Thursday, November 19, 2020

Wrong Turn (2003)

Does Wrong Turn warrant critical analysis? I think so. One would expect a new franchise in the slasher genre to be warmly received, especially during the dry spell of the 2000s. It’s The Hills Have Eyes (1977) meets Deliverance (1972). Both films are more artful by a mile, but Wrong Turn has the magic formula of idiots going into the woods and not coming out.


It’s not the most refined idea for a horror movie, but (barring a few pointless slow-downs) the viewing experience improves by the minute. My biggest complaint is the lack of an identifiable villain. The Evil Dead (1981) had the same problem, but it had other things going for it; it wasn’t a pure slasher movie. Wrong Turn is just a slasher, and there is no one slasher to single out.

Lindy Booth plays a stunning stoner chick with “victim” written all over her. Booth has been in everything, including a crappy fantasy show called The Librarians. (I was an extra in an episode or two, so we must have crossed paths. Sadly, I don’t remember her character from the show. She was a star, but she’s such a trooper that she didn’t upstage Rebecca Romijn or John Larroquette. I think her character in Wrong Turn is more interesting.)

The other victims are somewhat less memorable, though the actors who play them are equally seasoned. Carly (played by Emmanuelle Chriqui) stands out as an annoying bitch. Like Booth, Chriqui has had a number of interesting roles over the years, a lot of them hit comedies, some of them shot in Canada.

All of the performances are spot-on, which I credit to the steady hand of director Ron Schmidt. The script is penned by prolific screenwriter Alan B. McElroy, who co-wrote 1988’s Halloween 4 (which I love), but who also takes sole writing credit for 2002’s Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (which I hate). The Wrong Turn script really needed another pass to shave off those “it’s gonna be okay” consolation scenes.

The end result is hack work, but so was the original Friday the 13th (1980). Hack work does not imply a bad film, and while Wrong Turn looks and feels a little cheap, even rushed in parts, it earnestly tries to elicit emotion from the audience. If a movie can pull that off without so much as a nipple slip, and still manages to hold your interest to the end, that movie deserves critical praise.

Eli Roth once said that you can’t outdo The Evil Dead because it’s The Evil Dead. You can’t outdo a classic unless you’re making a classic. For a low-budget shot-in-Canada franchise-starter, you could do a lot worse than Wrong Turn.