Who would have thought making a great movie would come down to simplicity? Going back in time and doing things so simple its unbelievable it came out that good. Along with recent films like Wet Hot American Summer and House of 1000 Corpses, Stan Winston’s Wrong Turn is a throwback to early horror films from a time when horror was fun.
Stan Winston, the FX master who has worked on such great films as Jurassic Park, Edward Scissorhands, Terminator 1, 2 and 3 and even the classic Pumpkinhead, decided to bring the horror genre something special this year with Wrong Turn.
Wrong Turn, directed by Rob Schmidt, is about a med student named Chris Finn (Desmond Harrington) who is on his way to a job interview somewhere in West Virginia. He is sidetracked by a large chemical spill on the road and is forced to take the “backwoods” route to try and make his interview. On his way he comes across a group of people, which includes the likes of Jeremy Sisto (May) and Eliza Dushku (Buffy), who are stranded in the middle of the road with a bunch of flat tires caused by a barbed wire trap. Next thing you know everyone is on the run in the middle of the woods, being chased by cannibalistic mountain men who are grossly disfigured through generations of inbreeding. Here is a solid throwback to the 1964 film Spider Baby, which also happened to inspire House of 1000 Corpses.
What makes Wrong Turn such a great film is its fun factor. It’s a no brainer filled with great kills, fun characters and solid sound effects. Looking purely at the plot, it’s totally obvious who’s going to survive, and the cliché’s are everywhere, but does it really matter?
When I think back to all the great horror films of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, what made them great was purely the fun and the gore. Who cares who lives or dies, who cares who hooks up at the end, who cares if the acting is bad, and who cares how they got there and why they don’t just fight back when it matters most! What matters is that three disgusting monstrosities are after these kids and are about to lay the smackdown on them with a furious rage.
Wrong Turn is simple, first Stan Winston brings some frightening creatures to life. There are three of them. Two huge monsters with hunch backs and welts over there eyes almost like giant Toxic Avengers, and one little monster who runs as fast as the wind and howls sickening sounds as he hunts the unfortunate. They are equipped with axes, guns, bow and arrows, and more. They enjoy the hunt and then make a kickin meal out of them when its all said and done. Second, Winston knows how important the gore factor is. For so many “implied” death scenes, it’s incredible the amounts of blood and guts Winston managed to get into Wrong Turn. There’s a scene spoiler in which a friend of the group is thrown on a table and chopped to bits. It is unshown, but Schmidt, not only once but twice pans over the aftermath slowly! The image is still burned in my fragile little mind. end spoilers. The third thing that make Wrong Turn work is the creative killings. Some are simple, quick and painless, but others are just so damned incredible. Spoiler follows For example, the group ends up in the trees, running from the small mountain man. While one girl leans up against the tree in fear, an axe comes crashing right through the middle of her face. The next shot pans back as the body falls down out of the trees and the top of her face remains intact, still on top of the axe wedged into the tree! end spoiler. The final thing that makes this film work, and probably the most important in my mind is the sound. I have not heard such fantastic sound effect since the 1973 film Exorcist. The sound of the axe’s entering the flesh, and the arrows crashing through skin were phenomenal. The roars of the mighty beasts send chills down your spine as they hunt their prey.
As for the acting, it was sub par, but they weren’t in the movie to act. No no, they were in the movie to die, plain and simple! Jessie Burlingame, played by Eliza Dushku, was the typical “tough” chick who is pissed off and ready to kick some ass. Chris Finn, played by Desmond Harrington was the typical outsider who knows how to bring the group together to try and survive. Beyond that, there was not much to do but run, scream, and especially die.
I read many reviews going into this film, and most of them called it cliché’ or hated the film because the mountain men looked like they came right of X-Files. I give my hats off to sites like Arrow in the Head for giving the film such a great review. It always bothers me when people go into a movie without understanding and come out hating it. For example, pretty much every review in Entertainment Weekly is done by people who don’t get movies like this and it’s frustrating that movies like Wrong Turn lose so much credit to these magazines and sites. Like I said, overall Wrong Turn is cliché’, the acting is lousy and the story is nothing special, but if you understand the intentions of Stan Winston going into this movie you’ll love it! Wrong Turn is a extraordinary trip back in time to when horror was at its best. Check it out in theaters before its too late!