‘Wrong Turn’

Wrong Turn

Wrong Turn (2003) Directed by Rob Schmidt. Starring Desmond Harrington, Eliza Dushku, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jeremy Sisto, Kevin Zegers, Lindy Booth, Julian Richings, Gary Robbins, Ted Clark.

Wrong Turn has got to be one of the worst of the rural horror flicks. What a mess. After the smart deconstruction offered by Tucker & Dale, I’m now beginning to wonder how much more of these I can take.

Chris Flynn (Desmond Harrington) is traveling through West Virginia to a job interview. Finding himself and his fancy Mustang held up by impassable traffic, he takes a detour down a winding dirt road through a dense forest. Distracted by trying to pick up from the floor a mix CD of crappy music, he smashes into a stopped Range Rover. The group that had been traveling in the vehicle are surprisingly non-nonchalant by the damage done to it. Perhaps that’s because they’re more concerned about the barbed wire suspiciously laid across the road that punctured their tires in the first place. So this passel of fools head off to wander through the woods, looking for help, leaving a couple behind to stay with the cars. And I think you can probably take it from there.

This is one of the dullest, most frustratingly bland horror movies I’ve seen in a while. They put action up on the screen but they didn’t bother to make it interesting. I suppose there are a couple of mildly interesting kills but compared to Dead Snow, and about one hundred other far better horror movies, we may as well be watching these kids dying in their sleep.

I know we don’t necessarily watch these kinds of movie for their in-depth character studies, but it’d be nice to go so far as to give us enough to make us care about the people we’re stuck with. Chris and Jessie (Eliza Dushku) provide the most fleshed out characters in the film, but they’re still pretty thin. Heck, I’ve already given you the most interesting aspects of Chris’s back story. And what about the bad guys, the evil trio of mountain men? What makes these guys tick? Who knows? This movie doesn’t care. They might as well just be animals that can drive and carry weapons. The only background we get for them is during the opening credit sequence where we see the words “inbred” and “mountain men” flash across the screen; what more do you need? We know all inbred mountain men are crazed killers…

The make-up and effects are done by Stan Winston Studio, a company that created spectacular effects in such ground-breaking films as Jurassic ParkPredator, Aliens, and The Thingso you’d think it would look damned good. But the deformed mountain men are too often filmed in the dark. That’s a shame too since their make up is really quite effective, but you’ll only discover that if you watch the behind the scenes extra on the DVD.

I have to briefly discuss this behind the scenes feature. In an effort to talk the movie up, the cast and crew describe exactly what’s wrong with the movie. Eliza Dushku touts the lack of story and character as a benefit, suggesting that it had to be minimized  in order to let the amazing action play out. I guess these are the kinds of things you have to say if you want to keep working as an actor.

The late Stan Winston appears, claiming that the script is one of the most disturbing things he’s ever read, so compelling that he just had to be involved in the making of the movie. He goes on to describe a particular decapitation, the only creative kill in the movie, in my opinion anyway, and how they achieved it. Stan mentions that they considered including a eye blink post-severing but decided to leave it out because audiences might not be able to handle such a notion. Seriously, Stan? I don’t think your film’s audience is going to be all that disturbed by it, if it even crosses their mind what that indicates (really though, if you had your head chopped off, would you be able to feel both your head and your body? I suppose that thought might keep me up at night…). Besides, isn’t the kind of audience you’re trying bring in to see Wrong Turn going to these kinds of films because they want to be disturbed? And then… didn’t you just say that it’s these kinds disturbing qualities that you liked about the script? Why are you toning down the things that interested you to begin with? Perhaps it really has something to do with a word that begins with an ‘M’ and ends with a ‘PAA’?

I wonder if it was this same kind of thinking that led them to obscure much of the make-up by hiding the actors in shadows. It’s through this DVD featurette that we get the best look at the mountain men via production video taken during the regular shoot. Stan correctly describes the make-up as repulsive rather than frightening. These aren’t your average deformities, these are imaginings of decades of inbreeding creating hideous malformations. They are cringe-inducing, but this is something you’ll only experience if you watch this behind the scenes feature.

Wrong Turn leaves behind story and character, hides its make-up and effects, and deliberately tones down its more disturbing aspects. The only thing going for it, beside Eliza Dushku in a tank top, is how mercifully short it is. Somehow this crapfest has spawned four sequels, all straight to DVD of course, the most recent released just last week.

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