“Wrong Turn” benefits from a big budget, which allows it to be more competent than usual for films in its genre. Essentially a Teen Slasher, with 3 inbred hillbillies in lieu of a masked psychopath, “Wrong Turn” runs 80 minutes long and that’s being a bit generous. It’s fast-paced, has little reason to stop for characterization, and the blood and guts is quite well done. For lovers of the genre, you don’t get any better than this. Then again, if you happen to not be a fan of the genre, you’ll mostly find the movie to be lacking.
Eliza Dushku (“The New Guy”) leads the cast as the feisty Jessie, one of 5 friends whose car gets into an accident with weary traveler Chris (Desmond Harrington) in the backwoods of West Virginia. When the group discovers that the accident was created by metal barb wires arranged by persons unknown, they realize something is afoot. Unfortunately they’re not quite smart enough to go with instinct, and soon four of the six have headed up the road in search of a phone, leaving two lovebirds behind. Before you can say, “Hmm, that might not be a good idea,” the lovebirds get hacked to death by 3 inbred freaks, and the other four are soon on the run.
With only a skimpy 80 minutes to work with, there’s not a lot you can do with “Wrong Turn”. Director Rob Schmidt and writer McElroy (“Ballistic”) seem to know what they’re going for, which is a hip and condensed version of “Deliverance”. By the 30-minute mark, the movie is one long chase sequence, with Chris and Jessie and two others running from the well-armed freaks. In a lot of ways the movie was too extensively cut, with potential layers being chopped off for the sake of quick pacing.
If you absolutely hate to think, then I suppose “Wrong Turn’s” breakneck speed was designed for you. I would have liked a little bit more deliberation, a little bit more time to breathe, and a little bit more of the hunting aspect, rather than just have the movie de-evolve into running and chopping and running and chopping some more. I realize, of course, that characterization and human drama is not what movies like “Wrong Turn” are going for. Still, I can’t help but think that with the money and time they had to shoot this thing, a little bit more concentration could have been put on the suspense angle.
Maybe with more scenes of the characters hiding as the killers stalk them within intimate proximity and “Wrong Turn” might have surpassed its cheap premise. In its current state, the movie delivers on its promise of cheap thrills and well-staged action. There’s simply nothing else for anyone who doesn’t enjoy this type of stuff.
The cast, led by Dushku, manage to break some molds. Both Jessie and Harrington’s Chris clearly have their head on straight throughout the whole movie, quickly figuring out what’s going on, while Emmanuelle Chriqui provides the movie with its screeching quotient. Actually, all of the characters were likable, mostly because they seem to possess that missing link in most Teen Slasher movies: common sense. Oh sure, there are times when they don’t do the obvious, but those times can be explained away by the intensity of the moment. After all, when three deformed hillbillies with machetes are chasing you, it’s kind of hard to always do the right thing.
“Wrong Turn” is definitely not for everyone. It’s probably too brutal for some, because there is a definite glee in the way director Schmidt shoots some of the blood and guts sequences, including many scenes of the killers nonchalantly chopping up their victims for food. The movie really has no interest in flinching from the gore, which is a plus because the time and money is there, and to give the audience any less would be a cheat. And let’s be frank — there’s only a limited group of people who will watch “Wrong Turn” in the first place, and an even more limited group will find it worthwhile.
“Wrong Turn”, for the most part, works. It could have been stretched out with more emphasis on suspense, but maybe that’s just me.
Rob Schmidt (director) / Alan B. McElroy (screenplay)
CAST: Desmond Harrington …. Chris Finn
Eliza Dushku …. Jessie
Emmanuelle Chriqui …. Carly
Jeremy Sisto …. Scott
Lindy Booth …. Francine