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Case Number 03393: Small Claims Court

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Wrong Turn

Fox // 2003 // 85 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // October 6th, 2003

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All Rise...

Editor's Note

Our review of Wrong Turn (Blu-Ray), published October 2nd, 2009, is also available.

The Charge

"You're the one who's gonna need to take care."—Creepy Old Gas Station Attendant, Wrong Turn

The Case

I feel that we take something away from every movie we see. Sometimes it's a little romance, sometimes a little laughter. In Wrong Turn, it's a lesson: never, ever run around the back woods of West Virginia without ample ammunition. Why? Well, you may end up like Jessie (Eliza Dushku, TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Chris (Desmond Harrington, Ghost Ship), and their very unlucky friends: dead teenage meat! When Chris accidentally runs headfirst into Jessie and her friend's car, the six youths are stranded in the middle of nowhere without good cell coverage (damn those mongrels at AT&T!). Things go from bad to worse when four of the victims…err, I mean characters (including Jeremy Sisto from Six Feet Under and Emmanuelle Chriqui from On The Line) decide to look for help deep in the woods. What they find is almost indescribable: a cabin filled with sharp tools and dismembered body parts! The cabin belongs to a threesome of inbred hicks who make the bad guys in Deliverance look like GQ models. After narrowly being caught while snooping around the mountain men's cabin, the teens make their escape into the woods where they think they'll be safe—but think again. The gruesome threesome is hot on their heels with torches, shotguns, and axes in hand. It will take all of Jessie and Chris' primal instincts to survive this devastatingly bad Wrong Turn!

Wrong Turn ended up being an appropriate title during the film's theatrical release: it made a quick U-turn in and out of the local multiplexes faster than you can say "speed zone." What went wrong? Hard to tell: with the resurgence in horror these past few months (Freddy Vs. Jason, Jeepers Creepers 2, Cabin Fever) it's puzzling why Wrong Turn didn't find an audience. It could be that moviegoers felt they'd seen this theme played out many times before: Wrong Turn is technically a hybrid of Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes and Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Or maybe because it wasn't a high profile horror sequel fans decided to take a pass. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that Wrong Turn is a much better movie than one might suspect. It's not surprising that it is a retread of most other horror movies from the past 25 years. What is surprising is that there are genuine chills to be found, as well as a few monsters who'd give Sloth from The Goonies a run for his money. Special effects guru Stan Winston (Jurassic Park, The Terminator) created the deformed mountain men with great detail: these are definitely three guys you wouldn't want to meet in a metropolitan police department during the day, much less the thicketed backwoods of Virginia at night. The stock characters are cobbled together from various personalities from the horror genre: the Pot Head, the Sexually Aroused Teen, the Tough Heroine, the Funny Guy, et cetera. Jeremy Sisto provides some needed laughs while Eliza Dushku oozes sexuality with her soft, sensuous eyes and pulsating, pouting lips. Everyone else should have a tag stamped to their forehead that reads "Raw Meat." Director Rob Schmidt (Crime and Punishment in Suburbia) knows how to wring genuine suspense out of small scale scenes, as when Dushku and Harrington are avoiding being killed while running around elevated tree branches. And give screenwriter Alan B. McElroy credit—this is the best movie he's written so far (don't believe me? Check out Halloween 4, Ecks vs. Sever, Left Behind…). There isn't much to Wrong Turn (it's only a scant 84 minutes long), but you know what? That's okay. Horror movies don't always need to provide me with daring insight or complex thrills—sometimes I'm just as happy watching a good old-fashioned scare show where deformed humans hunt down and subsequently slaughtering overly attractive teenagers (in tight tank tops, no less). On that level, Wrong Turn succeeds.

Wrong Turn is presented in 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen. Bravo to Fox for an excellent looking transfer of this film. Wrong Turn often takes place at night or in dark spaces, and I was happy to see fine shadow detail and solid black levels throughout. When there are daytime scenes the colors and hues are all brightly rendered without any bleeding in the images. Dirt, grain, and edge enhancement are all absent from the print. Also included on the flipside is a pan and scan version that is not recommended. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. With more surround sounds than you can shake a dead chicken carcass at, Wrong Turn ends up being a fantastic home theater experience. Both the front and rear speakers are engaged throughout the length of the film. Kudos goes to composer Elia Cmiral's atmospheric music score and Stan Winston's grunting mountain men (I'll never get their howls out of my head). All aspects of the mix are free and clear of any distortion. Also included on this disc are English, French, and Spanish subtitles, as well as Dolby 2.0 Surround tracks in French and Spanish.

Though it died a swift and horrible death at the box office, Fox has given Wrong Turn a second life on DVD with a few decent extra features. The best is a well-done commentary featuring Eliza Dushku, Desmond Harrington, and director Rob Schmidt. There is a fair amount of production information shared during this commentary, as well as stories about how the mountain men came to be and what it was like working with effects legend Stan Winston. Three deleted scenes are included, each presented in non-anamorphic widescreen (with time code), and though they're nice to have none shed much light on the film's story. "Fresh Meat: The Wounds of Wrong Turn" is a nice little production featurette that includes interviews with various cast and crew members, including Stan Winston discussing what brought him to the screenplay. Three other very brief featurettes ("Making of Wrong Turn," "Babe in the Woods: Eliza Dushku," and "Stan Winston") provide viewers with a little more information on the production (the featurette revolving around Winston is the best), though not much; most are just short promotional filler that wastes the viewer's time. Finally there is a very short gallery of promotional ideas for the poster (ironically, the final choice was the least enticing), as well as a theatrical trailer for the film.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 87

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
• English
• French
• Spanish
Running Time: 85 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary Track by Stars Eliza Dushku and Desmond Harrington and Director Rob Schmidt
• "Fresh Meat: The Wounds of Wrong Turn" Featurette
• Three Deleted Scenes
• Poster Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer


• IMDb
• Official Site
• Eliza Dushku Fansite

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