A supernatural feast fit to make any Halloween season movie marathon real freaky
A little more comedy this time around in the first sequel to SLEEPAWAY CAMP. And a lot more Angela!
A horror ahead of its time, this sequel to Wes Craven's groundbreaking film explores sexual orientation in a nightmarish way.
Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines. 2012. Directed & Written by Declan O’Brien.
Starring Doug Bradley, Camilla Arfwedson, Simon Ginty, Roxanne McKee, Paul Luebke, Oliver Hoare, Kyle Redmond-Jones, Amy Lennox, Duncan Wisbey, Radoslav Paranov, George Karlukovski, Borislav Iliev, Peter Brooke, and Finn Jones. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Rated R. 91 minutes.
Now, I actually gave Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings a rating that, in a totally subjective light, it probably does not deserve. However, I can be a sucker for horror movies with a decent bit of practical gore and a creepy asylum out in the woods, and isolated winter settings in horrors, particularly slashers. So, whatever.
But sweet jesus in the garden (I’m not religious that’s just one of those sayings I’d grow up hearing in my days as a good little Catholic boy before I found atheism) – Declan O’Brien seems to have just taken hold of the Wrong Turn franchise and steered it as hard into the ground as he can possibly manage. With Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines, his efforts get no better. Even worse, the iconic Doug Bradley – immortalized as the villainous Cenobite named Pinhead – shows up here and not only does his character really make little to no sense, he’s just garbage.
I do dig the Wrong Turn franchise simply for the first, second, and yes, fourth, films. Even the fourth is not a good movie overall, but I still dig it. So it’s disappointing to see it keep on going while it gets no better, only worse and worse over time. They’re just milking the entire concept for all its worth, yet – following the metaphor through – there’s no milk left, it’s just like… milking a milked cow? Beating a dead horse works better, but you get the picture.
Although the whole cannibalistic clan in the backwoods trope has been more than fully explore in the horror genre over the years, Wrong Turn as a series has at least had a couple good kicks at the cat (as we say around here – ’cause we’re fucked up where I’m from). Unfortunately, Mr. O’Brien continues to nosedive the series as a whole into the shitter, one bad sequel at a time.
Bloodlines has an even worse plot than the others in the series.
The brothers – Three Finger (Borislav Iliev), Saw Tooth (George Karlukovski), and One Eye (Radoslav Paranov) – along with a serial killer named Maynard (Doug Bradley) escape from the Glensville Sanatorium. They murder people near Fairlake in West Virginia. Complete with very cheesy jokes like when Maynard asks for a hand – and one of the inbred brothers literally holds up a severed hand. HAHAHAHAH SO FUNNY, RIGHT?
At the same time, a group of friends – I won’t bother listing their names because none of it really matters – travel to Fairlake for the Mountain Man Festival during Halloween. On their way, Maynard wanders onto the highway causing the friends to swerve. Naturally the car gets crashed; how’d you know?
When they go to check on Maynard, the old bastard attacks them. They stomp the shit out of the guy until police officers arrive and take the lot of them to lock-up for the night. Of course, one of the young people has drugs on them! So during this big Mountain Man Festival, the friends and Maynard are locked away.
But Maynard warns that his boys are going to come and spring him from the Big House. Everyone thinks he’s talking smack until the brothers descend upon the jail. It’s up to the cooperation between law enforcement, a couple locals, and the out of towner 20-somethings to keep one another alive and out of the grips of Saw Tooth, One Eye, and Three Finger, or their equally disturbed friend Maynard.
First thing’s first – the inclusion of this Maynard character, played by Doug Bradley. Now, I’ve honestly never really seen Bradley in anything other than Hellraiser. Well, Nightbreed, and then there are a couple brief cameos such as during The Cottage, and more recently in Exorcismus. Regardless I love Bradley as Pinhead, there’s honestly nobody else who is ever going to be able to replace him. I feel like certain iconic horror characters, one of which is Pinhead, have such a specific persona that it’s hard to let another actor take that on. For instance, I think it was easier for different people to assume the role of Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees simply because of the silence, the mask; not to say there wasn’t a particular way they both walked, moved, reacted, because there absolutely was, I just feel when it comes to emotion there is none with them so it didn’t require too much true acting (not meant to disrespect the wonderful actors who’ve played both Michael and Jason – much love and respect to them!). But when you look at someone like Pinhead or Freddy Krueger, their vocal tone and the way they say things, though able to be replicated within a certain degree, is a specific part of the character’s make-up. I mean, the newest Nightmare on Elm Street, the terrible remake, had an amazing actor (Jackie Earle Haley) play Freddy, but you just can’t have Freddy with Robert Englund. You can’t, because that guy has the charisma of Freddy; he is, was, always will be Freddy.
