31 Screams in October, #18: Wrong Turn (2003)

Posted: October 19, 2014 in Movie Review
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Wrong Turn (2003)

Director: Rob Schmidt

Starring: Desmond Harrington, Eliza Dushku, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jeremy Sisto

Real slasher film fans didn’t need “Scream” and other “meta” horror movies to tell us there’s a formula to these things. Thanks, Captain Obvious. We’re well aware, and we like them that way. We also don’t need anyone to remind us that the greatest period for the slasher was the late 70’s/early 80’s, although it’s nice whenever we get a throwback every now and again. “Wrong Turn” is made of 1970’s-style horror, in the tradition of “The Hills Have Eyes” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Consider the setting in the mountains of West Virginia, and you can add a nod to the 1972 drama/thriller “Deliverance” (which itself gets a mention in a throwaway line of dialogue).

Aspiring medical student Chris Flynn (Desmond Harrington) is, like the White Rabbit from “Alice in Wonderland,” late for a very important meeting. Not helping him is a chemical spill on the highway which has traffic blocked as far as the eye can see. Rather than sit for hours and miss his appointment, Chris decides the best thing to do is find an alternative route. Stopping at a gas station run by a toothless yokel to use the telephone that probably hasn’t worked in years, Chris find a dirt road on the map, and heads in that direction. His attention taken off the road at a most inopportune moment, Chris runs into another car stopped dead in the middle of the road, a victim of barbed wire that was purposely tied to a tree and left out to destroy the tires of oncoming traffic. Chris’s prized muscle car, a gorgeous Ford Mustang, is totaled, as is the Range Rover. Chris isn’t hurt badly, but he and the five occupants of the Range Rover have bigger problems than broken automobiles ahead of them.

Two of the Range Rover’s passengers are picked off almost immediately, leaving Chris, Jessie (Eliza Duskhu), Carly (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and Scott (Jeremy Sisto). Looking for assistance wherever they may find it, the foursome unsuspectingly stumbles upon a shack with what looks like a car graveyard out in the front yard. It’s a graveyard, all right. Inside, there are further indications that something very wrong is going on and, even after discovering a pile of car keys, barbed wire in a box and human body parts in the freezer, it still takes them until the three occupants of the shack return for them to decide to amscray. Too late, they must take cover and witness the horror of one of their friends being hacked to pieces… and eaten. Waiting until the shack’s owners fall asleep, they try to make a quiet run for it, but they’re discovered at the last instant. Eventually, only Chris and Jessie will be left to fight off their assailants or die trying. Though “Wrong Turn” isn’t big on suspense, it doesn’t waste any time either, and it does keep you guessing until the climax as to which way it’s going to turn out for our heroes.

Of the 31 horror films I’m reviewing this month, “Wrong Turn” is the only one I saw theatrically. Not an especially original film, what it lacks in originality is made up for by its cast, without which this movie would likely be only as attractive as something found on SyFy. Between them, the two leads represent my three favorite TV shows of all-time: Desmond Harrington portrayed Det. Joseph Quinn in “Dexter” from its third season on through the end of the series’ run, while Eliza Dushku had a recurring guest role in both “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and its spin-off “Angel” as Faith, the Slayer with a dark side. Jessie has a little bit of that same snarky, tough chick attitude which made Faith so popular. I remember seeing Eliza on one of the late night talk shows to do some early promotion for this movie. She’d been required to do so much screaming for “Wrong Turn” that she could barely speak during the interview. Jeremy Sisto, whose part is sadly much smaller, is also very good. Through much of his scenes, he’s doing a fairly decent Jeff Goldblum impression, even if that wasn’t his intent. Emmanuelle Chriqui (appropriately pronounced “shriek-y”) is not as much fun. Carly whines, complains and acts so completely helpless that you can’t help but wish her to be eliminated next.

Slasher films require a good villain, too. That’s just a fact of life. Generally, you get either a diabolical wisecracker, or a silent and methodical killer. The three killers in “Wrong Turn” have no lines of dialogue, although they do seem to have some form of communication amongst themselves. They’re also referred to as genetic mutations, and its pretty clear as to why, because even Jason Voorhees himself would take one look at these guys and respond to their hideous appearance with revulsion. So, the villains aren’t as effective as they should be (one even laughs hysterically like the village idiot), but that doesn’t mean a slasher film fan won’t enjoy this movie. I can remember thinking, after first seeing this one in June of 2003, that there might be room for a franchise here. I just didn’t think it would actually happen. As of 2014, we’re up to movie #6 in the series, with all of the sequels having been direct-to-video releases. Proof positive that even today some slasher fans are so indiscriminate that they’ll watch anything, good or bad, as long as it’s refreshingly familiar.

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