While the majority of America was finding Nemo over the weekend, I traveled a different road and came upon “Wrong Turn,” the latest of many movies where unsuspecting victims find themselves in the backwoods of West Virginia moments from their impending doom.
The movie opens with a guy named Chris (Desmond Harrington) passing through the backwoods, heading for a job interview in a neighboring state. When an accident causes a major traffic jam on the interstate and only highway, Chris finds himself taking the backroads through the backwoods, which can only mean his plans will surely backfire.
Chris literally runs into a stalled car in the middle of a dirt road belonging to five young twenty-something year olds. With both cars now disabled, Chris joins the party of Scott (Jeremy Sisto) and his fiancé Carly (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who are with another couple; Evan (Keven Zegers) and Francine (Lindy Booth). And last but not least is Jessie (Eliza Dushku), an attractive girl who was just dumped by her boyfriend. To cheer her up, her above mentioned friends took her out for a weekend in the woods, only to see their car’s tires ripped to shreds by a bed of barbed wire.
OK, I lied. The movie does open with Chris driving to a job interview, but not until after a quick scene involving two mountain climbers scaling the rocks in the backwoods of West Virginia before the main story begins. They are quickly killed off to show us someone or something evil is lurking in the background. When that scene ends, we get the title sequence showing us the standard news-clippings and TV reports of several missing locals. This premise is the root of a major flaw of the plot which I will get to shortly.
The six characters are now stranded in the woods without two very key things necessary for survival. One is brains. You’ll quickly learn how unintelligent this gang is by their horrible decisions and use of dialogue. Wandering off alone satisfies the horrible decision part, while the bad dialogue is self explanatory. One girl continually says the doltish things from scene to scene. Whether it be, “you better be prepared to give me lots of orgasms,” to “I really got to pee,” you can count on at least one character not being very helpful in the search. But more important than lacking intelligence, none of them are carrying a cell phone. Doh!
Now for the major flaw. The movie’s intro shows us clippings of missing people, and we later learn it is because they have all fallen victim to a nasty family of savage cannibals; horribly disfigured due to generations of inbreeding. The group of six eventually stumble onto their property while looking for a phone to call for help. The property consists of a rundown shack surrounded by a junkyard. The kids venture inside the empty house and begin “exploring,” because that is what adventurers do in these kinds of movies, they explore. They quickly learn something is wrong when they discover bottles and jars containing human organs and body parts.
The problem with this scenario is that this place should have been discovered long ago by the police, and the cannibal family should have been arrested and prosecuted as soon as the first person disappeared. When a several people go a missing, a widespread search usually turns up something, in this case it would have been the house and the junkyard full of abandoned automobiles with blood stains in the seats belonging to the missing people. You think a family of known inbreeders would be the number one suspects in the case of all the missing people, but apparently the cops in West Virginia don’t go out this far.
After the group discovers human remains, and one decides she’s not going to use the toilet sitting next to a collection of teeth and fingers, they come to the conclusion that it’s time to leave, and they finally do so, but not without first being discovered by Saw-Tooth, One-Eye, and the other cannibals. The chase is now on.
I must say “Wrong Turn” is a mildly entertaining film, but unfortunately we are given little to anticipate when if you follow the standard formulas of horror movies, you will know who is going live and who will not, long before we find out. In horror movies, the drug users always die and are usually the first to do so. If there are any survivors, the one who is onscreen the longest is guaranteed the icon of immunity. Characters who are usually supposed to die are killed off quickly, while characters who are supposed to live can sustain massive damage and survive by limping until the scene ends and the next one forgets about their wounds. Also, when the pattern of fast deaths is broken, we can expect the one who is gagged and brought back alive to be eaten at a later date has a pretty good chance of being rescued by the one who’s long screen presence has earned him/her the immunity.
Now you may think I just gave away a boat-load of information, but trust me that I didn’t tell you anything you don’t already know. Everything falls into place during the chase; the part that makes up most of the movie. And yes it has its graphic moments. Look for decapitations, guttings, death by archery, and even explosives to be brought to the table. It’s not the most graphic horror film to be released recently, but it definitely entertains the blood and gore cravers.
“Wrong Turn” was written by Alan McElroy, the guy who brought us the disappointing “Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever.” But the story here isn’t half-bad. I enjoy chase movies, especially when there is something to like about either the prey or the predator. We can already rule out the prey as soon as the film begins; it is the cannibals who are fun (sometimes funny) to watch.
As for the technical issues, the film was carelessly made by director Rob Schmidt. I don’t mind a few bloopers and plot-holes, but when engulfed buildings stop burning when the camera isn’t looking, and characters hiding under cars can roll-out and run undetected, I have a problem. I also don’t appreciate hearing dead silence when entering a house before going into the rooms. The living room in one location is quiet, but in the kitchen a pot is boiling, and in another room a generator is going off; these are noises that should be heard outside. We’re not supposed to be thinking the characters are on a one-platform stage pretending to be in a multi-room house. And on that note, prepare for very bad acting and mourning the dead to stop when the next scene begins.
Schmidt also doesn’t show enough gratitude to Stan Winston’s special makeup effects. The cannibals are rarely in focus, but the few, brief up-close shots do show us good looking products of inbreeding and natural mutation.
Overall, the film has some good moments and a few nice death scenes. I admit to having been startled a few times, but I still can’t recommend “Wrong Turn” after witnessing a self-destructive ending where a character must play Rambo and fight off the cannibals. It is however, one of the best horror movies of the year so far. But when you’re comparing it to duds like “Darkness Falls” and “House of 1000 Corpses,” best-so-far is far from good.
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