Wrong Turn
directed by Rob Schmidt
(20th Century Fox, 2003)

I was all pumped up about watching Wrong Turn, but while the movie is quite good, it just didn't manage to push any of my buttons. The overriding purpose of this film was to scare people, but I didn't find it remotely frightening in the least. It wasn't even as grisly as I expected it to be.

The evil "mountain men" of West Virginia are more comical than anything else, with little to offer beyond peculiar ways of walking, ape-like gibberish, terrible housekeeping skills and a supposed cannibalistic nature. But are these people really cannibals? I think it is an important question, and I'm not convinced that they are. They definitely have a fascination with body parts, assembling some lovely collections of jawbones and the like, they keep bloody bottles of something nasty in their refrigerator, they like to saw people up for some reason and they make a pretty nasty kind of soup, but I didn't see anyone actually eating anyone. When they bring one of the movie's first kills back to their cabin, do they immediately begin preparing a chili con human feast? No; they dump the body on a table and decide to go to sleep, in the middle of the day. Maybe I'm belaboring a point here, but there are just a lot of little things about this movie that kept me from fully embracing the action taking place.

There is really no evidence offered that any of the characters actually took a wrong turn in anything other than a metaphorical sense. Chris Finn (Desmond Harrington) voluntarily took a certain old dirt road through the wilds of West Virginia because it seemed to be a shortcut, and all we learn about the group of friends trying to cheer up Jessie Burlingame (Eliza Dushku) is that they are lost.

In any event, a collection of six worthy victims comes together (thanks to Chris's sadly deficient driving skills) on the all but deserted Bear Mountain Road, where things are just not right. Barbwire intentionally placed in the road in order to blow out tires is the first clue, but there are plenty more to come. Four of the six strike out on foot in search of help. Things start to go bad for the two left behind early on, although we don't yet get a good glimpse of the bad stalking the woods. After coming upon a dead end, our intrepid foursome investigates an old cabin in the woods, looking for a phone. The place is a pig sty, yet they stay in there long enough to make some pretty gruesome discoveries and to find themselves trapped when the residents of the humble abode come home.

This is probably the best scene in the movie, as our heroes come face to face, quite literally, with true terror in the form of a mutilated friend tossed right in front of their hiding eyes. From this point on, the chase is on, and no one is guaranteed to survive.

Some of the kills are rather nice, as kills engineered by famed producer Stan Winston certainly should be, but I wanted more, to tell you the truth. Even the decapitation scene that Winston is so proud of left me rather nonplussed. The tension and suspense should increase as we work our way toward an ending, but I found myself constantly distracted by little things that bothered me. It all starts with the trees; apparently, every tree in West Virginia has strong, hefty branches that are perfectly horizontal, connect to one another, and allow for easy human perambulation. Heck, a person standing on a limb can even fall down and land right on her back without any need to grab hold of anything in order to avoid plunging to a most painful death.

Then there is the classic "guy hiding underneath the truck" scene. First of all, these dirt roads of West Virginia are bound to have many a dip in them, and there is no way anyone could ride a mere inch or two from the ground holding on to the bottom of an old truck sporting shocks that saw their better days many, many years in the past. Worse, though, is the fact that at one point I could detect no sign of anyone supposedly stowing away underneath the truck as it drove down the road.

I love Dushku, and I really wanted to enjoy a movie that had such incredible horror potential. I'm sure this movie can provide frightening thrills to many a viewer, but it just didn't do it for me. An infamous episode of The X-Files built on a similar foundation of an inbred, mutated, disgusting family was far creepier and much more intense than Wrong Turn. The DVD itself is nice, housing both full screen and widescreen versions of the film and tagging on four short featurettes, a little poster gallery, a few deleted scenes and commentary by the major players. I just wish I could have truly enjoyed this movie.

- Rambles
written by Daniel Jolley
published 23 July 2005

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