More noise than signal

Wrong Turn

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site,

One of the downsides of this gig is that I feel a certain obligation to watch everything that ends up in a multiplex, no matter how much of a cinematic abortion it is. Meet Wrong Turn.

The short form of this review is essentially “Ye Gods! Run away!”, but it’s important to understand that this is not because it’s too terrifying and disturbing to watch in the way that the director and writer intended. Much the opposite. In the interests of fairness, let’s look at this as close to objectively as possible.

A young doctor, Chris (Desmond Harrington) is travelling to an important appointment in his motor when he finds out that the road ahead is closed. Seeking an alternate route, he ends up on a dirt track in a remote part of the Virginian Backwoods. Temporarily distracted by the realisation he’s in an absolute clunker of a movie, he crashes into the camper van of a bunch of disposable teenagers. Their tyres have been blown out by a deliberately placed bit of barbed wire. After an introductory session where they establish which horror cliche they fit into Chris, Sexy Girl (Eliza Dushku), Unfunny Comedian (Jeremy Sisto) and Irritating Squeally Girl (Emmanuelle Chriqui) trek off in search of a phone, leaving Victim 1 (Lindy Booth) and Victim 2 (Kevin Zegers) for no useful reason. They are quickly killed.

They are killed by mutant in-bred cannibal hillbilly supersoldier zombie cyborg magic deathwarriors, or so it would seem. As absolutely no effort is expended in explaining who these freaks are apart from a few vague headlines over the opening credits, we can’t really be sure, but the above classification is about all that covers their abilities. They look rather like a plasticine model of Freddy Krueger that’s been left on a warm radiator for too long. This, we are supposed to infer, is TERROR INCARNATE.

Unfunny Comedian has recently proposed to Irritating Squeally Girl, but as they aren’t anything like as attractive as Chris and Sexy Girl, so their days are numbered. They stumble on the HUT OF TERROR, the home of the mutant in-bred cannibal hillbilly supersoldier zombie cyborg magic deathwarriors. Inside the HUT OF TERROR, they find no phone but in what would be nice to imagine as a shocking reveal find TERRIFYING BODY PARTS in an EXCEPTIONALLY TERRIFYING REFIGERATOR OF EXCEPTIONAL TERROR. It might have had a chance at providing a few unsettling moments, if everyone behind the camera wasn’t playing as if it’s amateur hour with the community centre camcorder.

This is director Rob Schmidt’s first major feature film, so perhaps we could show mercy on him and give him a bit of slack. However, as he was proud enough of this shambles to keep his name on it let’s nail him to a tree and throw rocks at him. It’s rare that a script so uninspired can be actively made far, far worse but dint of total disregard of any useful cinematic technique. It’s really as if he’s never seen a horror film before, or at least only seen the barrel-scrapers. The few genuinely unsettling horrors that have surfaced in the last few years all had one thing in common, the use of proper, thought-out sound design to keep you unsettled and primed for something freaky. All the rubbish ones use the cheap and unsatisfying technique of having silence broken by LOUDLY TERRIFYING ORCHESTRAL STABS as though the mutant in-bred cannibal hillbilly supersoldier zombie cyborg magic deathwarriors were carrying round a fucking philharmonic rather than a machete. Wild guess as to which this way goes?

It doesn’t stop with that, unfortunately. Every scene if framed so obviously that there’s never any hope of suspense, and they seem to have focused more on the shock value of gore to provide the ABJECT TERROR that the audience is vainly searching for. It’s baffling then that so little of it is on show, and as every death occurs in much the same way there’s not even any amusement value to be had from it. Even Final Destination 2 had the sense to make it so convolutedly funny as a back up if it turned out to be as scary as a cheese roll. He’s also wheeled out one of the most disinterested performances I’ve ever seen from a cast, with only Irritating Squeally Girl putting any back into it, and I’d have been far more grateful if she’d kept her cakehole shut for the duration. I found myself feeling a warm sense of satisfaction as she was finally shuffled off this mortal coil so I wouldn’t have to hear her grating whine any more.

Still, with a script as poorly though out as this there really wasn’t any point expending effort on it. Alan B. McElroy has the ‘credit’ for this nonsense, and his pedigree is as long as it isn’t distinguished. Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, Spawn, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers number among his many offences to humanity, and most people would be put before the Hague for this sort of record. Even with those shockers this is an arse-biscuit of unheard of proportions, an inexplicably inept stream of turgid crap that has no hope of coming close to bearable, let alone good. There could be no suspense in this film. There have been no shocking revelations written. No innovation shown. No understanding of the human psyche shown. No situations where it would be possible to even see a slight element of surprise. No talent shown at all.

Anyway, back at the ranch, the three mutant in-bred cannibal hillbilly supersoldier zombie cyborg magic deathwarriors return to their HUT OF TERROR with the days spoils, while the brave kids hide under the bed, watching their mates being dismembered by the Big Mutant, the Irritating Squeally Mutant and the Other Mutant. Again, this sort of situation if handled properly could have shown the rising terror in the survivors’ eyes, giving a sense of fear-by-proxy that masters of the craft may have capitalised on. Here we get a few muddy shots of limbs being hacked off from oblique angles, because that is THE VERY ESSENCE OF TERROR.

As night falls and the mutant in-bred cannibal hillbilly supersoldier zombie cyborg magic deathwarriors go to the land of nod, they sneak out only to be detected, and so for the rest of the film there is what would be nice to imagine as a tension filled race through the forests with a battle of wits thrown in for good measure. What you get is a steaming crock of dung where everyone gets picked off until only Sexy Girl and Chris remain, at which point they stage a comeback. As soon as the TERRIFYING VIOLENCE starts to be inflicted on the mutant in-bred cannibal hillbilly supersoldier zombie cyborg magic deathwarriors you notice how well they live up to their designation, as forty foot falls from treetops are shaken off as mild inconveniences and axe wounds to the chest are easily survivable, presumably thanks to a backup emergency heart or a re-routing of internal power channels.

By this point our patience had been tried far past the point of breaking, to the extent of openly and perhaps rudely mocking the film in front of the live theatre audience. Arguably this may have spoiled the enjoyment of those around us, but if any of them could possibly get any joy out of this drivel then they aren’t the kind of person I’m going to worry much about offending. If the only way to get any enjoyment out of a film is to give it a verbal kicking, it’s in severe trouble. When the only real positive thing I can say about it is that it’s quite short (shades of the equally appalling and similarly Buffy the Vampire Slayer co-star containing Darkness Falls) then perhaps it’s quitting time for all concerned.

I have nothing good to say about this film because it does nothing even adequately. Well below par in every conceivable respect, I found myself regularly slipping off into my own little fantasy film after seeing the scene of Dushku chained to a bed, writhing and gyrating which was a far more satisfying adventure than the on-screen cinematic torture that Wrong Turn represents. Almost inconceivably awful, it’s actually far worse than the above rantings can convey. As a premise of a Deliverance / Texas Chainsaw Massacre hybrid it could have had promise, but only if it did absolutely everything differently and infinitely better.