Detour (2003) Movie Review

Ever wondered why almost every character you see in B-horror movies that lives anywhere beyond the city limits (re: in the “sticks”) are all clich’d “redneck” types? It’s really simple: most horror filmmakers were born and bred in the city, and never having actually traveled beyond the borders of their fair city (or indeed possessed the desire to do so), all they know (or to be more precise, all they think they know) about rural life (re: people who aren’t like them) is derived from the likes of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. As a result, dumb and bellicose rednecks have become tropes of the genre, much to the genre’s detriment, as blind devotion to tropes precludes overt originality, which is, for the most part, the case with “Detour”.

Perhaps realizing that their film is a bit clunky in the early parts, director Steve Taylor and co-writer Steve Grabowsky tosses in a bloody killing in the desert to open the film. Soon, we are introduced to our seven main characters, college kids who have journeyed into the desert for a rave last night. On their way back to L.A. in their RV, the group decides to take a detour into the desert to locate a massive stash of peyote. Too bad for them that the area where the stash is, well, stashed is full of cannibalistic killers, one of whom just sliced and diced two raging lesbians in the beginning. Can you say, “Oh damn, these guys have seen ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ one time way too many”?

The thing about the cast of characters in “Detour” and other films with similar cast makeup is this: in real life, these people would never even speak to each other. The Goth chick is annoyingly anti-social, the Wigger (a white guy who talks and acts like a “ghetto gangsta”) belongs in another universe, the RV driver has drug dealer “contacts”, and Tara and Harmony are flirtatious sorority sister types. No surprise that there’s almost zero chemistry among the different groups, and even when they’re occupying the same RV for long periods in the beginning, they mind as well be communicating from different planets. The most convincing relationship is between Tara and Harmony, which is really the only natural interaction among the cast.

Highly influenced by the outback cannibal movies of the ’70s and immersed in new millennium sensibilities, “Detour” is predictable from the word “go”. Who didn’t know Tara would eventually take charge of the situation and come out like Sarah Conner, guns blazing? Or that the two lovebirds would get the shaft first, most likely while shagging in the shade? Or that Loopz, the Wigger, will most likely survive through the whole ordeal, as Odious Comic Relief characters in B-horror movies made after the millennium tend to do?

While Taylor’s obviously intimate knowledge of the seminal works of his genre has resulted in a very formulaic movie, it also benefits the genre fans in other ways, namely an attractive cast not opposed to wearing as little as possible. Even lead Ashley Elizabeth spends the better half of the film wearing cut-off jeans that barely covers the top half of her ass. And although there is plenty of gore, the killings are unfortunately just serviceable, with no real inventive scene in the bunch. As well, the villains come across as more stuntmen in Goodwill clothing rather than the cannibalistic mad dog killers they’re supposed to be. Even the head killer is just barely a notch above lame.

“Detour” does have some things going for it, namely Aaron Buer providing the film’s many comedic moments. The ultimate Wigger, Buer’s Loopz (real name Larry) is the film’s bright spot, constantly eliciting laughs with his faux gangster posing. Some may find the kid annoying (fellow horror movie reviewer Arrow-in-the-Head didn’t particular care for him), but I could help but laugh at his many oblivious gangsta-speak. Ashley Elizabeth as the Sarah Conner-in-waiting Tara has some good moments, although curiously for someone who has just shot and killed a half dozen cannibals (in the fashion of one-shot, one-kill, no less), it’s silly that Tara would revert back to hysterical damsel in distress moments later in the film.

The rest of the supporting cast is hit and miss, with Jill Jacobs doing the best work as Harmony, who curiously gets bitten twice in the film (both times shot by Taylor as being brutal attacks) but never seems to be worst for wear. I guess the girl just heals really fast. Either that, or poor film continuity. Jessica Osfer as the Slutty Girl seems to be suffering from California lisp, the same condition that affects Drew Barrymore; but other than that, she provides the film’s only real nudity. Anthony Connell plays The Old Guy Who Knows Stuff and, predictably, warns the kids off the desert.

It goes without saying that only genre fans need bother with a film of “Detour’s” caliber. It is what it is, and in this case it’s a derivative, formulaic film with predictable moments throughout, but is still nevertheless too amusing to really take to the shed. Director Steve Taylor makes great use of his desert location, and the film is very pleasing to look at, with some nifty capture of the stark surroundings, even though the desert is never really made to look dangerous. Then again, when your script calls for a small army of faceless cannibals in Goodwill clothing, I guess making the desert surroundings look ominous isn’t really necessary.

Steve Taylor (director) / Steve Taylor, Steve Grabowsky (screenplay)
CAST: Ashley Elizabeth …. Tara
Aaron Buer …. Loopz
Jill Jacobs …. Harmony
Brent Taylor …. Neil
Kelsey Wedeen …. Cashie
Micky Levy …. Queen Freak
Jessica Osfar …. Michelle

Buy Detour on DVD