Wrong Turn is wholly unoriginal. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A three-chord blues isn’t very original either and the fact that structurally, Bright Lights, Big City is identical to Sweet Home Chicago doesn’t mean both aren’t great.
From the start, director Rob Schmidt (The Alphabet Killer) sets off a kill with a fear of heights, acrophobia used again, albeit less successfully, later in the film.
But really, the setup for Wrong Turn is the stuff of Don’t Go in the Woods, featuring the region most disproportionally represented in backwoods horror – poor ol’ West Virginia – Hamilton Mountain in Ontario amply standing in for the Mountain State.
It’s there (or here, as the case may be, in close proximity to Toronto), a doctor, Chris Flynn, is en route to a job interview a la Children of the Corn, except solo [Check out our Children of the Corn podcast]. Played by Desmon Harrington, Deb’s detective love interest from Dexter, Chris is off to Raleigh and running late because of a highway mishap.
Right off the bat, the urban rural schism is driven home in two instances of not-so-southern hospitality: the first, a trucker mocks Chris’s metrosexual coif when he asks what’s going on up the road; and second, the rude proprietor of that genre staple, the hick gas station attendant, whose phone doesn’t work but given his surly demeanor and one incisor, he likely wouldn’t have too many people to yak with anyway.
Chris eventually finds his way to Bear Mountain Detour, a deserted stretch of road. There, while reaching for a CD, he barrels into a stationary jeep whose tires, it turns out, have been taken out by barbed wire. It’s owned by recreational cyclists who’re there – let’s face it – solely to up the body count and who are understandably right pissed with Chris for completely totaling their ride.
However, they bond over that horror movie common interest: the desire to respire.
They let bygones be bygones and venture off into the woods to seek help, leaving two lazy stoners in their ranks to die gruesome deaths.
The group eventually stumble upon a rural cabin a “garage sale from hell,” featuring all the nasty staples of buzzing flies, pickle jar dentures, wind chimes and even an old gramophone to prove the killers are old-timey.
The friends even reference Deliverance before they’re similarly picked off, as not surprisingly, these backwoods are inhabited by cannibal rednecks who hunt with bear traps, bows and chains.
While by no means transcendent, Wrong Turn offers a few right word choices and a few decent performances. There’s an amusing bit about whether a James Brown or a Frank Sinatra doppelganger would work better as a wedding singer, and Entourage’s Emmanuelle Chriqui (above, right) is pretty compelling as the helpless Carly, who’s got a crop top and a defeatist attitude.
Wrong Turn is a pretty solidly-conceived time-waster, though it’s a bit of an enigma how it generated so many sequels.
*** (out of 5)
[CHECK OUT OUR CHAT ABOUT WRONG TURN ON THE REALLY AWFUL MOVIES PODCAST!]