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WRONG TURN

2003, dir. Rob Schmidt
84 min. Rated R.
Starring: Eliza Dushku, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Desmond Harrington, Jeremy Sisto.

Review by Noel Wood

Sometimes, a movie comes along that begs one question: How the hell did this get greenlit?!?. I mean, sure, there are a lot of bad movies that come out each and every year, but at least most of them try and do something remotely different from anything we've ever seen before. And then, occasionally, you get a movie like WRONG TURN. A movie that's so unbelievably unoriginal that it's like the director found a dead horse on the side of the road and used it to beat a whole field of dead horses.

    

Okay, cue the hate mail. "You just didn't get it!". "It's supposed to be a cheesy throwback!". "Just enjoy it for what it was!". You know what? Fuck all that. I did get it. Yeah, it's a throwback to traditional slasher films. Yes, I watched it at face value, I mean, fercryinoutloud, I saw it at the friggin' drive-in. The fact that this is in the same vein as stuff like THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and FRIDAY THE 13TH shows me one of two things: Either the filmmakers are going for a parody or an homage, or they're really trying to make a serious film. Either way, they're not covering any new ground. In a conversation I had with Chad last week, he mentioned how a lot of movies lately seem to be untintentional parodies of the genre that they fit into. I'm not sure if it's intentional or not in WRONG TURN, but either way, the movie is still a piece of shit. If it's not intentional, then may the lord Tobe Hooper have mercy on their unoriginal souls. If it is intentional, then may the lord Wes Craven have mercy on their unoriginal souls.

Maybe if WRONG TURN had come out five years ago, it might be somewhat relevant. But in the year 2003, after a trilogy of SCREAM movies have already spoofed the genre, and then a trilogy of SCARY MOVIE films have spoofed the spoofs of the genre, and then busloads of half-serious thrillers like I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER and DISTURBING BEHAVIOR and HALLOWEEN H20 were followed up with even more parodies, it seems a bit out of place. There's no justification for its existence.

I kind of had an idea that the studio was worried about this movie when I walked in to the local comic shop last week and found a stack of passes to the premiere. Not like "buy something and get a pass", but "here, take one". And the stack of passes was -- no bullshit -- like six inches high. There's no way that many people could fit into one theater, and that's just at one store. I can't imagine how many thousands of premiere passes were scattered about the city. It just goes to show how much confidence 20th Century Fox had in its performance. Somehow, however, it actually managed to make some money in the last couple of weeks. Yeah, I don't get it either.

    

The movie itself employs every horror movie cliche it possibly can in its span, which couldn't have run more than 80 minutes but felt like 800. We start off with Chris, our pseudo-medical student guy (c'mon, you don't make someone a doctor type in a movie like this without using that fact in the story somewhere, and I don't just mean being clever enough to wrap your belt around your leg when you get shot) who's passing through Appalachia on his way to an interview in Raleigh. Traffic comes to a stop, and he's in a hurry, so he decides to make a -- wait for it -- Wrong Turn. While scouting a deserted backroad, he slams into a land rover filled with campers, effectively destroying both of their cars. The cell phones are out of range, so four of them walk for help, while two stay behind to do drugs and have sex. And we all know what happens to kids in the woods who do bad things, right?

The other four continue on until they find an old house. Nobody appears to be home, so they help themselves to the house, where they find lots of scary things that indicate they might be dealing with cannibals here. Not just cannibals, mind you, but genetic mutation cannibals created through generations of inbreeding. What follows from this point is four kids running away from three grunting and laughing descendents of Sloth from THE GOONIES and getting themselves in to some of the most predictable scrapes imaginable. I mean, if you don't know which characters are going to still be around at the end of the movie by the time we meet everyone, then you have no business watching horror movies to begin with.

The "scares" in WRONG TURN rely on gore more than legitimate startles. Such is just one of the many elements that show that the end result here is caused in part by lazy filmmaking. That's really the biggest problem here. The villains, who are big thuggish ugly rednecks, are only defined by newspaper clippings that appear over the opening credits. That's not storytelling, that's an afterthought. We still don't know their motives, why they have to eat people, why they keep things in specimen jars other than to have something creepy for our protagonists to discover, and why they kill everyone on sight except for the star of our movie, who they conveniently drag back to their place and gag. How do that many people disappear in that very spot every year and the FBI not be on a manhunt that would make Eric Robert Rudolph feel like he had it easy?

    

WRONG TURN is formulaic, and yet still misses out on some of the most important elements of the formula. It's a thriller, at least try and thrill me. Make me care whether or not these people live or die. Eliza Dushku wearing a tight shirt is not enough reason for us to care about her, and neither is that hastily-thrown-together sequence where she sobs on doctor boy's shoulders about her boyfriend. Wah. Fucking die already.

I was talking to the genre, not the character.

Oh, and they set it up for a sequel. I feel like it's the end of MAGNOLIA, except instead of frogs, it's raining dead horses.

And yes, I know I've turned the dead horse reference into a dead horse. Ironic, isn't it?


Want a second opinion of this film? Take a look at theJK's review over at Living Corpse dot com!

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For questions, comments, or the occasional stalking letter, send mail to Noel Wood. Please give proper credit when using any materials found within this site.


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