Director: Rob Schmidt
Year of release: 2003
Country of origin: USA/Germany/Canada
Running time: 80 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both
Tagline: "It's the last one you'll ever take" and "Something strange is happening deep in the woods, but no one's lived to tell about it".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: While driving through rural West Virginia on the way to an important meeting motorist Chris Flynn finds his passage ahead blocked by a build-up of vehicles. In what proves to be a foolish decision he decides to take a detour through the woodland backroads in order to try and bypass the obstruction. This very much turns out to be the “wrong turn” of the title with Chris soon to placing himself in the middle of a nightmare.
The misery begins when Chris after taking his eyes off the road manages to smash into a car load of five young people. Though no one is hurt both vehicles are wrecked with the kids claiming someone had deliberately punctured their tyres with barbed wire prior to the collision. This is soon discovered to be the work of three deformed and inbred mountain men, a trio of sadistic cannibals who hunt down Chris and his new companions for sport and food.
Good points: *The lead characters who turn out to be Carly, Scott and Jessie in addition to Chris are really likeable and very much come across as people we can sympathise with and cheer on as they are forced into cat and mouse style games with the killers. Despite not being given much information on their respective backgrounds they all became characters I was quickly invested in and was cheering on pretty much from the start. Jessie was very capable as final girl while Chris managed to come across as a real gentleman and all around nice guy. At the same time the banter between couple Scott and Carly is engaging and after initially raising a smile later better enabled me to care for them when they ran into trouble. Scott in particular I liked being comic relief to some extent near the beginning but brave as well as things progressed.
*The film moves at a very swift rate and it turns out to be quite a ride never becoming boring but instead moving from one exciting scene to the next. There’s lots of drama which doesn’t let up packed into a relatively short but definitely sweet 80 minute running time. I have read criticism of the film being too short but that wasn’t something which stuck out for me and on the contrary I’d say it’s one of those cases of quality over quantity or less is more. I can see where the complaints come from to some extent as some background information on the leads or the cannibals for that matter would have been nice. Ultimately though I liked the short snappy pace and exciting end product as it is. It certainly never outstays its welcome and I think they got the pacing just right.
*Wrong Turn boasts solid special effects and though it never threatens to be among the more gory films out there it does deliver when it matters. One death which occurs in the tree tops in particular stands out as being pretty awesome. The majority of the budget in this area was probably reserved for the look of the mountain men themselves whose makeup and such is a high point. The end result is three very ugly looking monsters with Three Fingers in particular who went on to be a series mainstay looking decidedly disconcerting in his appearance and mannerisms.
*The newspaper articles seen during the opening credits were a good idea and in the absence of any kind of proper explanation or history for the villains it at least set the table for them a little bit. Though it wasn’t necessarily a new device as I know I’ve written about similar openings before it was a good introduction and means of getting the ball rolling.
Bad Points: *Very minor spoilers in these points: It's hard for me to find much fault with this film with probably my main criticism being that it’s somewhat unrealistic at times.
It’s maybe a bit overblown in the writing at times specifically with how many victims the cannibals have supposedly murdered over the years. We see all manner of pilfered souvenirs in their house taken from victims and then later a mass collection of abandoned vehicles dumped in a woodland clearing which allude to them having killed many families. If there had of been that many disappearances in the area then surely there would have been several investigations and searches of the woodland which would have at least turned up the vehicles if not the monsters themselves. For realisms sake it may have been better to have been more subtle with just a few vehicles here implying they only killed occasionally living off animals and the like the rest of the time.
This is hardly a problem exclusive to Wrong Turn though as I know I’ve mentioned similar issues before in other reviews for films such as Bunnyman Vengeance and one of my favourites House of Wax (2005).
Another thing which I felt was unrealistic was how Chris managed to conceal himself beneath the truck towards the end and cling on for the entire journey back to the cabin. You’d think he would sustain too many bumps and knocks and fall off seeing how many potholes and whatnot there would be on a dirt road plus he was already injured.
*Early on there one or two too many off camera kills and I think it would have been better if one of these was shown properly in more bloody detail. Wrong Turn largely did satisfy me in terms of the deaths as it wore on but the early stages were a bit light in this area. One more fully showcased gory kill towards the beginning would have pushed it up that extra notch in my estimation.
Verdict: A really fast paced, exciting and enjoyable film which brought back pleasant memories of many of the classic backwoods slashers of previous years. A very likeable group of characters placed in peril drive it along with some dramatic set pieces such as the vehicle theft escape attempt and tree top scenes adding to the enjoyment. Very decent special effects and make up for the cannibals help as well but at the same time I didn’t think it was so overly graphic as to be off putting to some people.
It can be unrealistic in places and it is very light on backstory for all the characters. In the case of the cannibals/mountain men at least we learn much more about them in the sequels anyway so it’s not much of a problem. It’s mainly plain sailing as the gripes are minor. It’s easy to see how Wrong Turn went on to spawn a successful and long running franchise.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Rich: Killed off camera and then thrown off a cliff.
2)Halley: Off camera death as I think we just see her being dragged away.
3)Evan: Killed off camera. We just see pieces of him, maybe his ear and a trainer on the ground.
4)Francine: Garrotted around the mouth area with barbed wire.
5)Scott: Shot multiple times through the chest with arrows.
6)Carly: Decapitated at the jaw withy an axe.
7)Policeman/Forest Ranger: Shot through the head with an arrow.
8)Saw Tooth: Burns to death in cabin explosion.
9)One Eye: As above (same as #8)
10)Policeman: Killed with an axe as the film finishes (off camera again I believe).