Wrong Turn (2003)
Directed by Rob Schmidt

Starring Desmond Harrington Eliza Dushku Emmanuelle Chriqui Jeremy Sisto Kevin Zegers

Why a cutting-edge fear film like "May" was sent direct to video in 2003, while "Wrong Turn" got a big national release to the theaters, is a sign that there may in fact be no God.

It seems that mainstream horror is devolving, much like the action film, into slick, big-budget, well-orchestrated set pieces: chase scenes, fight scenes, the inevitable climax with the cool one liner just before the bad guy gets his come-uppance. This is the stuff corporations want to send to theaters. Not genre-bending, artistic triumphs like "May."

As slick, well-produced horror goes, "Wrong Turn" pretty much does the trick. Penned by one of the co-writers of "Halloween 4" and produced by Stan Winston, it's mindless, it has a few mundane Friday-the-13th-style killings at the start, then the second act is nothing but action, with fight scenes staged in branches high above a forest, car chases, a daring rescue, the works.

What is it that "Wrong Turn" is missing? Heart. Surprises. A break from formula. Despite comparisons being made to "Texas Chainsaw," "Wrong Turn" is as super safe a Hollywood formula film as the next Reese Witherspoon movie. Some say this movie also closely resembles an episode of the "X Files" from a while back.

Set in South Virginia, "Wrong Turn" opens with a recent medical school grad (Harrington) on the road, late for an interview. When he decides to take a short cut to avoid a highway traffic jam, he slams into another car parked along a dirt road. Totalling both his car, and that of the party animals he ran into, he joins them on a trek back to civilization, searching for a phone. Naturally, the young and pretty travellers are picked off one by one by a band of rednecks who collect human body parts, and have been killing passers-by for years now, without detection by the redneck cops who clearly aren't doing their jobs. Damn rednecks.

"Wrong Turn" is definitely a solid horror film. The thrilling parts are definitely thrilling. The action works. But for a film supposedly inspired by the original "Texas Chainsaw," it delivers villains that are truly lifeless. The rednecks look and sound like rejects from a Lord of the Rings movie. They speak some form of alien dialect. They giggle like children whenever they attack. We never are given an idea of how their fucked up minds tick.

What made "Texas" a masterpiece was its villains. We got to know them. "Mother's Day," another redneck horror film that takes its cue from "Texas," also featured great villains. We got to know them too. But in "Wrong Turn," the bad guys are just several deformed killer. We have no idea how they got deformed, why they speak a strange dialect, or why they're killing people. In "Mother's Day," the killers were doing it all to please their deranged mother. In "Texas" it was for their crazy, half-dead grandpa. What's motivating the redneck retard in "Wrong Turn"? We don't know. They're just bad, deformed people.

There are some excellent scenes in the film. The chases are genuinely thrilling -- and there are lots of them. The movie has as much action as "Jeepers Creepers" -- and a similar feel. But unlike that film, which got more and more surreal as it went along and even featured a disturbing non-Hollywood ending, "Wrong Turn" becomes more and more safe as the story progresses. A classic damsel-in-distress rescue is not the way to end a horror film -- at least not one that's supposed to be a gut-wrenching redneck psycho bloodbath.

Horror has always thrived when it hasn't been safe. "Wrong Turn" is just too safe. Maybe that's why it's box office didn't even come close to matching that of "Jeepers Creepers." It has all the promise of a "Mother's Day" or a "Hills Have Eyes," but none of the deliverance -- pun intended. City-people-versus-redenck films are supposed to show the city folk becoming savage to survive. That doesn't happen in this film. Not even remotely. It just devolves into your standard action movie. Perfect for the shelf at Blockbuster.

I'm not saying avoid this movie. It does entertain. I'm just saying watch it knowing that it doesn't rock the boat. It's corporate horror. Wal-Mart horror.

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-- Review by Lucius Gore


Posted by JackDanuls on November 20, 2011
Get with the picture. I could have did a better review. The movie is set in West Virginia. Greenbrier county to be exact. I've never in my life seen South Virginia on a map. Where is it?


Posted by Had To Do It on April 21, 2012
Let us know how that works out for ya Jack.


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