…unfortunately Dushku missed her Ripley opportunity.
Director Rob Schmidt
Screenplay Alan McElroy
Starring Desmond Harrington, Eliza Dushku, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jeremy Sisto, Kevin Zegers, Julian Richings
Wrong Turn is the type of film that feels like it could be great, but the cast and direction fail to live up to the story premise. The draw of the film is right on its poster. Dushku’s star would never be higher than this point. The film as constructed gives the impression that a new type of final girl: one who could be imperiled but also capable of swinging an axe. The promise of seeing someone so beautiful and athletic is promising.
The story is of an accident on a very distinct off road area in Appalacian West Virginia. The twenty-something hunk named Chris (Harrington) slams into the back of an SUV with a group of young friends including Jessie (Dushku) and Thomas (Sisto). Conveniently, Jessie has just been broken up with and the group was taking her on one of those friend trips. Unfortunately, the barbed wire laid across the road responsible for the whole mess is laid down intentionally.
Four of the group decide to head down the road, the two left behind are dispatched quite quickly by Three Finger (Richings) and his relatives. The four unwittingly end up in the shack the hunters live in and get an understanding just what they stumbled into. They escape and are hunted.
McElroy has several effective elements that lead to the start of the chase and his characters are not your typical idiots needing a good killing. Several of these people are actually decent people who have good intentions. This should lead to a more interesting developments than they do.
Sisto’s character is very much a departure from other work he has done. One might think he would last longer, especially as Harrington is hard to even recall in th3e many things he’s been in that I have seen. Most of the film involves a chase through the Appalachians and the idea that these outsiders could last as long as they do at all is surprising, though not as entertaining as one would hope.
For her part, Dushku is not done any favors by the direction. There are some decent kills, but for whatever reason, the decision by the filmmakers to show the antagonists early and often takes the effectiveness away. If one wants a modern take on Deliverance, we get an overload on the cross-breeding and not enough psychological terror.
Stan Winston is one of the producers of the film and had a hand on much of the special effects. If this wasn’t known beforehand, it would be hard to tell. Outside of a few memorable dispatching, there is nothing here even approaching the average of his previous work. The killers are pretty obviously wearing protsthetics. If they’d looks a bit more normal, perhaps they’d be scarier.
The biggest misfire is with Dushku. Rather than giving her the star treatment, she’s kind of an onlooker until the script decides to give her the Snidely Whiplash treatment. Why would these backwoods cretins change their hunting approach just for Jessie? So she can be rescued, of course. Bad move.
Someone of her unique combination of physique and beauty could easily occupy the role of Alpha protagonist. My guess is the story was set in stone before she was cast. They caught a little of this idea with Dollhouse a few years later, but unfortunately Dushku missed her Ripley opportunity.
The only sequel I have seen is the most recent (and much superior) McElroy reboot released earlier in the year. It’s better in many ways, but I don’t think anything in either film is enough of an impeteus to motivate one to watch more films with Three Finger, Saw Tooth and One Eye.
(** out of *****)