Directed By: Rob Schmidt
Starring: Eliza Dushku, Jeremy Sisto, Desmond Harrington
Tag line: "It's the last one you'll ever take"
Trivia: Eliza Dushku did a lot of her own stunts for the movie
For the life of me, I'll never understand why some movie characters insist on exploring decrepit old cabins they find in the middle of the woods. Don't these people watch horror films? Wrong Turn, a 2003 movie directed by Rob Schmidt, contains such a scene, though, in its defense, one character, named Scott (Jeremy Sisto), does speak up, saying to the others before they walk into said cabin, “I need to remind you of a little movie called Deliverance”. Unlike his companions, Scott spotted the danger right away, and of course, nobody listened to him. But, man...they really should have!
It all began when Chris (Desmond Harrington), a medical student driving through West Virginia, was forced to make a detour down a back country road, where he accidentally crashes his car into an SUV belonging to five hikers on a weekend retreat. Miles from the nearest gas station and unable to get any reception on his cell phone, Chris and 3 of the hikers, Jessie (Eliza Dushku), Scott, and Carly (Emmanuelle Chriqui), head off to look for help, leaving Evan (Kevin Zegers) and Francine (Lindy Booth) behind to watch over the vehicles. What they don't know is their wreck couldn't have happened at a worse spot, as all of them are now being hunted by a trio of cannibalistic hillbillies, hungry for a little fresh meat.
Wrong Turn is a mostly by-the-numbers “Cannibal Stalker” film (think The Hills Have Eyes set in the backwoods of West Virginia), but that's not to say it isn't entertaining. In fact, the film consistently strikes a nice balance between nail-biting suspense and over-the-top gore. Right after the accident that stranded the six main characters in the deep, dark, West Virginia woods, director Schmidt introduces a feeling of uneasiness by keeping his camera at a distance from the action, obscured occasionally by leaves and branches, as if someone was watching from the forest. The tension this creates soon gives way to a more tangible horror, when Francine sets off to look for Evan, who's mysteriously disappeared. What she finds, and what immediately follows that discovery, signifies the start of the bloody mayhem, which will pop up from time to time throughout the remainder of Wrong Turn (and often when you least expect it). The back-and-forth shifts between suspense and graphic violence are effective, punctuated, at all times, by the truly disturbing ugliness of the three hillbillies (courtesy of Stan Winston's make-up studio).
Easily the film's best scene, one that demonstrates all of the strengths outlined above, takes place inside that cabin, where Chris and the others are forced to hide when the hillbillies return unexpectedly. What they see from those hiding places will shock them, and their attempt to sneak out unnoticed will have you on the edge of your seat.
Of course, had they listened to Scott in the first place, they wouldn't have even been in that predicament. If films like Wrong Turn have taught us anything, it's that, sometimes, it's better to just keep walking!