Being from Minnesota, I am no stranger to snow and cold weather. However, after living in Los Angeles for almost four years, the only time I usually experience a frigid locale is when I go home for Christmas. It seems this year is the exception, though, because back in March, I was invited up to the Brandon, Manitoba, Canada set of Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings, which will be released on Blu-ray and DVD October 25. Aside from giving me a unique chance to dust off my winter gear, I was in for a bloody good time on the set. No, I didn't just slip into a British accent there for no good reason, I meant the set was really, really bloody.
After two flights and a two and a half hour car ride, we arrived at the Brandon Mental Health Care Centre in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, and I could see right away why they chose this location. It had a very creepy look, almost with an Overbrook Hotel sort of vibe, but this was no hotel. This was actually a former mental institution, complete with most of the old equipment. The place just ooozed creepiness, and it was just perfect for this kind of movie.
Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings centers around a group of friends (Terra Vnesa, Dean Armstrong, Tenika Davis, Katlyn Wong, Victor Zinck Jr., Jennifer Pudavick, Ali Tataryn, and Samantha Kendrick) who end up lost on the way to their remote cabin, taking shelter in what seems to be an abandoned sanatorium. Little do they know that the maniacal cannibals the Hillicker Brothers - Saw-Tooth (Scott Johnson), One-Eye (Dan Skene), and Three-Finger (Sean Skene) - are laying in wait for their next meal. Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings is actually a prequel to the whole franchise, starting back in 1974 with a brief history of the Hillicker brothers inside the mental institution, and the chaos they caused within. We then go forward to 2003, when this group of college kids set off on their ill-fated journey.
The scene they were shooting when we arrived was in the auditorium of this facility, when the group is starting to put all the pieces together: that they're being hunted. As they argue in the auditorium, a wrapped-up jacket comes flying off the stage and onto the auditorium floor. Kenia (Jennifer Pudavick) goes to examine it when they discover it's the head of one of their friends. We watch them rehearse this scene a number of times from the balcony, which actually comes into play in bloody ways a bit later.
Director Declan O'Brien came over to chat with us for a bit, and he also showed us one of the coolest things in the whole facility: an incredibly old movie projector, which ends up getting used in a scene he described for us.
"They find a reel of film from back whenever. They spool it up and turn it on and there's all this old black and white footage we shot, they're watching all the freaks from 1974, and it really worked nicely."
He explained the projector was from either 1910 or 1920, and it actually still works, which is awesome. While the actors were rehearsing the scene, we got to speak with Scott Johnson, Dan Skene, and Sean Skene, who play the Hillicker Brothers. Take a look at what they had to say about this horror sequel below.
Scott Johnson, Dan Skene, and Sean Skene - The Hillicker Brothers
Has it been challenging with the prosthetics and the cold weather?
Sean Skene: I think it actually helped with the cold. Everything on our face is completely covered, so there's no wind chill at all.
Scott Johnson: The first week we were shooting, it was like 35 below, and I didn't realize I smashed my finger on something. It wasn't until five days later.
Can you talk about what kinds of stunts you've done?
Sean Skene: So far, we've been knocked off snowmobiles, clotheslined by a tree branch, hit by 2x4's. We still have a lot more to shoot too.
Can you talk about the level of gore here?
Sean Skene: So far, the blood has been OK, but there is a lot more coming up.
Dan Skene: The bloodiest thing so far is when I shred the Bridget character (Katlyn Wong) with my snowmobile, under my tread. There is this whole rooster tail of blood coming up. Claire's (Samantha Kendrick) death, which is coming up next, is just going to be buckets of blood.
Are you utilized as stunt men on the set?
Scott Johnson: Yeah, we run through doors. It's all pretty authentic. With the cold, and filming outdoors, there's not a whole lot of margin for error. You want to really make sure you nail it.
Dan Skene: Yeah, and our characters are supposed to not feel pain. It's an actual condition, I think, that they found in research.
Do we get to learn more about the background of the family in this one?
Dan Skene: Yeah, with this being a prequel, they definitely touch on more back story.
Scott Johnson: You see how we grow up, yeah.
Since this is a prequel, will there be room for another prequel after this one?
Can you talk a bit about your makeup artists?
Sean Skene: Yeah. Doug Morrow and his team have done a fantastic job creating all of this.
Dan Skene: And we don't even hate them. We spend four hours a day with them and we'll still go hang out with them afterwards. That has to say something.
