Wrong Turn

Dir: Rob Schmidt
Star: Eliza Dushku, Desmond Harrington, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jeremy Sisto

The "teens in peril" film is a three-word genre, where the name sums up the entire movie. The location may change; the threat may vary; but the style and content remain much as laid down in Friday the 13th, or even before that, in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Thirty years on, we still have kids going into apparently derelict houses, and every viewer still screams "Get out!" at the screen, because both we and the soundtrack composer are several steps ahead of them, even before we find the fridge full of...well, let's not spoil all the surprises, shall we? I'm sure you can guess.

Still, for what it is, Wrong Turn isn't so awful, and left us crossing rural West Virginia off our list of potential holiday destinations [though a) it wasn't there to begin with, and b) the film was actually shot in Canada] Here, two cars collide, throwing the young, photogenic cast up against a clan of cannibalistic mountain-men with absolutely no mercy - except when they capture Dushku, naturally. From here, it's a question of, as TCM put it, who will survive, and what will be left of them? With one exception, the answer is "exactly who and what you'd expect". To the film's credit, most of the characters don't behave too idiotically, and Sisto actually seems like a reasonable guy - in this field of screams, that's something of a rarity.

November 2004

It's in the trees...it's coming!

Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings

Dir: Declan O'Brien
Star: Jenny Pudavick, Tenika Davis, Kaitlyn Wong, Terra Vnesa

As the title suggests, this is a prequel, showing how the three (fine) young cannibals escaped from the Glenville Sanatorium for the Criminally Insane and Overly Nom-nom-nomish in 1974, and then leaping forward 29 years, to just before the time of the first movie. They are still lurking around the now-deserted facility, but their peace is disturbed by the arrival of a group of college students, who had got lost in a winter storm while out snowmobiling, and seek refuge. Hey, home delivery meals! Needless to say, it's not long before the photogenic but largely uninteresting kids are being hunted, caught, dismembered and turned into fondue(!) by the residents. I kid you not. Oh, and memo to self: if someone is being pulled up with a barbed-wire garotte, it's probably...unhelpful to pull on their legs.

I decided I was going to like this one right from the pre-credit sequence, where the lunatics take over the asylum, to the strains of Strauss's Blue Danube waltz. That ends with the director suffering one of the most impressive fates (at least in the unrated edition) I've seen in any recent horror flick. If nothing which follows quite lives up to this, there's no shortage of unpleasant deaths: the film may take a bit longer than I'd like to reach these, however, it does at least chuck in some lesbians to tide the viewer over. The victims are your average stereotypes, who drink, smoke dope, have pre-marital sex and - most importantly - die horribly, but I have to respect the director for knowing what matters, and largely skipping any real effort to make us give a damn about them.

And stop me if I'm wrong, but there seemed a curiously fascist subtext to this. Obviously, the villains are basically a damn good argument in favour of eugenics, but one scene was in there, apparently for the sole reason of satirizing the democratic process, and another has one of the party pleading for the cannibals' lives, after they've been captured. No prizes for guessing how that works out, but let's just say, she ends up putting the "bleeding" into "bleeding heart liberal." Hohoho. Yes, it's probably all complete bollocks, but it has few pretensions and keeps the carnage rolling with a good deal of energy and fair degree of imagination.

June 2012

Snow joke

Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines

Dir: Declan O'Brien
Star: Camilla Arfwedson. Doug Bradley, Simon Ginty, Roxanne McKee

After the pleasant surprise which was the fourth installment, this was disappointing. Instead of the rural inbreds being the main threat, they have now moved back to be with their father Maynard (Bradley), who keeps them in check, and makes sure their cannibalistic and murderous activites. This film coincides with the Mountain Man Festival, a music event that draws a large number of young people from all across the country - or, as the cannibals call it, "a buffet." After a failed attack on one group, Maynard ends up in jail, under the local sherriff (Arfwedson), but safe in the knowledge that his family will come and get him out. Alongside him is one of the kids, as the result of a stash of drugs they had, so his friends keeping popping in, with the rest of the town (and all the other cops) apparently off at the festival. That leaves it wide open for a cannibal assault - and they demonstrate a surprising awareness of technology, being able to take out the mobile phone service and di sable the power station.

Ok, I wasn't exactly expecting logic or coherence, but this was still pretty disappointing, coming off as a slasher version of Assault on Precinct 13. without any significant suspense or elements of interest to be found in the characters or proceedings. Bradley chews the scenery with a wobbly American accents from inside his cell, and that's about all you've got to tide you over between the kills. Admittedly, some of those are pretty impressive - the combine harvester on a football pitch was a particular favourite - but even compared to other "death porn" franchises (hello, the Final Destination series), the victims are flimsy. In lieu of that, O'Brien seems to have jacked up the nudity quotient to compensate: if I was one-third my age, I'd probably be a lot more impressed. It's just fortunate this was seen the same week as the really bad Nine Lives: probably makes this seem a lot better in comparison.

[Random aside. Was scoping out some reviews around the 'Net, and noticed that in the comments on these, exactly the same sentence kept cropping up: "I heard about this movie from a coworker at DISH who recommended it for Halloween. It seemed appropriate so I added it to my Blockbuster @Home queue, and it came in the mail today." This would seem like random comment spam by Fox Home Video, except that the rest of the comment - apparently all by "Chris Baron", or a similar name - does vary wildly in tone. Here, for instance, he says: "This movie is so bad that I think that the straight to DVD release was too good for it." But then, elsewhere, he says, "You can tell that Dclan O’Brien is a true fan of the slasher genre, and I think that his earnest devotion to the genre is what makes this film work." Chris Baron needs to make his fucking mind up, I think, when spamming comments.]

[November 2012]

A town called malice
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