Wrong Turn (18)
This throwback to the stalk-and-slash shockers of the ‘80s reveals its hand from the very start, as the titles emerge over a succession of newspaper headlines shrieking of cannibalistic mountain men and hikers who have mysteriously disappeared way out in the boonies.
By rights the film’s theme should be Duelling Banjos, from John Boorman’s Deliverance, since from the moment it gets underway it becomes clear that one or more city types are going to cop for it at the hands of some raving, dribbling half-human killer. And, guess what: that’s exactly what occurs.
Wrong Turn, starring TV face Eliza Dushku – aka Faith from Buffy the Vampire Slayer – is a combination of Breakdown, The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It acknowledges such inspirations from the off, with the five heroes and heroines stranded in the wilds when their cars collide.
In the tradition of such gory classics as Friday the 13th and The Burning they head off to find help. Lo and behold, the first sign of human habitation they stumble across is a redneck shack deep in the woods. “This isn’t right,” says one soon-to-be-dead person as they warily approach. Never was a truer word said…
The villains of this fast-paced, nervy and darkly funny thriller are flesh-eating inbreds who communicate through a succession of grunts, snarls or ear-splitting howls. Forgotten by civilisation and the authorities, they exist through ambushing unwary travellers, dismembering and eviscerating them in their remote hideaway, and hoarding their possessions.
Director Rob Schmidt and writer Alan B. McElroy embrace and make use of all the hoary old horror movie clichés that audiences expect. Instead of avoiding obvious traps, they walk into them. Women always seem to fall over when running through woodland. Cops arrive only to be butchered. And the dead villain is never really quite dead…
Pretty soon the cast is whittled down to two nubile beauties and a limping hero (Desmond Harrington) with a bullet in his leg. The trick for the remaining reel of the film is to keep us guessing not when the secondary heroine is going to snuff it, but in what imaginative way.
With special effects that goremaster Tom (Dawn of the Dead) Savini would be proud of and a trio of hopelessly insane, eye-rolling, gibbering monsters, Wrong Turn is a creditable and nasty horror movie from the old school. Dushku is suitably feisty and sexy, Harrington bright and brave, and the Schmidt/McElvoy teaming offers a fresh twist on an old genre.
Remember, don’t get out of the car…
Star rating: ***