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"WRONG TURN"
(2003) (Eliza Dushku, Desmond Harrington) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Horror: Various young people find themselves lost and trapped in the woods of West Virginia and must avoid the murderous intentions of three barbaric mountain men.
PLOT:
Chris (DESMOND HARRINGTON) is driving through rural West Virginia on his way to Raleigh when he runs into a traffic jam that won't be cleared for hours. Not wanting to be late for his interview, he decides to turn around and try to find a way around the gridlock. When his cell phone won't work, he stops at a rundown gas station to call about being late, but the phone won't work and the one-toothed attendant isn't of any help.

Chris then spots a map and decides to take a detour on Bear Mountain Road, unsure of whether it's finished or will even get him where he wants to go. Along the way, however, he's distracted on the winding forest road and ends up crashing into a vehicle stopped dead in the middle of it.

Its occupants -- Jessie (ELIZA DUSHKU), her friend Scott (JEREMY SISTO) and his fiancée Carly (EMMANUELLE CHRIQUI) and their friends Evan (KEVIN ZEGERS) and his girlfriend Francine (LINDY BOOTH) - aren't hurt, but also made an impromptu stop due to a string of barbwire that seemingly was in place to blow out their tires.

With two of them staying behind to watch the vehicles, the other four head off for help. Along the way, they find a rundown, backwoods mountain house. No one's home, so they decide to go in for a bathroom break and to use the phone to call for help. Inside, they find what look like human organs inside many jars and then have to hide when the three disfigured and apparently inbred owners return - with one of their dead and very bloody friends.

From that point on, the four spend the rest of the day, night and following day trying to elude the homicidal mountain men who are intent on catching and killing all of them.

OUR TAKE: 2.5 out of 10
All states have their share of both good and bad points, but a few can't ever seem to shake the stereotypical negative connotations associated with them. For instance, New Jersey is unjustly viewed as the armpit of the Northeast thanks to its small number of industrial areas.

It has nothing on West Virginia, however, since its citizenry is often the focus of derision. After all, the mountain state is filled with nothing but dirt-poor, illiterate rednecks who are the result of generations of inbreeding, right?

That's obviously not true. Yet, the filmmakers responsible for "Wrong Turn" - namely director Rob Schmidt ("American Heroes," "Crime and Punishment in Suburbia") and screenwriter Alan B. McElroy ("Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever," "Spawn") - would have their viewers thinking otherwise, much to the likely dismay of the state's tourism board.

You see, in true "Deliverance" style, they've unleashed six unsuspecting young folk into the mountainous woods of the 35th state in the direct path of three of W.Va.'s finest mutated inbreeders. They're hell-bent on adding the youngsters - or at least their organs and body parts - to their growing collection of the same.

The filmmakers have been noted as saying that they wanted to make a film along the lines of the popular, low-budget horror flicks of the 1970s. Unfortunately, they didn't remember that may of those pictures - such as "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" - were actually quite bad.

For better or worse, this effort fits in with its predecessors. That means that despite a few decent scares and jump scenes, this is one of those run and hide, boogeyman/slasher films that usually debut on home video rather than in the theaters.

Considering the quality - or lack thereof - that's on display here, not to mention the stiff summer movie competition, I can't imagine it will take long before this effort is gracing the shelves of your local video store.

The film is essentially just a horror rip-off of "Deliverance" as filtered through any number of unremarkable outdoor boogeyman flicks, an old "X-Files" episode and even a bit of Goldilocks and The Three Bears. You see, the inbreeders return home to find that someone's been traipsing about their house and are none too happy about that (although they sadly don't make the "Someone's been..." comments).

The rest of the film is simply them trying to catch, kill and/or mutilate the interlopers who'd naturally rather not have that occur. Those with low tolerance levels for such mayhem might find some/all of the proceedings as scary. Everyone else, however, will see the overall offering as reheated but stale leftovers that should have been thrown out long ago due to the bad acting, writing and inane/unbelievable character actions and reactions.

While those are a staple of the genre, they're presented at face value here rather than as tongue-in-cheek, resulting in the deadly been there, seen that reaction. It doesn't help that little time or effort is used in trying to create anything resembling character development on either the villains or victims' side.

The killers aren't even named, but do sport some decent facial make-up effects inspired by guru Stan Winston who serves as one of the film's producers. The victims, meanwhile, are simply fodder for the killing machine. Like most such films, the only "suspense" is in trying to figure out in what order the victims will die and by what grisly or gruesome means.

Accordingly, the likes of Jeremy Sisto ("Angel Eyes," "Clueless"), Emmanuelle Chriqui ("On the Line," "Snow Day"), Kevin Zegers (the "Air Bud" films) and Lindy Booth ("American Psycho 2," "Detroit Rock City") are barely differentiated and have no chance of emotionally connecting with the viewers.

The same holds true for the leads -- Eliza Dushku ("City by the Sea," "Bring It On") and Desmond Harrington ("Riding in Cars With Boys," "My First Mister") - who can't do much with their weakly written parts. As a result, we don't care about any of them. Not surprisingly, that has a serious negative impact on the film's ability to thrill, resulting in what essentially amounts to an emotionless video game.

Simply put, if you've previously seen one such picture like this before, there's no real need to catch this one, as it brings absolutely nothing new to the genre. If you're unfortunate enough to head down the path of seeing this film, that will be the only "Wrong Turn" you'll likely remember. The film rates as just a 2.5 out of 10.




Reviewed May 29, 2003 / Posted May 30, 2003


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