Sean Skene: The detail they put into it is incredible. Every single day, they put it on, it takes about three hours, and then put the wig on. At the end of the day, they peel it off, throw it in the garbage, and start from scratch, every single day. In my mind, that's crazy, because I don't have that kind of patience.
Dan Skene: Sometimes we'll go in for just one scene, which requires three hours of makeup.
What's it been like shooting in this hospital?
Dan Skene: It's creepy in a very beautiful way. It was built in the early 1900s, and like the kitchen still has all the original boilers and everything.
Which brother is the most twisted, and why?
Sean Skene: Yeah, I feel like I'm still basically six years old in my mind. I've never felt pain in my life. I basically go around chasing people, and having no sense of pain growing up, you have no sense of empathy for anything. You're just having fun all your life.
After we talked with the Hillicker brothers, we went back to the auditorium set where we watched them rehearse the next extension of the scene. It's a close-up of where Jennifer Pudavick's Kenia unwraps the jacket and finds the head, and we watch as Declan O'Brien directs her to get really close to the severed head and scream as loud as she can. We watched a number of takes and it seems Jennifer Pudavick is very committed to getting it right, nailing the rehearsal scenes. While that scene is playing out, in the background we see Samantha Kendrick slowly backing up, and we can just tell this leads up to Claire's death which the brothers told us about. As she keeps slowly backing up, a barbed-wire noose is lowered around her head and she is yanked up to the balcony. The makeup effects team rigs a tube for fake blood to flow around the fake barbed wire noose. After watching a few rehearsals with the stunt double, we watch a real take which looks pretty damn good... and then we hear Declan O'Brien yell "BLOOD!" You guessed it, there wasn't enough blood. The takes progress, with different angles of Samantha Kendrick's hanging. For the record, she's on a ladder for part of it, but when she is actually yanked up by the rigging, it looks rather terrifying. Each take gets bloodier and bloodier, and, after the most blood-soaked take yet, Declan says, "That's lunch." It's rather ironic that everyone goes to eat after the most horrific take of the day, but that's the movie business.
After lunch, Declan took us on a walking tour through this massive facility, but first we saw a brief sizzle reel, which is set to an original song which Scott Johnson wrote for the film, and plays over the end credits. I can't tell you much about the reel, because there is too much spoiler material here, but it looked pretty good to me. The director gave us a lot of historical background on this century-old facility.
"This place had like 2,000 inmates, at one point, a year. It started in 1910, so thousands upon thousands of people have lived and died in here, which really gives you a creepy vibe at about 4 AM."
He also showed us the shock therapy room, which plays into a scene at the beginning that gives us more history on the Hillicker brothers, and gave the cast and crew some real-life scares of their own.
"When young Three-Finger, young Saw-Tooth, and young One-Eye escape, they seek revenge on the doctors who have been shocking them for all these years. That was a fun thing to do, and that night was really strange because all the screaming and shock therapy stuff, this one thing fell down for some reason and the actress blacked out. It was a really, really strange night. It was the only that I thought was super-creepy. We were pushing our luck."
He also took us through the kitchen set, where they were prepping for a unique "fondue" scene (cannibals... fondue.... let your mind wander...), and the uber-creepy isolation room, and then to the coolest set of all, in my opinion: the Hillicker's lair. It is incredibly creepy, adorned with several items from the people they have killed/eaten throughout the years. It actually reminded me a lot of Jason Voorhes' underground lair thing, when I visited the Friday the 13th remake set, only the Hillickers' man-cave, as it were, is in the attic.
"So this is when the girls, they're running away to the top of this thing, and they end up in their lair. These are all the things they've collected over the years, dentures, dolls. When the girls run up here, they find a pile of clothes from all the victims. Otherwise, it's 40 below... and there's just no possible way (they'd survive)."
After the tour, we went back to watch more filming, with Samantha Kendrick still hoisted up to that rig. You really have to hand it to her, being strung up like that for hours on end. They moved on to a new part of the scene where the actors turn around to see her hanging from the balcony. Kyle (Victor Zinck Jr.) runs up to her and tries to pull her down by her legs. By the end of just a few takes, both Samantha Kendrick and Victor Zinck Jr. are drenched in blood. In pure Declan O'Brien fashion, he keeps calling for more blood and, by sheer accident, little bits of blood splatter onto the camera. Declan O'Brien loves the effect, and tries to duplicate it in the next take, but, naturally, he wants even more blood to hit the camera. Sadly, not a single drop hits the camera lens on the next take. I guess even blood can make a wrong turn sometimes.
That about wraps up my visit to the Brandon, Manitoba, Canada set of Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings, which will be released on Blu-ray and DVD October 25.