It might surprise you to learn that I have never seen any of the Wrong Turn films.
I say that, but is it really out of the ordinary to overlook a film that received mixed-to-negative reviews from moviegoers and critics alike and barely made any noise at the worldwide box office? For me, it is. The slasher genre has been my bread and butter for as long as I can remember, and is, perhaps, my most often sought after horror subgenre to write about. Sometimes that is to my detriment, mind you. Actually, to be honest, more often than not, I have been bitten on the ass by far more slasher movies than ones I have poured with praise and acclaim. Regardless, the fact I have overlooked the Wrong Turn series is peculiar, to say the least. With the reboot now released, that is seven Wrong Turn films that now exist. Seven! The horror genre is known for series’ with lots of sequels, but it is not often that such a seemingly unimpactful film series sees so many entries, even Joy Ride and Hostel stopped at three, after all.
I believe the reason I have ignored the Wrong Turn series like I have, I think, has to do with a lack of information and my own assumptions about the series. Honestly, I have never been too into the whole hillbilly shtick. I understand it, for certain. My childhood was spent with a cornfield in front of my house and behind it, and I have seen enough long stretches of road to know how unmonitored individuals can be out in the “country”. I also understand ignorance and stupidity and the ways they can factor into atrocities that are committed. I understand the concept, and I believe it is an evergreen subgenre, but I have always been left so unfulfilled by it.
In that same breath though, in anticipation of the new Wrong Turn film, I have decided I would officially embark into the Wrong Turn series and see what can be salvaged from it. I was not expecting a classic, by any stretch, but, instead, only, hopefully, a decent, enjoyable slasher flick.
Directed by Rob Schmidt and written by Alan B. McElroy, Wrong Turn is a slasher film starring Desmond Harrington, Eliza Dushku, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jeremy Sisto, Kevin Zegers and Lindy Booth. The film was released in 2003 and made shy of 30 million at the worldwide box office. Considering how all the eventual sequels were released through DVDs and video on-demand, I would not be surprised to say it fared considerably well on the home-market. However, most information about such is scarce, to say the least. Rob Schmidt went onto direct The Alphabet Killer, a film not many have heard of, but I do actually have fond memories about watching when it first released (keep in mind, however, that I was twelve years old). McElroy has been around, not only did he write the Wrong Turn reboot film, but his feature debut came in the eighties with the release of Halloween 4. Desmond Harrington is the only actor I recognized straightaway, fans of the series Dexter will recognize him as Joseph Quinn.
The film has a straightforward storyline, which is, for the most part, less a story and more a vehicle for the basic framework to unwind itself. Chris Flynn is a medical doctor who has an interview someplace he needs to be at. Unfortunately, due to a traffic issue, he decides to try and take a detour, and winds up in a collision with another vehicle that was parked in the road. That’s when he meets the rest of the cast, who had been marooned in the middle of nowhere because a flat tire caused by barbwire that was explicitly left out for them. As you might expect, the rest of the film unfolds in familiar fashion, with some nut jobs looking to massacre them.
Like I said, I did not expect anything much from Wrong Turn, and, in that respect, I was not disappointed. If we are being honest, I think it might have been even a little better what I expected. The acting is satiable, with a competent cast in front of the camera, but, of course, the film does not concern itself with making certain they have a lot to work with as far as characterizations are concerned. Everyone is one-dimensional and cookie-cutter, and the concern is more about the concept itself.
The camerawork is mostly consistent. This is definitely a slasher film with a production budget and a director / cinematographer opting to make a more picturesque aesthetic. My favorite part about the early Friday the 13th series was the greenery, and I felt like this film did well at capturing a sense of grandiose scale for how screwed sideways its protagonists were. The faraway shots of the forests, the waterfalls, they made more use out of the environment than some other slasher films had.
The antagonists are comparable to a lot of other antagonists in the genre. The obvious comparisons are The Hills Have Eyes and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with the characters looking like the result of inbreeding, or some serious deformity. This is textbook stuff, and they don’t reinvent the wheel in the slightest, although I did enjoy the cackling of one of the characters who appeared almost Goblin-esque in his portrayal.
Wrong Turn is mostly a harmless film, except for the torment inflicted on everyone in the film. The resilience of its protagonists require a suspension of disbelief. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a character shot, bruised and battered, then, flung someplace, only to pop up like it was no big deal. I used to nod my head and go, “Yeah, that’s that adrenaline, that’s what that is.” In actuality though, adrenaline is not this magical switch that makes you invincible when you are in peril. Ouches still hurt. Something else, and this is really a pet peeve, not something I would bring up in any other horror subgenre, but I am always deterred by how “uncool” or indistinct every character always looks in these hillbilly flicks (aside from Leatherface or the Fireflies, of course).
I would offer Wrong Turn a soft recommendation, specifically for fans of the slasher genre, because it is a genre you can do a lot worse with. The characters are one-dimensional, as are the antagonists, but the scenic aesthetic, coupled in with satiable acting, and the simple, visceral appeal we horror fans seem to find in bloodshed, will be enough to make it a turn worth taking. It is not a great film, nor a good film either, really, but it is an above-average slasher film.