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Wrong Turn (2003)



The thing about Wrong Turn is that it starts out blandly, has no real characters to root for, only good-looking meat puppets with vague backstories, it's derivative of much better films, has continuity issues, and some serious gaps in logic.

The other thing about Wrong Turn is that the details don't matter. It's a fun little film.

A group of folks out wanderin' about in the woods of West Virginia (including Eliza "Faith the Vampire Slayer" Dushku and Desmond Harrington) are beset upon by grossly deformed inbred mountain men who just want to have them for dinner, allowing me to overplay an old cannibalism joke. Of course, the fight for survival ensues, testing the mettle of man vs. gross perversion of man.

So, let's see. Yes. Deliverance. Check. Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Check. Hills Have Eyes. Check. Am I missing something?

And yet. After a certain point in the film, before you've even quite realized what's happened, you're in the film. Your heart is pumping, you have the tingly feelings up your spine... Even though none of these characters are given anything more than the most rudimentary of backstories, you want to see them out alive. Even though you could number them off by order of death within five minutes of meeting them, you can't help but wonder if Wrong Turn is going to pull a fast one on you.

It never does, by the way. It's fairly straightforward in its approach to the subject of terror, but damn if it doesn't just work.

One really neat thing, though, is the use of CGI to enhance the terror. It's actually effective, because, for the most part, director Rob Schmidt keeps it subtle. It's not an overbearing, obvious monster screaming "LOOK AT ME, BABY!" It's a little tweak, an addition so that the film can go places its predecessors couldn't.

The DVD is a nifty little platter, but opening the case reveals a couple big problems. First off, it's a flipper disc (full-frame on one side, widescreen on the other), which makes storage a pain in the ass. This is not something you can just leave out on a coffee table. Now, I put up with the bizarre obsession with including a full-frame version of a film in the package, but if you have to do it, put it on a second disc.

Second, the special features are split up, half on either side of the disc, so if you want to watch all of the little featurettes (which, admittedly, aren't that exciting, save for the one on Stan Winston, who produced the film), you have to flip the disc over. This is incredibly annoying.

That being said, the commentary track (which features director Schmidt, and actors Dushku and Harrington) is pretty damn cool. The three have a very easygoing chemistry, and spend as much time poking fun at each other as they do talking about the film. The only real issue is that it takes a few minutes to separate out who is Schmidt and who is Harrington.

Wrong Turn is no masterpiece. It's intended as an homage to the slashers of the 70s, and as such, often falls victim to the same kind of problems they faced, and this lacks a fresh-faced approach to the material to distract from these issues. However, the amount of pure adrenal-gland fun it ratchets up makes it a worthy experience, at least once.