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Wrong Turn

Fox // R // September 15, 2009
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted September 24, 2009 | E-mail the Author
Y'know, stupid
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people do stupid things in horror flicks all the time, but tearing down a dirt road in some backwater stretch of West Virginia...? Yeah, you might as well sandwich yourself between the collards and the mashed pur-taters on the inbred redneck cannibal buffet. That's just about all the setup you need for Wrong Turn, really; all the other plot points are nicked from...well, every other slasher flick, ever. You've got your pre-credits carnage. There's a creepy, wizened nutjob in a gas station so rusty that you start itching for a Tetanus shot just for milling around in the parking lot. We're lookin' at the horny stoner kids who get hacked apart first (Lindy Booth and Kevin Zegers), the intense metro-hair hero type (Desmond Harrington), the kinda grating faux-intellectual comic relief (Jeremy Sisto), his background-dancer-in-a-Missy-Elliot-video fiancée (Emmanuelle Chriqui), and...uh, the girl who shows the least skin which means she probably won't die (Eliza Dushku). There's no real point in wading through the whole blow-by-blow routine. You start off with six twentysomethings stranded in the middle of nowhere, the stragglers are carved up into tiny, fist-sized chunks, the others make their way to the mutants' ramshackle cabin where they clue in that they're on the menu, they dart off who knows how miles from civilization into a sprawling forest that the inbred killers know like the back of their misshappen, three-fingered hands... You know where I'm going with this: it's an uplifting, life-affirming story about the power of dreams.

Okay, so Wrong Turn didn't go over so well with the folks in West Virginia when it first made its bow in theaters all the way back in 2003. Me, though...? I love every blood-drenched, demented frame of it. The skeleton of a plot is hacked together from The Hills Have Eyes, Just Before Dawn, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and...well, name any backwoods slasher and it's in here somewhere too, but the premise is really just an excuse to string together a slew of gruesome kills, unnervingly tense setpieces, and some exceptionally twisted creature effects by Stan Winston's studio. These three inbred butchers are so mangled and distorted that they're barely recognizable as human, and even more disturbing is how feral they are. They don't lob out any snarky one-liners...they're not carving apart everyone within arm's reach out of some sense of revenge. It's more primal than that: they murder and maim because they like it, and they've had a hell of a lot of practice to get it right. The kills are frequently swift and devastatingly brutal. A lot of slasher flicks telegraph when another blood-spattered corpse is going to be tossed on the pile, settling into a bland, predictable rhythm. This is at least my fourth or fifth time watching Wrong Turn, though, and its biggest jolts still catch me completely off-guard. Wrong Turn isn't a splatterfest but can be maniacally gruesome just the same. The mutants have a definite fascination with decapitations and splitting heads off at the jawline, and one of the first kills in the movie -- a chick who's garroted with barbed-wire and winds up with her limbs slowly sawed off to make a stew or something -- lingers in front of the camera in disturbingly visceral detail.

There really aren't that many red herrings or cheap scares either. No, the pacing can creak along kind of slowly at the outset, but once the depravity really starts to kick in, it doesn't ease up until the whole fade-to-black-roll-credits thing. Wrong Turn is relentless, and there are several claustrophobic sequences...boxed in so tightly that there's no chance in hell any of them could possibly make it out in one piece...that are indescribably and unnervingly intense. This isn't a movie that sets out to redefine the face of horror or anything -- it's more of a valentine scrawled in blood to the brutal genre flicks of the '70s -- and even its occasionally clunky dialogue and overly archetypish characters wind up filling that bill pretty well. Wrong Turn is a lean, intense, and kind of demented throwback to the backwoods slashers of an era long since past. The tremendously disappointing thing is that even a lot of the low-budget, thirtysomething-year-old horror flicks that inspired Wrong Turn will probably wind up looking better on Blu-ray than this. I've churned out more than four hundred reviews of high-def releases over the past few years, and Wrong Turn is in the running as one of the worst looking titles out of all of 'em. A better looking release would've scored a much higher recommendation, but this...? Skip It.

