'Wrong Turn' is a horror film that rejoices in a subgenre not often visited by filmmakers, an underutilized category that it blends with urban legends about people from the backwoods. The story revolves around a group of young city slickers (as if there were any other kind in such movies) stranded by devious means in the Appalachian wilderness and forced to survive when chased by a clan of cannibalistic mountain folk. Come to think of it, the extent of genetic mutation caused by inbreeding in the deranged men would also qualify Rob Schmidt's picture as a creature-feature. The relentless pursuit by the redneck family of maniacs and the amount of graphic gore throughout, pushes the flick into slasher territory.
Still, genre placement issues aside, 'Wrong Turn' delivers with a very basic premise and adds a few subtle deviations. On the surface, the plot follows a group of friends on a hiking trip to cheer up recently-dumped Jessie (Eliza Dushku). When med student Chris (Desmond Harrington) crashes into them on a dirt road, they find the tires of their SUV punctured by barb wire intentionally stretched across the road. Soon after, they stumble upon an isolated family who'd love to have them for dinner. As expected, the group is soon chased through the woods, where many of them are brutally killed by the cannibals. Unexpectedly, the script involves a few clever devices.
Genre rules are adhered to throughout much of the first act, but things quickly change when the group arrives at the remote cabin of the brothers. In this very nerve-racking scene, director Rob Schmidt places his heroes in a dreadful predicament usually reserved for the end of the second act. Exposition is skillfully disclosed in these anxiety-ridden scenes, and the protagonists are made aware of what they're up against. It's a smart move on the part of the filmmakers, as it creates a slightly different formula for suspense. The instant the intruding foursome is discovered, the film turns into a combination of 'Deliverance,' 'The Hills Have Eyes,' and the classic 'The Most Dangerous Game'.
The characters and the kills are also refreshingly original for the genre. Rather than one final girl, we are given two final "persons", and both equally develop some effective survival skills. Dushku, naturally, is the individual we cheer for, and while she probably could have stepped up the game, her character is still a tough one. The sexually promiscuous youngins are handled with the same swift discrimination as other horror movies. Only here, they're immediately ousted as unlikeable and dispatched much sooner than later. This was a good call on the part of the filmmakers, as they grew pretty annoying within a minute of being introduced.
Of course, not everything is a bed of roses. Or should I say a bed of hillbilly corpses. Okay, dumb joke, but still Schmidt's direction is very workmanlike. He showed some style inside the desolate cabin, but for the rest of the pic, the cameraworl is fairly typical. If not for the writing and the gory special effects, the entire production would be incredibly dull and average. Obviously, there must have been something clever about the whole thing to grab the attention of the late Stan Winston to produce.
Don't get me wrong, this isn't top quality horror for many fans and it's not as sickly twisted as the other films it tries to conjure up, but it's not all that bad from a team with little previous experience. 'Wrong Turn' works with good old-fashioned scare tactics and a perilous atmosphere. I suppose we can add suspense to the list of other genres being mixed together.
Fox Home Entertainment unleashes 'Wrong Turn' with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer (1.85:1) which is greatly underwhelming. I expected the jump into Blu-ray to be more significant, but when compared to its standard definition counterpart, the benefits are minimal.
While contrast and clarity show a clear improvement, they fall squarely on the lower end of the grayscale. Resolution is on the weaker side of what we've come to enjoy from high-def media. In fact, the majority of the picture lacks a great deal of sharpness overall and one can't help but feel they're watching an upconverted DVD.
Still, there are some improvements. Quality here displays better defined lines in distant objects and tree foliage, but it's not a lot to get excited about. The palette is accurately saturated and vibrant, exhibiting some good variance in secondary hues. Black levels are also nicely rendered, but not as rich and deep as they really should be.
On the bright side, delineation is strong, with plenty of visible details in dark shadows. In the end, the transfer is passable, but it could've been a whole lot better.
Even if the picture quality is a bit of a letdown, at least fans can rejoice and enjoy the much improved audio presentation.
The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack arrives with strong dialogue reproduction andis never overwhelmed by all the loud action. Fronts show great fluidity and separation, as off-screen action is delivered with credible accuracy. Pans and movement between the channels are surprisingly good and convincing, generating some great moments of atmospheric immersion. The mix also exhibits plenty of activity in the rear surrounds. The sounds of wind blowing through the trees, birds chirping in the distance, and even the echoes of Three-Finger's creepy, hyperactive laughter are clearly heard throughout and fill the room to envelop the audience. Low-frequency effects pack a heavy punch, not only giving scenes a realistic presence, but also a frightening intensity. Unlike the video, this audio track offers a fun and engaging ride through the woods.
The special features in this Blu-ray edition of 'Wrong Turn' are the same ones found on the 2003 DVD release. There's really nothing special about them, but fans will find them an easy half-hour to waste. They're all presented in standard definition.
From my experience, 'Wrong Turn' is a flick enjoyed more by a discerning horror crowd. It's not all that bad, as it does accomplish what it sets out to do, taking an urban legend and giving it a straightforward slasher feel. Fans will be disappointed the picture quality is not a significant improvement from the DVD, but at least the lossless track is impressive. The supplemental package is also the same as on previous releases. Overall, hardcore fans, both of the movie and the genre, are likely to purchase this, while everyone else is safe with a rental.