The Wrong Turn is a dreary new horror film starring Eliza Dushku, the young actress who played Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Directed by Rob Schmidt, the film is set in a godforsaken West Virginia backwoods where a group of unlucky college students are attacked by mutant Mountain Men. It’s a lousy movie in almost every respect: the performances are wooden, the script is hackneyed, and the lens-work is uninspired. Wrong Turn fails even to generate a palpable sense of location. The woods feel fake. This is an unforgivable sin for a movie that has the gall to quote John Boorman’s 1972 outdoors masterpiece, Deliverance. Most importantly, it’s not even remotely scary or suspenseful; you’d have have to have lived in a tin shack in the mountains all your life to not to predict which of these kids was going to survive their night of terror and carnage. The students all have this Seventeen magazine gloss, like they’ve just come from the spa or the tanning salon. The Mountain Men have rotten teeth, patchy skulls, and harelips–the mark of inbreeding, we are told. The students drive classic convertibles and sleak, shiny new SUVS. The Mountain Men drive a beat-up, rusty pick-up with a tow hook. Given how the film-makers have stacked the deck, culturally, economically, and even genetically, against these woebegotten denizens of Appalachia, the Michael Moore in me was rooting for the homicidal Mountain Men. However, even though I don’t like The Wrong Turn, I found the fact that it was trying to be a real horror film–in the nihilistic, brutal, 1970s horror way–quite admirable. Like The House of 1000 Corpses, the Rob Zombie opus that is also currently in theaters, Wrong Turn gets its main inspiration from drive-in classics like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. It is strangely satisfying to note that in a summer of glistening CGI creations like The Matrix and 2 Fast 2 Furious, film-makers like Schmidt and Zombie are paying homage to these grisly, low budget splatter-fests, movies from the dark ages of Bell Bottoms and Have a Nice Day. Still, if you’re a fan of such movies, skip The Wrong Turn–House of 1000 Corpses is much better.
You can find this review, along with other reviews of past and current films, theater, and opera, on our website, at wfiu.indiana.edu. In the meantime, this is Jonathan Haynes, reviewing movies for WFIU.