I wasn't sure how much lower Fox could set the bar after The Girl Next Door a few weeks back, but Wrong Turn might get the nod as the single worst looking catalog title ever churned out on Blu-ray by a major studio. Is there a stack of mislabeled tapes at Fox or something? Usually when I slog through some snark online shrugging off a Blu-ray disc as looking like an upconverted DVD, my kneejerk reaction is that they're just mindlessly exaggerating, but I really wouldn't be even a little bit surprised if that's what happened this time around. Toggling back and forth between it and the 2003 DVD, this BD-25 is a very marginal step up. Even that's not saying much since that dated standard-def release had been crammed onto a single layer disc. If the DVD were reauthored today from this same stale, musty master, I doubt there'd be any meaningful difference between it and what's supposed to pass for high definition here. The 1.85:1 image is extremely soft, devoid of anything bearing so much as a passing resemblance to fine detail. Contrast is consistently flat and lifeless, and at least in the stretches I compared, there's no difference whatsoever in color saturation between this Blu-ray disc and the six-year-old DVD. I get that Wrong Turn takes a lot of its cues from dark, dingy, grainy grindhouse flicks, and it's never going to sparkle and gleam in high-def. Still, this...? This is embarrassing, and even though I really am a fan of Wrong Turn, I can't recommend this Blu-ray disc at all.

On the polar opposite end of the spectrum, Wrong Turn's 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is phenomenal. The sound design throughout the film is immersive, unnerving, and unrelenting. Its exceptionally strong sense of directionality -- eerie sounds skittering across the forest, the inbred mountain men stomping through their cabin as the horrified red shirts cower in the shadows, walls of fire devouring everything in sight -- ratchets up the intensity so much that it has to be experienced on a six-channel rig. This is also a movie with a thick, meaty low-end: the colossal stings punctuating the jump scares, the thud of lifeless corpses tumbling to the ground, violent car wrecks, the rattle of the mutants' rickety tow truck, slews of shotgun blasts, a thunderous explosion... The bass is such a slug in the gut that I found myself turning down my receiver a few ticks lower than normal, even. Wrong Turn isn't just loud, though; its sound design is remarkably organic and alive, and even with as chaotic as it can be, the movie's dialogue is consistently reproduced cleanly and clearly throughout. The lossless soundtrack is by far the biggest selling point for this Blu-ray disc, and it's a drag that the high-def video couldn't come close to being in that same league.

A Dolby Digital stereo surround track in Spanish and a 5.1 French dub have also been tossed on here, and subtitle streams in English (SDH) and Spanish round out the audio options.

The extras are all carried from the DVD that Fox hammered out back in 2003, and pretty much all of 'em are a waste of time.

  • Audio Commentary: This
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    commentary track with director Rob Schmidt, Desmond Harrington, and Eliza Dushku creaks along for eightysomething minutes straight. They really don't have all that much to say about the movie, kind of just quietly leaning back in their chairs and lobbing out a quick note every once in a while. It's not a complete waste of time -- Schmidt delving into just how deeply Wrong Turn carved out its inspiration from '70s grindhouse flicks, Dushku's skittishness about trudging through horror, Emmanuelle Chriqui managing to dislocate her shoulder on-screen, and pointing out that one character that looked to be roadkill wasn't dead quite yet -- but it's better off as background noise.

  • Deleted Scenes (7 min.; SD): Timecoded and letterboxed, this short reel serves up a not-quite-a-sex-scene, a marginally different version of an early kill, and a barrage of takes of that barbed-wire garroting.

  • Fresh Meat: The Wounds of Wrong Turn (9 min.; SD): The best of the extras on this disc -- hell, the only one that's really worthwhile -- is this featurette that sloshes through all of the splatter and effects throughout Wrong Turn. The highlight's a cacklingly disturbing still of one of the inbred mutants getting a little frisky with the mutilated remains of one of his victims, but if that's from a deleted scene, it didn't manage to claw its way onto this disc.

  • The Making of Wrong Turn (4 min.; SD): Don't bother. It's yet another worthless promotional piece posing as a behind-the-scenes featurette.

  • Eliza Dushku: Babe in the Woods (4 min.; SD): Ugh. Yeah, the title pretty much says it all: Stan Winston and Rob Schmidt gushing over the flick's leading lady. Dushku gets a chance to chime in with a few comments of her own too, but don't keep your fingers crossed for anything all that startlingly insightful.

  • Stan Winston: Monster Mogul (5 min.; SD): One of the foremost names in make-up effects recaps his career up to this point and chats briefly about the appeal of producing a genre flick.

  • Trailer (2 min.; SD): Last up is a standard-def theatrical trailer.

The Final Word
Wrong Turn is a hell of a backwoods slasher, but considering that the not-really-high-def video on this $20 Blu-ray disc is barely a step up over a DVD in $5 cutout bins the world over...? Skip It.

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