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I’m begging for the day when they actually make a slasher film scary, because so far it seems audiences are only alarmed by the “fake-scares” filmmakers try to pass off as decent thriller techniques. You know the one’s I’m talking about; someone sits in a car and their friend quickly smacks on the window, scaring them only because they come out of nowhere. Or there’s the subliminal fake-scare, where we’re treated to a quick flash of something rather scary for half a second accompanied by a jarring orchestral score just to tip our hearts over the edge. Gone are the days of real tension, really scary situations and, most importantly, really scary stories.

Wrong Turn epitomises the recent trend of slasher films not actually being very scary at all. It’s also terribly clichéd, a definite no-no in the most formulaic genre of all. In fact, the film is decidedly average and does nothing to suggest it might stand up against any of the better poor-man’s horror titles of recent times.

Wrong Turn
Movie
The film opens as most body-count thrillers tend to do; we see people murdered in the opening scene. There’s cliché number one, but at least it gains our attention to the point where we wonder just how many others will end up on the wrong end of the stick, so to speak.

We then travel along with our main man, Chris (Desmond Harrington), who is forced to take a detour after the route he is taking becomes a giant traffic jam thanks to an accident a few miles ahead. See where this is going? Chris decides to look for an alternate route, desperate to arrive on time at what seems to be a job interview. He makes down a pretty desolate stretch of road and is then faced with a choice between two paths. Not surprisingly, Chris makes his decision, which we all know was just a “wrong turn”. Get it?

Soon after he smashes into the car of six teenagers stranded after someone (or something) planted barbed wire along the road. Luckily all six were off in the bush doing God-knows-what, and they all come rushing out to find a shaken Chris wondering what the hell had just happened. They explain their situations but none of them think to merely take the tyres from Chris’ car and use them on the other one. One presumes the crash has rendered both engines useless.

With seven able-bodied youngsters stranded in the woods the rest of the thriller clichés come think and fast. The group decides to split up, inevitably enticing the dangerous jungle-nasties into their first strike. We learn later that these creatures are the result of years of in-breeding out in the woods, though we never see a female version at all. Think of the creatures as B-grade versions of the beasts in 28 Days Later, though far, far less frightening or dangerous.

The cast has been assembled to fit snugly into the generic slasher character slots. We’ve got the brooding hero (Harrington), the headstrong tough girl (Eliza Dushku playing a version of all her previous characters), the smoochy good-looking couple (Jeremy Sisto, who needs a new agent, and Emmanuelle Chriqui, who needs to be seen to be believed) and the expendable duo who are just there to get hacked to pieces early on. And there actually is some serious hacking involved here as the cannibals enjoy severing the limbs of their victims, defenceless travelers who have also made the fateful turn down the road to a grisly death.

Wrong Turn
Don’t get me wrong, this is a very watchable film and as far as recent times go you could probably do a lot worse, it’s just that everything is just plain average. The finale is weak, the action not nearly scary enough and the characters not likeable enough for the audience to really care if they get killed at all. The film has found a reasonable audience after making modest cash at the box-office and this disc is a chance for those slasher fans to taste what really is a paint-by-numbers thriller with none of the usual frills associated with recent Hollywood fare. Take a look, but I’d expect you’ll watch it and forget about it pretty darn quickly.

Video
While watching the film on the small screen might not have the same effect as the cinema, this 1.85:1, 16:9 enhanced transfer really does look exceptionally good. The print is completely clean as expected and the sharpness is probably the first thing you’ll notice when you pop the disc in your player. Colours are great, as are the skin tones and the way all the dark shadows are handled when the characters are forced to spend the night. The only complaint I would have is that some shots seem to have been beaten with the grain stick a little too much not to stand out. It’s strange because whole scenes aren’t affected but small shots seem to suffer from time to time. Nevertheless, the rest of the transfer is top notch.

Audio
Included on the disc is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track as well as a vanilla 2.0 accompaniment. The 5.1 mix is actually quite good, with a blend of ambient forest sounds, the earthy tones of the cannibals, general action effects and the typically highly-strung (get it?) score bouncing around each of the speakers with aplomb. The dialogue is clear for the most part, though you’ll end up wanting to punch the hot chick when she starts getting hysterical.

The score is probably the best aspect of the soundtrack even though there’s a definite nod to past classic films like Deliverance (which Sisto actually mentions during the film) and The Hills Have Eyes. Almost all the tension is given a much-needed boost by horror veteran Elia Cmiral’s orchestral score, and the way it is pumped out of the speakers is actually quite good. In all this is a pretty good audio mix considering what was there to work with.

Wrong Turn
Extras
The first thing you’ll notice about the extras listing on the DVD is that it looks quite jam-packed with supplements to keep you busy after the relatively short film is over. There is some value here but it’s far less than you might think.

The four featurettes on the disc cover most of the making-of material. The first is your traditional Making Of Wrong Turn, which presumably aired before the film’s theatrical release in the states. It’s really just more of an extended trailer, complete with creepy voiceover and over-indulgent recollections of the plot. The next piece is entitled Stan Winston: Monster Mogul and cover the career of Winston through a lengthy interview with the man himself. We learn of the various films he has been involved in and catch a brief look behind the scenes of his studio. Anyone interested in make-up and effects should take a look at this five-minute piece.

Next up is the embarrassingly titled Eliza Dushku: Babe In The Woods. This is a chance for the rest of the cast and crew to swoon over Eliza and her acting talent. No one told them that her character was far from rocket science, yet this four-minute piece seems to think she’s the most courageous woman on earth. The final featurette is Fresh Meat: The Wounds Of Wrong Turn. I shouldn’t have to suggest not to watch this piece before the movie, but for anyone dumb enough I’ll warn them of the spoilers contained inside. The best bit is watching the bad guys get made up and the words of producer Stan Winston and Director Rob Schmidt.

The commentary track with Rob Schmidt, Eliza Dushku and Desmond Harrington gets off on the wrong foot when the menu replaces Desmond’s name with Rob. Two Robs don’t make it right, guys. The track itself is quite good. Schmidt sticks to the more technical side while Dushku and Harrington laugh along and contribute when they can. There is talk of a hurricane that destroyed the sets, the physical nature of the roles and various films which have some significance to Wrong Turn. Not a bad track.

Also included is an extended waterfall sequence which gives us more information on the characters and why they wound up in the woods, followed by a smooch between Dushku and Harrington’s characters. A good idea it was to leave the scene out. We also get to see the sequence where Francine gets killed (don’t worry, it’s right at the start so I haven’t spoiled anything) about a thousand times over. One would think the sequence was just thrown in to make up the numbers. There’s only so much of watching a person get choked by a piece of wire one can take.

Wrong Turn
All that is left is the theatrical trailer, rounding out what looks to be a detailed extras package but winds up being more than just a little disappointing by the end. The commentary track and the Stan Winston featurette help lift the collection up a notch so it’s not all a waste of time.

Overall
I suppose being average isn’t all that bad, especially when it comes to slasher films considering their particularly terrible run in recent years. There’s really nothing remarkable about any of it and you’ll no doubt care very little about this film once it’s over. The audio and video are quite good while the extras lack any real quality so the disc probably fits into the average category as well. Let’s hope this is the first step towards more above average slashers hitting the screens in future.


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