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Wrong Turn

  Wrong Turn
Emmanuelle Chriqui becomes another fashion victim.

© 2003, Sony
All Rights Reserved

What has happened to the state of horror these days? There used to be a time when genuine suspense and terror were the qualities one could look for in a scary movie. Now when you say "Scary Movie" out loud, people think of the Keenan Ivory Wayans comedies from a couple years back. The ingredients for "Wrong Turn" (IMDb listing) are simple: take four young adults (Eliza Dushku, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jeremy Sisto, and Desmond Harrington), have their West Virginia vacation/business plans go awry, strand them in the backwoods, and finally, send three inbred "Mountain Men" (aka Hillbillies) with a taste for blood after them. Pretty standard stuff, and the hallmark of the low-budget, B-level cinema of the past. However, "Wrong Turn" is sickeningly modern, featuring achingly unnecessary self-reference, a lackluster acting troupe, and bizarrely second-rate make-up work on the Hillbillies (this film did come from the Stan Winston studios after all). Then the film commits the biggest sin of them all: no scares.

Director Rob Schmidt (whose last film, "Crime And Punishment In Suburbia," was so loved by its studio, that they sent it straight to video) has a very limited understanding of how to direct a horror film, but evidently knows his way around high angles on star Chriqui's low cut top. The Hillbillies are the centerpiece of the story, but we never meet them. Schmidt shrouds them in darkness, and only slightly reveals them in the final scenes. I'm sure Schmidt was trying to maintain mystery, schooled in the thinking that what we don't see is scarier than what we do, but by keeping them out of sight for almost the entire run of the film, one starts to care less and less about the enemy. I feel bad for citizens of West Virginia after watching "Wrong Turn," because from this film, you'd think each living being there is an inbred monster with one tooth and a serious weak-kneed taste for young peoples' severed limbs.

What bothers me the most about this picture is the very appearance of Eliza Dushku. A genuinely talented actress ("City by the Sea"), Dushku is all too willing to appear in films well beneath her. It seems that starring in the abominable horror film "Soul Survivors" wasn't enough of a clue for her. Maybe "Wrong Turn" will teach Dushku to get out of the horror game for good. It's destroying her career.

Schmidt does manage to pull one truly startling moment out of his behind late in the game involving a thrown ax, but it only serves as a reminder of the tripe he was so willing to serve in the picture's opening moments. "Wrong Turn" makes Rob Zombie's similarly disorganized but unbelievably more interesting "House of 1000 Corpses" look like "Citizen Kane." I'm sure one day we'll get a horror film that isn't afraid of the R-rating, staying serious, or trying something new. But for now, we still must suffer through these little indignities.

Filmfodder Grade: D-

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