You can’t accuse the Wrong Turn movies for not trying, and that’s something that I’m willing to appreciate them for. The first film … wasn’t any good, but the second film was at least passable, and provided some decent laughs along with a cast of characters who were so unknown that you never knew which ones might survive. Now, with Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead, we’ve given the good characters a secondary threat, and also given the hillbilly cannibals something else to worry about: people with guns.
After an opening kill scene in which three young adults are killed, our film then moves to a prison, where some convicts are planning an escape. It’s also the last day on the job for our protagonist, Nate (Tom Frederic). He’s going to law school — assuming he can survive the night. To combat the rumors of an escape, it has been decided that the convicts will be moved tonight, not next week as had been scheduled. Nate, along with fellow guard Walter (Chucky Venn), is going to transport them. Some last shift, I suppose.
It gets worse. The transport van is knocked off the road by a tow truck driven by one of the killers from the previous film. I think he has a name at this point; he does in the credits, at least. Some people die, some are injured, and soon enough, the convicts have guns and Nate and an injured Walter are under their command. The convicts, for a lot of the film, are actually more of a danger than this lone cannibal, who is only one of two that we see throughout the film. Why only one? I don’t know. Because the series needed to seem more like a generic slasher?
So, we’ve got Nate and Walter — although Walter doesn’t last too long — a bunch of convicts primarily led by Chavez (Tamer Hassan), and, soon enough, the only survivor from the film’s opening kill scene, Alex (Janet Montgomery). Most of the time, they’re under the command of Chavez, who keeps them alive to carry some money they all found, as well as because Nate grew up in the area and claims to know his way around.
The group dynamics and constant attempts to outwit or escape from Chavez is new for this series. Giving some of our main cast the ability to fight back against our cannibals is also new. It helps keeps things interesting. The suspense the film generates isn’t from watching these people try to survive against the killer, but from watching Nate and Alex try to ensure that Chavez doesn’t scatter their brains around the forest. And Chavez is intelligent, so don’t assume that he’s easy to outsmart.
Now, I don’t know about making for a good horror movie, since very little of Wrong Turn 3 is even remotely scary, but it’s kind of suspenseful, and it’s fun in other ways. In fact, it works best when it’s not trying to be a traditional horror movie. Whenever this movie tries to incorporate its killer’s violent traps, it looks ridiculous. I hesitate to say that the film is too cheap for them, but … it’s too cheap for them to work. The special effects are laughable. Are special effects required? No, but that’s what was used and they look silly. Even the projection used when characters drive a car is awful. It brings you back to the 1950s, I’ll tell you.
You know, it’s weird. We focus on one killer this time, and we see him a lot more, and he’s far less frightening. There’s something about there being a large number of killers, all of whom more than capable of murder, who could jump out at any moment, that’s scarier than this single guy whom we see far too frequently. The makeup used to create this character is as good as ever, but he’s not particularly scary. Giving the main characters guns probably doesn’t help, either.
It’s less of a horror movie than its predecessors — which weren’t particularly scary in the first place — but Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead is actually kind of fun. The group dynamics are interesting, giving the main characters guns means they can, for the first time, truly fight back, and some of the special effects are so bad that you can’t help but laugh. You won’t be scared, but you might be entertained.