You could be forgiven for thinking Wrong Turn is just more slasher dreck that was run through theaters for a couple weeks and then dumped onto DVD. Most critics didn’t give it much love at the time and most just plain took it out in the street and gave it a beating. It’s too bad, too, as much of the audience for this film may have skipped it accordingly. At the time, slashers were on the wane – they’d gone from the revitalizing deconstruction of Scream to the sloppy 8ths of Freddy vs. Jason and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Horror fans didn’t have much reason to be excited.
Doubly sad, then, that Wrong Turn came and went with such little fanfare. The plot is simple enough – in an attempt to get to a meeting on time, Chris Flynn (Desmond Harrington) takes a shortcut down a back road in rural West Virginia and ends up making – you guessed it – a wrong turn. Shortly thereafter, he smashes into the back of another car and soon meets five friends who have also managed to make the same wrong turn. Among them is Jessie Burlingame (Eliza Dushku), a sort of tough loner who exudes no nonsense-ness from the get go. Clearly, she and Chris are destined to be together.
With both cars completely disabled, the six kids have no choice but to set out on foot, leaving two of the friends behind to guard their stuff. The foursome come to a rusty shack in the middle of the middle of nowhere and, in the movie’s most blatant logic hole, go inside when no one answers the door. Fair enough, they’re looking for a phone and Chris is in a hurry. But walking into someone’s house uninvited – especially a house so secluded, a place most likely run by folks who don’t much prize the company of strangers – is pretty much off the table unless someone in your crew is bleeding to death. Despite this, the kids go inside.
This leads to what is probably the best bit of suspense in the entire film, with the owners of the house coming home and our heroes hiding in every available crevice. They are then witness to the day-to-day workings of this mountain clan – who haul in the bodies of the their two friends and go to town on them, butchering them up for dinner. It’s a moment that works on a surprising number of levels – on its face it’s sickening, but thanks to the likable cast and the remarkable lack of sarcasm between them, there’s a real feeling of horror and loss here. These are characters you hope don’t die. And you don’t want to see the other kids see the other kids die, either.
This is not to say that Wrong Turn has brought Shakespeare to the B-movie – there are plenty of cliches to be had here, too – a character having their “Come and get me!” moment, the sex and drugs before getting brutally murdered sequence, the killer-is-now-definitely-dead-but-oh-no-wait-no-he’s-not bit. The opening sequence is 100% superfluous to the rest of the film. It offers no motivation to get the kids into the woods in the first place nor does it aid in getting them out in the end. It is a scene that is there to merely goose the audience at the beginning and it’s not terribly effective in doing that. The creature designs that came out of the Stan Winston shop – a place responsible for some of those most amazing creature designs in the history of film – are sorta meh. They do the job, but won’t haunt your dreams like, say, the queen in Aliens.
One could also maybe grouse about the mutated hillbillies and how this is Hollywood’s view of southern folk, etc., etc. This is kind of a tired critique, though, as these are supposed to be monsters, plain and simple. I don’t think Hollywood believes all hillbillies are mutated freaks any more than it believes Godzillas are attacking New York City. Still, the movie doesn’t give much of an explanation for these villains and none of the heroes seem to be from around those parts, so there isn’t much in the way of a positive example of a West Virginian.
But Wrong Turn nails the B-movie horror, steering away from the trend of smarmy, snide young characters and going for something more sincere. It’s a small point, but it makes a difference. This combined with a short run-time keeps the movie fresh and light on its feet. And at least one major sequence is like nothing I’ve seen in horror movies before, which should count for something.
The film is presented in a vibrant 1.85:1 1080p that feels pretty grainy, though this is most likely by design considering talk about making a ’70s horror throwback. It works. Audio is 5.1 DTS-HD in English, Dolby Surround in Spanish, and 5.1 Dolby Digital in French with subtitles in Spanish. The soundtrack is clear as would be expected from a movie released by Fox.
Feature Commentary with Director Rob Schmidt and Stars Desmond Harrington and Eliza Dushku – Pointless in terms of actual production info but fun in terms of just about everything else, these three seem to be having a helluva a time. Assuming you enjoy the movie, this is worth a listen.
Deleted Scenes – One of these scenes would’ve actually changed the feel of the movie! Rejoice – there’s a reason for this extra to exist! The other scenes are not so interesting, one of them actually just being take after take of actress Lindy Booth getting strangled. (7:00)
Fresh Meat: The Wounds of Wrong Turn – A featurette focusing on the make-up and grue of the movie. Fun stuff. (9:25)
The Making of Wrong Turn – A standard ‘making of’ featurette, far too short to deliver anything beyond the usual back patting of everyone involved. (4:03)
Eliza Dushku: Babe in the Woods – Another short focusing on actress Eliza Dushku. (3:42)
Stan Winston – A bit focusing on Stan Winston, mostly comprised of the man himself rattling off his credits with a sentence about each. Why couldn’t this have been longer? It comes off like a promo for his company. (4:40)
Original Theatrical Trailer – (2:15)
Wrong Turn is as lean and mean as horror movies come, not without its flaws but strong enough to warrant repeat viewings.
Summit Entertainment and Constantin Film presents Wrong Turn. Directed by: Rob Schmidt. Starring: Desmond Harrington, Eliza Dushku, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jeremy Sisto, Kevin Zegers. Written by: Alan McElroy. Running time: 84min. Rating: R. Released on DVD: September 29, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: Eliza Dushku, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Kevin Zegers, Summit Entertainment