brings quite a lot as an over-the-top drill sergeant who sends these mutated hillfolk back to their cabins, and how!
I have to admit that I expected quite a lot more from Aleksa Palladino’s character, but in a way, I can understand why they might want to get rid of the obvious final girl somewhat early on. Even so, I found it a bit of a shame, as I did find her character one of the better ones here. Otherwise, you have Erica Leerhsen, who did take a while to grow on me, but I eventually found myself quite enjoying her standoffish attitude.
Texas Battle (what a name, brah) had a quality moral code, which I appreciated (him turning down Yan-Kay Crystal Lowe’s character was nice to see). Battle didn’t stick out as much as Leerhsen, but he was still good. Yan-Kay Crystal Lowe (Final Destination 3, Black Christmas, and Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon) was the stereotypical hot bitch, so while attractive, her character was as hideous as any of the deformed hillbillies. Most of the others, be it Steve Braun, Daniella Alonso (who was also amusingly in The Hills Have Eyes II), or Matthew Currie Holmes, were sort of there, and little more.
Of course, the gore here was pretty solid throughout. I never really cared for the whole cutting-someone-in-half with an axe/chainsaw/hatchet, so the opening kill was more meh, but it still looked good. A hatchet-throw stood out, if only because it struck me by surprise, and the finale was beautifully gory (what with a tree debarker debarking more than bark), though it did lead to a final scene that I thought was unnecessary.
Actually, since I mentioned the finale, I did rather like that paper mill that made for the setting, and when Rollins’ character is running through and blowing people up with his dynamite arrows, it’s a lot of fun, and of course there’s solid tension. I am disappointed by what goes down with Rollins’ character, but I get it.
All of this, though, doesn’t mean the movie’s great. I honestly don’t think it’s necessarily bad, but generally, I thought this hit some of the right spots without fully satisfying me, and some of it is admittedly smaller things, such as that supposed game show. I’m a fan of Survivor, which is partly, I suspect, what that game show is based on, but boy, does it sound unnecessarily complex. I’ll chalk that up to bad design for a reality TV show, though, and not an example of how I wasn’t wowed by this.
Something that does play a part, though, are the deformed antagonists. In the first film, things were kept simple with just three antagonists, but here’s there’s an extended family, and for me, it wasn’t always easy to keep in mind exactly how many family members there were, and related, where those members were at any given moment.
I don’t dispute that Dead End had some solid things going for it, such as the kills and a few of the characters, but despite what it does right, I think this is somewhat clearly below average, though not nearly as badly as many other films.
This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below, if it tickles your fancy, as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss Wrong Turn 2.