Wrong Turn follows the same simple recipe of most other horror movies before it - take a half dozen dumbass kids, toss them into a leafy forest patrolled by freaks, and blend everything with the finest red blood available. The concoction is a little salty, but mostly it's just a bland imitation of earlier, finer creations.
Chris Finn (Desmond Harrington) is on his way to a job interview when he turns off the main highway to get around a massive pile-up that has clogged the interstate. The dirt road he finds takes him into the woods where his trip comes to a halt when he crashes into the SUV of five wannabe-campers who are stranded with a flat tire. Chris joins the dim-witted group of two couples, Carly and Scott (Emmanuelle Chriqui and Jeremy Sisto) and Evan and Francine (Kevin Zegers and Lindy Booth), and their friend Jessie (Eliza Dushku). The gang ventures deeper into the woods in search of a working phone to call for help; of course, their cell phones are out of range! Their journey eventually leads them to a log cabin where they soon discover a trio of disfigured, inbred inhabitants that have no need for a phone, but every desire for freshly killed meat.
If you've seen any other horror movie, you know that these hapless teenagers will be dinner one by one until the last teen standing gives these freaks their just desserts. While Turn aspires to be a throwback to genre classics like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes, it lacks the inventiveness and charm of its horror ancestors. Turn has all of the right ingredients - cut-off limbs, tons of blood, and stupid teenagers - yet, it still throws us straight into oncoming traffic. Unfortunately, horror movies today are not like what they used to be.
Part of what makes the classic horror movies of the late '70s and early '80s so great is their low-end budget production values. Back then, the special effects were cruder and the filmmaking techniques were much cheaper looking. While it may not have been intentional, this look complemented the cheesiness of the genre. Most modern-day horror films like Wrong Turn look great because they cost much more to make, but it doesn't help their fright factor. The much-acclaimed, but overrated Blair Witch Project is one of the most effective modern day horror movies because its discounted production value supplemented its chills.
Director Rob Schmidt (Crime + Punishment in Suburbia) has assembled an apt crew for Turn, but their talents are completely misused. Oscar winning creature creator Stan Winston creates the three backwoods freaks (called Three Finger, Saw-Tooth, and One-Eye) that moan and groan and then kill at random; sadly, Schmidt only gives us an occasional glimpse at what they look like. Most of the time the camera angle either obscures our view, or the freaks are too far in the background to be distinguishable. Cinematographer John S. Bartley photographs Turn with a similar atmospheric edge that made his work on The X-Files so creepy, but too often his camera stays on the tripod and out of the action. The disjointedness of a handheld camera, plus more close-up views of Winston's monsters would have worked wonders to bring the audience closer to the action and create a more frightening effect.
Wrong Turn is not a total failure - in particular, the sound editing and Elia Cmiral's original score add a degree of suspense to the otherwise pointless action. In the end, Wrong Turn is simply the victim of a tired genre, where better special effects and bigger budgets don't necessarily make a better horror film.
The DVD adds a commentary track (extra Dushku!) and two deleted scenes -- one including about a dozen takes of Francine's death in the film. The early poster concepts included also make it clear why they picked a Dushku shot instead.
Please save my breasts!