FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

May 16, 2007

I Heart: Wrong Turn

Much like my love for House on Haunted Hill, my love for the underrated Wrong Turn (2003) is deeply rooted in the circumstances of my personal life at the time of the film's release. I realize the film is not without flaws, but it was just what the doctor ordered a few years ago and it's had a place in my heart ever since.

See, I'd moved from the pricy east coast to the less pricy midwest in the hopes of launching a career as a freelance comic book artist. To support myself on my quest, I needed what one might call a "shitty day job". How hard can it be to find a shitty day job? Well, sometimes it can be very hard. I sent out resume after resume and application after application for weeks and weeks and never got a peep in reply. Feelings of dread rose while my bank account dwindled...I started to sell stuff on eBay in the hopes of turning a buck- including my French edition of Madonna's Sex which still bums me out to this day (That's right, people- I love Madonna and I don't care how uncool that makes me. As far as I'm concerned, she's the speedboat and everyone else is just the Go-Gos on waterskis, you dig?). I was too concerned about finances to have any fun, or even work on my art without feeling guilty. Until I had some income, I couldn't do anything.

Then along came Wrong Turn. It hit theatres moments before the huge horror renaissance we're experiencing now, when a horror film on the big screen was still a bit of a novelty, and oh, how I yearned to see it! But if I couldn't watch a DVD I already owned without feeling terrible because I should be looking for a job (yes, I felt that way day and night), then how could I possibly justify- gasp- paying to see a movie in the theatre? I was lamenting my lamentations to my mom on the phone when she simply said "Ten dollars isn't going to make any difference. Go see the movie!" With said blessing I promptly marched to the local AMC, saw Wrong Turn, and fell in love.

It's got a plot that's as old as the hills- or since the hills got eyes, anyway: a group of people get lost in the middle of nowhere and fall prey to a family of inbred cannibals (the awesomely named Three-Finger, Saw-Tooth, and One-Eye; they're like the inbred cannibal version of TLC).

Sure, it's formulaic, but writer Alan McElroy and director Rob Schmidt are smart: they stick to the fucking formula. Countless horror films have been bogged down and ultimately ruined when a simple, straightforward idea just isn't good enough for the filmmakers. The example I always point to is Jeepers Creepers: a scary man driving a scary truck living in an abandoned church and stuffing bodies down a well is a great, simple premise that has potential. When the man turns out to be a weird bat creature- a weird bat creature who only feeds once every 50 years! days every 50 years! And...he, like, wears a fedora! And...umm...he only eats certain body parts from certain people! And...let's run the idea into the ground completely!- then the movie becomes a ridiculous clusterfuck and loses everything that made it good in the first place.

Yup, Wrong Turn is chock full of some of my favorite horror movie tropes, from the weirdo gas station attendant to the car graveyard to the gross stinky house filled with gross stinky stuff.

That's what I like about this movie so much: it simply is what it is and it doesn't try to be anything else. The straightforward story and the decent amount of gore recall the horror films of the 1970s- it's just got that vibe about it, and it doesn't ever feel put-on or fake. That's what separates Wrong Turn from, say, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake- yeah, in the latter film the narration tells me it's set in the '70s and wow! Jessica Biel sings "Sweet Home Alabama" and they're going to a Skynyrd concert!- but the film feels every bit like a 2003 film. Wrong Turn isn't full of jump-cuts and frantic music video editing. In other words, the filmmakers don't point out how "cool" they're trying to be- they just tell the story. You know, like in the good old days, dagummit.

There are some incredibly effective scenes and sequences in Wrong Turn that prove Rob Schmidt knows a thing or two about tension: when the kids are exploring the cannibals' house and the cannibals return home and the kids have to hide and keep quiet? Oh yeah, that's good. Or how about when Scott (Jeremy Sisto) is running through the woods trying to escape and he gets pegged by some arrows? Uh huh- bring it on.

As I said earlier, Wrong Turn certainly has its flaws. The supporting characters (and the actors who play them) are far more interesting than the two leads- let's face it, Eliza Dushku (Jessie) and Desmond Harrington (Chris) have about 1.75 facial expressions between the two of them- and the main characters aren't terribly fleshed out. While the pace is fast throughout, the longer the film goes on the more preposterous it becomes: I'm thinking specifically of the tree-top battle that's like something out of Crouching Cuckoo, Hidden Nutso. The film loses steam at bit in that sequence, but it picks up again for the final showdown at Casa de Cannibals.

None of these shortcomings really detract from the film for me, however, and I still enjoy the hell out of it. There's a direct-to-DVD sequel due this fall, and you'd better believe I'll be checking it out the moment it hit shelves- and I won't even ask my mom if I can first!


John Barleycorn said...

I also love this film. I saw it in the theater and it scared the shit out of me. Huzzah! I heart Final Girl!

Amanda By Night said...

This is a truly great, underrated film.

I too was able to catch it in the theater and just stunned by how good it was. Scary, straight forward and full on fun. I just loved it.

I was able to tell Stan Winston that much (he was a producer on it) at a Comic-con and he seemed quite pleased.

And yeah, Jeremy Sisto is not only, like, the finest man on the planet, but when he character gets it you actually feel bad. I mean, that NEVER happens.

Viva la Wrong Turn!

Stacie Ponder said...

