Wrong Turn Review
Wrong Turn is a delightful little yarn told from the point of view of Chris (Desmond Harrington), a young medic who, late for a meeting, decides to take a short-cut along an off-road path that goes through the woods. Not looking where he is going, he collides with the car of a group of hapless campers, and with their vehicles totalled, they find themselves stranded. After much dilly-dallying, they are set upon by a group of hungry, in-bred cannibals who just love the taste of young roasted flesh.
The film is most definitely marketed with Eliza Dushku as the lead, and indeed it is often described as "the movie with Faith from Buffy in it". In reality, though, it is Harrington's character who is the protagonist. Dushku displays plenty of attitude and is definitely a good actor, stealing most of the scenes she is in, but her character is actually quite weak. After seeing her decidedly active performance in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it is quite odd to see her playing a character who rarely fights back and at one point has to be rescued by Harrington's character. Emmanuelle Chriqui is extremely annoying and survives for way too long. Jeremy Sisto is exactly the same as he was in May: passable. Lindy Booth is amusing and turns in a fun performance, but her character is basically non-existant, as is that of her boyfriend, played by Keven Zegers.
Character development is definitely Wrong Turn's biggest flaw. This is definitely a problem from the point of view of Chris who, considering that he is the main character, is initially presented as a rather unlikable individual. He comes across as rude, abrupt and full of himself, and although he does improve as the film progresses, he never really made me care about him. In my opinion, screenwriter Alan McElroy would have been better off concentrating on Eliza Dushku's character, because hers is the only character in the movie for whom anything seems to be going on beneath the surface. Her character is still wafer-thin, but that is at least a step up from the others, who are non-existant.
The film is intended as a throwback to the horror movies of the 70s, and consciously avoids the tounge-in-cheek humour of the post-Scream era. The fact that the film is played straight is definitely a pleasing change, but the film suffers from the fact that it conforms to virtually every cliché of the genre, even going so far as to embrace the age old "if you have sex you die" rule (oral sex counts, right?). In that respect it does sort of feel like a product of the 70s, but it limits the surprise factor because you can basically tell from the outset which characters will survive and which won't.
Without a doubt, the film's greatest asset is the superb make-up effects of the cannibals, designed by the great Stan Winston (who was also the movie's producer). Although director Rob Schmidt is just a little too anxious to show the cannibals' make-up effects off at every possible opportunity (he certainly doesn't appear to be of the school of thought which says that what you don't see is as important as what you do see), they acquit themselves very well, and it helps that the actors playing the cannibals bring a great deal of personality to them, even without the aid of any intelligible dialogue. While the cannibals are never truly scary, they are definitely suitably repulsive.
Although lacking in fear factor, Wrong Turn has a decent number of jumpy moments, particularly early on, when Schmidt throws false jumps left, right and centre. As the film progresses, the false scares are substituted with the real thing, including one death later on that is completely unexpected. Despite not being able to keep the tension up for the entire duration of the film, there are a number of suitably tense set-pieces, including a great scene with the protagonists trapped inside the sleeping cannibals' home, and another that takes place up in the treetops in the dead of night. It is at moments like this that Wrong Turn really revels in what it is: a simple but effective horror movie.
At only 84 minutes, this is an unusually short film, but it doesn't feel as if it needs to be any longer. In fact, if anything the running time could have been brought down even further by shortening the opening sequence that introduces Chris. That scene has very little exposition, and it could in fact have been beneficial to start the movie after he takes the "wrong turn" of the movie's title.
Let me just make it clear that I enjoyed Wrong Turn. It makes for an entertaining and often engaging 84 minutes, but ultimately there is little to take you back to it for multiple viewings. It is a bare-bones, "what you see is what you get" type of film that fails to have any real impact on a psychological level. As such, it is not an essential purchase, but it is a pleasing enough way to pass an hour and a half, and if you enjoy survival horror films in the vein of The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Wrong Turn is at least worth a rental.
Wrong Turn is presented on a double-sided disc, both sides of which are single-layered. The first side contains a 1.33:1 pan and scan version of the film, and the flip-side contains an anamorphic 1.85:1 presentation (the original ratio). That's right: the primary viewing option presented is the pan and scan version. Having glanced at it briefly, I can confirm that it is truly cropped as opposed to open matte. It even starts in widescreen for the credits and then zooms in after they have ended.
The picture quality is actually quite disappointing given how recent a film this is. From the very first shot to the very last, the image is somewhat blurry with a tendency for edge enhancement. The first shot in the film, featuring a pan over the woods, illustrates this perfectly: the trees are reduced to a smudge of green with no details standing out. It certainly looks like some very aggressive filtering has been applied, and the culprit for this is the fact that only a single layer has been provided for the film and extras of both the widescreen and pan and scan versions.