So, that was a ramble, about completely different movies. Just saying, I love Doug Bradley. Solely because of Pinhead. In Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines, he does his best with what he has been given by writer/director O’Brien, but the character of Maynard makes no sense. He takes up a good chunk of things at times during a film that’s centred on the bad guys being inbred backwoods hillbillies, crazy cannibals, yet there’s Maynard, an apparent serial killer, all smooth talking and normal.
It makes no sense. I hate his character.
Even worse is the fact that he’s not just a bad character, Maynard – he is jammed into the script, messing with an already feeble story. Maynard sort of bosses these brothers around, and that’s just completely nonsensical. I’m not looking for the Wrong Turn series to reinvent or innovate the horror genre, turning it in some new direction. I’m not even looking an elaborate plot. However, there’s got to be common sense, even in this survival horror type of stuff these films have going on. What I’m saying is – there’s an early scene where Maynard cranks one of the inbred brothers with a wrench, the cannibal goes down. He grabs his face, looking as if he’s hurt.
SORRY DECLAN! YOU SHIT THE BED THIS TIME!
These inbred cannibal brothers are said to have a condition where they can’t feel pain – I forget the exact name. They say it in Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings, back in the 1974 scenes at the asylum. Yet Maynard whacks the guy with a wrench, that’s all there is to it. I mean, c’mon! If this were any bit sensible, the brother wouldn’t have even moved with the wrench’s force, he wouldn’t murdered that Maynard idiot, and moved on to the next kill.
Then it leads me to: how did Maynard ever get to a point where he was able to reason with these brothers anyway? They’ve got no loyalty other than to one another. Anybody they come across it seems the brothers just attack, kill, eat, whatever. So how did Maynard manage to even gain dominance over them? Sure, I’m reading way too deep into a cannibal horror movie. But am I? This movie, the whole series, is not complex, so can’t Declan O’Brien at the very least write a decent script that’s logical? Not really that hard. This could’ve just had sensible writing, if anything, and even with all the terrible dialogue O’Brien comes up with there at least would be common sense, characters that weren’t just thrown in for no apparent reason.
There’s not a single redeeming quality in the entire movie – acting is all atrocious, even Bradley can’t save the sinking ship, and the blood/gore is all as bad as it gets in any of the films. At least early on the practical effects were still decently done, well enough to keep a horror fanatic interested (I think most of that died after Wrong Turn 2: Dead End & Joe Lynch).
Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines is a 0 star film. I really can’t bring myself to give it any stars whatsoever. There’s nothing worth giving a star. Not even Bradley, because the character itself is so god damned useless to the whole story overall that it boggles my mind.
Declan O’Brien can’t even keep together the meagre plot of the film because he seems to have trouble following the logic of the Wrong Turn series, and worst of all he can’t keep straight things that he himself wrote in previous instalments. I wonder how much they offered Doug Bradley to do this movie, I’m also pretty curious if they looked at anyone else other than him first in terms of well-known horror names – because obviously the character of Maynard was an excuse to put a recognizable face into the film. There’s no other reason to have that character in there unless to put someone noticeable in the part, it did not in any way add to the film’s story and certainly was not a memorable character. Not to mention there’s a sequel, and I’m more than positive Maynard is nowhere to be found there. Makes no sense whatsoever.
If you want to complete the whole series, go ahead. Otherwise just skip this piece of garbage. They replaced O’Brien for the next sequel, not that it would do much of anything to help. This series has gone steadily downhill since the first film, though the second was good (plus I’m guiltily into the 4th movie). Time to call it quits, but I hear they’re setting up a 7th instalment for 2016/2017 release. Wow.
The People Under the Stairs. 1991. Directed & Written by Wes Craven.
Starring Brandon Adams, Everett McGill, Wendy Robie, A.J Langer, and Ving Rhames. Universal Pictures. Rated R. 102 minutes.
★1/2 (Blu ray release)
I really have a thing for Wes Craven. Do you think he knows?
He’s written and directed some incredibly disturbing, unsettling, and wild horror films. Let’s count the great ones, shall we? The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, Swamp Thing, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes Part II (maybe I’ll draw some ire by planting that one in here, but I love it, and think it’s unfairly maligned by a lot of critics and horror fans), The Serpent and the Rainbow (directing credit only), Wes Craven’s New Nightmare, Scream (directing again only).
This is not to mention the bunch of other fun horror films he’s had a had in producing, such as Feast, Wishmaster, and the fantastic remake of his own The Hills Have Eyes. I mean, for A Nightmare on Elm Street alone Craven gets a spot on the top horror masters of all time. Brilliance. But there are a few of his films (such as the aforementioned sequel to his The Hills Have Eyes) which don’t get the credit they deserve.
Cue: The People Under the Stairs.