I think "fun" is one of the key words for this film. It doesn't let up on the gore, certainly, but it never feels...I don't know, it doesn't have that sleaziness that some other modern horror films have. I'd compare it to the House of Wax remake, I think, which if I hadn't of reviewed it for Shocktober, would probably be an entry into the "I Heart" series.

I had a blast when I saw WT in the theatre- yeah it was scary- and it still holds up. Yay!

Adam Ross said...

That was a good spring, because Wrong Turn came out not too long after House of 1000 Corpses. Wrong Turn holds some personal weight with myself as well -- my friend and I were the only people in the theater and he was smart enough to fill a ziplock bag with sake!

Josh DeSlasher said...


Wrong Turn is deffinately one of the best horrors of the '00s (which, isn't saying much). But I mean it. It's one of those films that set me on edge, and I hope Part 2 will be just as good (doubting it).

One of my favorite kills of slasher 'histoire', would have to be that Axe chopping the top half of 'her' head. Lovable! Reminds me that I should probably pick this one up. I don't have many newer films, so this would be a nice addition.

-Body Boy (bodyhorror)

Anonymous said...

I also love this film. Like everyone already said, it's incredibly fun. Sure, after a second viewing the tension and scares were kinda gone, it doesn't hold up too well. But I remember the first time I saw it I was at the edge of my seat, especially with the 'inbreds return home' scene. Plus, how can a movie with sexy, SEXY Lindy Booth be bad? (Yeah, she even made American Psycho 2 enjoyable!)

**Runs away**

FatalPierce said...

I am going to have to re-watch WT, after reading your thoughts on it and all of the comments here I am thinking maybe I was just in a bad mood when I watched it before. I think what I just said means that I trust your judgment more than my own. Don't let it go to your head Stacie!

P.S. I'm prepared this time, "The Innocents" has already arrived in my mailbox. I can't say what I thought about it yet though, that would ruin the surprise.

Des said...

I too heart Wrong Turn.

That under the table scene is so very tense.

The McGuffin said...

Nice post, Stacie. I like the first two paragraphs. It's not everyday we get a glimpse into the background of the Final Girl. Thanks for shedding some light on your past. I wish more bloggers would follow suit. Don't worry about being are.

Anonymous said...

Jeremy Sisto is my favorite part of this great flick. He's such a great actor, but he seems to always played complicated, disturbed characters. Who'd think that in a horror/slasher movie, he'd get to play the most normal character in the film? He rocks!

Stacie Ponder said...

It pleases me greatly to see such an outpouring of affection for Wrong Turn, I heart it so.

Mr Ross- I admire the ingenuity of bringing booze in a ziploc baggie. I've never considered such a thing. I did cut a block of cheese with some scissors once, though.

Sad Man- yeah, I like that Lindy Booth. As Amanda By Night pointed out to me, the guy who plays her boyfriend in WT also plays her kinda-boyfriend in the Dawn of the Dead remake. There's your Lindy Booth trivia for the day!

Pierce- definitely give it another try; you may still dislike it, but that's ok. We'll still like you! ;)

Robert- yes, every once in a while I let some personal tidbits leak out if they relate to the movie at hand. It's weird, though- I think Final Girl is a very personal blog without being a personal blog at all, if that makes sense. I just mean that I think people can get an idea of what I'm like by reading my posts regardless of the fact that I don't really talk about myself much. However, it's all about the movies, not me, and I like it that way!

Theron- I agree completely. Jeremy Sisto is pretty cool...I don't think about him all that often (meaning, I don't necessarily seek out his films), but whenever he shows up in something he puts in a good performance and I think "I really like that Jeremy Sisto!"

Anonymous said...

Hey Stacie, welcome back, I've missed you! I have mixed feelings about Wrong Turn-Yes it is a return to 70's style horror flicks, yes it is a welcome return to "hillbilly horror" (love that genre), yes it has some great gory set pieces-But, I agree the two leads are weak and a couple of the CGI enhanced kills look a little too CGI to me. Thanks god films like this helped end the scream/ironic/ultra-polished tread of the 90's. Now if they will just stop with the remakes!

Goose said...

I too, must admit to loving wrong turn. I have always been a fan of the teens in the woods kind of slasher flicks. Even the straight to DVD (or VHS for us older folks) kind ususally have just what I need. Woods people-teens-blood-menial story-no sub plot. What else could you ask for.

Anonymous said...

As neat as the half-capitation is (that sounds like a Starbucks drink), the best scene in the movie has no gore whatsoever. Right after they flee the cabin, the characters stumble into the elephant's graveyard that contains the cars of the previous victims.

Anonymous said...

You have a great review on your blog. Keep up the good work.

Debi said...

i enjoyed this movie with a good friend, a bottle of red wine and some jiffy popcorn. i had forgotten about it until now. i think i need to see it again. i am glad i stopped by your blog :)

Anonymous said...

I love this movie as well! Not that many people do though. I'm a Buffy fan, which means I'm an Eliza fan. And boy, is she tasty.

I refuse to see WT2 though. Eff that.

Bill Dan Courtney said...

I loved Wrong Turn very much but sadly the two sequels just didn't make it. I did not even finish #3. But I felt eh first was great if you love hick-horror, which I do.

Bill @ The Uranium Cafe

Anonymous said...

Glad I read your review and decided to give WT a try. It's a solid horror movie, and I have no idea why the reviews were so negative when this first came out.