There are no obvious compression problems, but that is only because almost all the potential detail has been filtered out.
This transfer looks more akin to what you might expect of a TV show. It certainly doesn't look awful, but it is disappointing and made all the more frustrating by the fact that the culprit is clearly the lack of disc space afforded. I suspect that the Region 2 release, due out next spring, will be of a higher standard.
Thankfully, the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix is reasonably solid. There are enough split surround effects to significantly enhance the atmosphere, and the dialogue is always clear. The bass is nice and deep and never sounds tinny or flat. That said, the majority of the sound effects do come from the front speakers, with the rears only standing out every now and then. They generally give backing to the score and for ambient effects. That said, the odd crash and bang does occasionally pop up behind you. In all, a decent but not exceptional track.
The menu is nicely designed and suitably atmospheric, and is reasonably user-friendly. Not too much to say here; it gets the job done. Oddly enough, the menu is presented in anamorphic widescreen on both sides of the disc.
The packaging is nicely done, and in my opinion the front cover artwork (basically the theatrical poster) is quite attractive. All the relevant information is included on the back with no inaccuracies as far as I can tell.
A single double-sided page with chapter stops on the back, along with a list of the extras (and which side of the DVD they are on) is also included.
Annoyingly, the extras are spread across both sides of the disc.
Commentary - First up is a commentary by director Rob Schmidt and stars Desmond Harrington and Eliza Dushku. Harrington says practically nothing apart from cracking a couple of jokes now and then. Schmidt handle the majority of the talking, and Dushku speaks up, but often only when prompted. At one point she claims that she wants to present women as strong characters in her films, which struck me as very odd considering that her character in this film doesn't do much apart from running away, screaming and getting tied up (very much a throwback to the old "damsel in distress" days). Incidentally, Harrington's response to this is probably the most amusing moment of the entire commentary: "Well, MY character was supposed to represent the more effeminate males of society".
There is a lot of dead time here, with entire sequences elliciting no response from the supposed commentators. While not the worst commentary I have ever heard, it suffers from a general lack of enthusiasm and is definitely not required listening.
The commentary can be played with both the 1.85:1 and 1.33:1 versions of the film.
Deleted scenes - Three scenes are included, although in reality what we actually get is one extended scene (featuring a romantic angle between Chris and Jessie), a clip of the death of one of the characters (which to me looks exactly the same as the version included in the film proper), and multiple takes of said kill.
Fresh Meat: The Wounds of Wrong Turn - This, in my opinion, is the most worthwhile feature. It is a brief behind the scenes look at the production of both the gore and the monster make-up effects of the film. It is very interesting to see the way the make-up was applied, and how the various kills were shot. The featurette runs for around 9 minutes.
Poster concepts - Four poster concepts are included, and although some interesting ideas are presented, I think it's safe to say that the final version is the best of the bunch.
Trailer - This is the trailer the MPAA refused to pass? It's tame in the extreme, due to the fact that it cuts away any time anything remotely gory is about to be shown. Disappointingly, it is presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Surround 2.0 audio.
The Making of Wrong Turn - This is complete fluff, not to put too fine a point on it. It is basically a high-speed MTV-style featurette that skims very quickly over various aspects of production, interspersed with numerous clips from the film and very brief snippets of interviews with the cast and crew. It clocks in at under four minutes, and doesn't really reveal anything worthwhile.
Eliza Dushku: Babe in the Woods - Whoever thought up that title should lose their job, quite frankly. Director Rob Schmidt and producer Stan Winston basically fawn over Eliza Dushku for a little under three minutes, discussing their desire for a powerful female hero (which is not, in my opinion, what the character is). Dushku chips in on a couple of occasions, discussing her opinions of her character and what it was like to shoot the film. I wonder if Desmond Harrington is feeling a little peeved about the fact that he doesn't have a similar featurette?
Stan Winston featurette - One of the better featurettes on this disc, this is basically a brief overview of Stan Winston's career. Winston is interviewed in some detail and he talks about his opinion of horror films, getting scared, and the role of producer.
Overall, these extras really are pretty lightweight, with the majority of them taking on the guise of the cheap promotional material that shows up on channels like MTV. If you're expecting a fully-laden special edition, look elsewhere.
Wrong Turn is fun while it lasts, but it is a pretty inconsequential little film. The presentation of this DVD is pretty average, and is not helped by the fact that it is a double-sided disc and that the extras are mostly fluff. This is probably best reserved for hard-core survival horror junkies, and even then I would recommend waiting for the UK release, which should be single-sided and will hopefully boast superior image quality.