Dir. Rob Schmidt (2003)
Teenagers are trapped in the woods and find themselves being hunted by inbred mutants.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Featuring Eliza Dushku at the absolute height of her popularity, Wrong Turn is a postmodern tribute to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. Unfortunately, it lacks a lot of what made those films special, and though it is remembered fondly by many who say it upon release, it’s really not a great movie, you guys. Upon rewatch, I was shocked at how poorly the film stood up. It’s gorier than most slashers but it is, in essence, a slasher movie: it follows every trope, from the dumb decisions that the characters make to the potheads getting offed first.
Don’t get me wrong: Wrong Turn can still be a fun watch. It’s got tons of gore, Stan Winston-designed beastly monster-men, and a fast-moving plot that doesn’t have a ton of downtime. It’s a nostalgic watch for fans of the movie series itself as well as for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because Dushku plays what is basically Backwoods Faith. Unfortunately, she also reveals why we haven’t seen her in that many important thing since: she’s not even a slightly good actor. She’s typecast, to be sure, and that may seem like a crime on its surface. Who doesn’t love her strong feminine warrior woman trope, who performs her own stunts and fights like hell against all enemies foreign and domestic. But she’s also flat, predictable, and downright boring at times. The movie itself, unfortunately, follows the same path, being a formulaic retelling of better movies that came before.
Though not here, in particular.
I was disappointed on the rewatch for many of the same reasons that I hesitated to include it in my Halloween list to begin with: there are just so many better options out there that hold up much better after two decades. Cabin Fever, which was made around the same time, is clever and smart with way more gore and Eli Roth’s at-the-time unique style. Hatchet came out three years later, also ironically involving a character whose actress had a role in Buffy, and is way more brutal, funny, and fantastic. House of 1000 Corpses came out the same year and did the backwoods, redneck mass murderers waaaay better. As much as I hate to say it, if you had to build a Halloween playlist, this one probably shouldn’t be on it. There are much better psycho-cannibals-in-the-woods movies out there.
Who this movie is for: TCM fans; Modern slasher lovers; Outdoor enthusiasts
Bottom line: Worth a watch? Sure. If you’ve never seen it before, give it a watch, because it has inspired countless sequels and even a remake. There are things to love about the movie, including some interesting gore and some great “creature” effects. This one is more miss than hit, however, and unless you were a huge fan when it originally came out, I don’t think you’ll be coming back for seconds. It’s not nearly as good as I remembered, and I say that being a huge fan of the folks involved. Check out the TCM remake instead.