At first the film could appear to be a crime thriller about some robbers, but (aside from having Craven’s name on it) you can quickly tell it isn’t going to be the same old story. The film starts off with “Fool” Williams living in a ghetto in L.A. His family is soon to be evicted. Luckily, or realistically unfortunately, for Fool, he knows Leroy who is a lifetime criminal. They quickly decide to rob The Robesons, who lovingly call themselves Mommy & Daddy (played fabulously by former onscreen husband & wife in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, Wendy Robie and Everett McGill), who live in a big, old house with only their daughter Alice. Once they get inside the house, hoping to find all the supposed riches the Robesons have hidden away, they discover, to their horrible surprise, it isn’t any treasure Mommy & Daddy have been hiding; the secrets in the house are far worse.
I really love the trailers for The People Under the Stairs because it has such a creepy, dreadful feeling. It starts with the ominous “in every neighbourhood… there is a house that even the adults talk about“, or something similar. Just superbly disturbing. Once you get into the film, past the bits of ham, there are some wild bits that really creeped me out. In particular, Everett McGill puts on a suit at one point that turned me away, by pure fright, from leather – long before I ever enjoyed the devilishly fun first season of American Horror Story, and the Rubber Man.
One thing I love is how hard Craven attacks the Reagan era. Particularly, you can see how he is really skewed in the Mommy and Daddy naming of the two crazy people who own the house. It’s known that Ronald often called his wife Nancy Reagan “Mommy”. While Nancy called the Commander-in-chief “Ronnie”, you can still see, along with the rest of the film skewing his era of presidency, how the names Mommy and Daddy were certainly meant to really poke at the political & social commentary of The People Under the Stairs. Even at one point when Fool is looking around the house, he comes across a television set, which is clearly blaring graphic news reports of armed forces conflict (most likely they’re videos from the Gulf War which ended the same year this film was released). I mean, Daddy even stalks Fool and Leroy around the house, eventually shooting Lero, using a high-powered pistol with a red dot sight on it. The artillery Daddy is packing in that house is beyond simple home protection. I think there’s a little message about guns, or at least the military, under Reagan floating around here.
It all lines up, with the plot itself of course, to be very clear Craven doesn’t only intend this as a sometimes campy other times disturbing little horror flick. There’s more than meets the eye.
The acting here is generally pretty good. Rhames is decent in his small part. Really it’s McGill and Robie who shine here. They’re perfect for the role. Of course, they were also perfect on Twin Peaks, so I didn’t doubt they’d do a great job here. Everyone else fills out the cast just fine for the most part.
The People Under the Stairs is mainly all about the plot and story. I liked where it all went. It was disturbing and creepy. Plus, there are some fun and camp-ish moments that really fit well with the overall film. I really do think this movie works as a social metaphor. I’ve seen a few good theories. One in particular talked about how there was, especially around that time in the late 80’s and going into the 90’s, a big divide between those being oppressed and those who were aware of the oppression. Maybe even not so much the times, it’s something that always happens. Generally, until a situation completely boils over (such as it would in 1991 after the Gulf War ended and then Rodney was beaten a month later, one of the many, continuing brutalities committed by police against black men), there are pockets of society unaware of how serious a particular group is being oppressed, and often times eradicated. Here, we see a couple black people break into a home only to discover there are white people literally trapped in the walls. The divide between these two groups being held down are Mommy and Daddy, perfectly representative of Ronald Reagan and his administration in the White House.
I don’t know – maybe it’s nonsense. But I happen to agree with the person who was giving out the theory. Others seem to agree. I don’t mean it’s a perfectly and amazingly profound film, it’s still a weird and wild horror, but there is definitely something else behind it. Craven intended The People Under the Stairs to speak both to horror fans, as well as those looking for a bit of social commentary in their movie-going experience.
As a film, I’d absolutely have no problem saying this is worth 4 out of 5 stars. I think Craven has taken a few missteps in his career, but this is not one of them. Some don’t particularly put this at the top of his filmography. Me, however, I believe it’s one of the better written horrors Craven has done simply because there is bit more meat to it; it isn’t all blood and guts and scares. There is a little dark comedy, some hammy acting, and disturbing moments, all wrapped into one package. I dig it.
The Blu ray is not great. Aside from the picture, there is nothing worth talking about. Literally nothing. You can put on subtitles, pause the film, or look through its chapters. Other than that? Don’t count on wiling away the hours on special features. There are none at all. Too bad. I wouldn’t have minded a bit of behind-the-scenes stuff, a featurette or two. Nothing here.
It’s still worth it to own this fun horror on Blu ray. The picture quality is fabulous. Makes a great 1990’s horror classic look pristine. If you haven’t yet experienced The People Under the Stairs do yourself a favour and watch it soon. Especially if you’re a fan of Craven; this one deserves more attention and less ridicule. I think it’s a solid horror, a little different from most. There are even some pretty gory bits just before the hour mark hits. This definitely stands out among a lot of shitty 1990’s horror.