Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #76
Number of Views: Three
Release Date: May 30, 2003
Sub-Genre: Backwoods Slasher
Country of Origin: United States
Box Office: $28,650,575
Running Time: 84 minutes
Director: Rob Schmidt
Producers: Stan Winston, Brian Gilbert, Erik Feign, Robert Kulzer
Screenplay: Alan B McElroy
Special Effects: John MacGillivray, Richard Alonzo, David Beneke
Visual Effects: Dennis Berardi
Cinematography: John S. Bartley
Score: Elia Cmiral
Editing: Michael Ross
Studio: Regency Enterprises, Constantin Film, Summit Entertainment
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Stars: Desmond Harrington, Eliza Dushku, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jeremy Sisto, Kevin Zegers, Lindy Booth, Julian Richings, Garry Robbins, Ted Clark, Yvonne Gaudry, Joel Harris
Suggested Audio Candy
 Queens of the Stone Age “If Only”
 Guns N’ Roses “Live and Let Die”
With over seven billion people on the planet and rapidly rising, finding your one true soul mate shouldn’t be a particularly arduous affair. Indeed, even if you frequent the same nightclub every Saturday night for a year without fail, chances are, weekly rotation should afford you a fair few cherries to bite. However, some folk just don’t get to go out much. The United States of America are vast and, while most of us can name our fair share of its fifty-one states, there are a few places that GPS technology just isn’t equipped for. Here the options are far more limited and, for those less experienced at playing the dating game, it’s a darned sight easier just to keep it in the family.
We call them inbreds and what a contemptible species they are. All bonus limbs and knobby features, these cast-offs possess barely enough teeth between a whole brood to provide the tooth fairy with any reason for call out. Their personal hygiene is non-existent and the delicate scent of their armpits alone could clear Harrods on the first day of the January sales. Indeed, aside from their evident banjo skills, they serve no real purpose. However, as long as they’re left to their own devices, they’re not so bad. Granted, they have a tendency to stretch barbed wire taut across deserted country roads as an invitation to wayward travelers but it’s all in the name of some good old-fashioned yee haw knee-slapping.
Rob Schmidt’s backwoods bloodbath Wrong Turn enjoyed a reasonably lucrative theatrical run on its release in 2003 and performed well enough to clock up five sequels thus far, with more no doubt still threatened. While Joe Lynch kept the momentum going with the enjoyable Wrong Turn 2: Dead End in 2007, later efforts haven’t fared quite so well and ingenuity has been rather thin on the ground. That said, the original was hardly the great innovator. Taking its cue from The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with a healthy dose of Deliverance thrown in for good measure, the success of Schmidt’s film was less down to innovation and more canny timing. Nevertheless, there are only so many times you can reinvent the wheel and sometimes it’s better just to grease it some.
When an accident leaves the highway out of commission, harried suburbanite Chris (Desmond Harrington) makes a pit stop at a run-down gas station and is provided an alternative route through the West Virginia mountains, only to fall foul of a tire-bursting trap and be left soundly stranded some way from civilization. Thankfully, misery loves company and he soon meets Jessie (Eliza Dushku), Carly (Emmanuelle Chriqui), her fiancé Scott (Jeremy Sisto), and fuck buddies Evan (Kevin Zegers) and Francine (Lindy Booth), five backpacking friends, all of whom share his predicament. While Evan and Francine opt to remain at the roadside, the other twenty-somethings head off into the dense thicket to find assistance. Will these people ever learn?
Jumping swiftly from the frying pan into the furnace, the group happen across an old ramshackle cabin in the woods (never an encouraging sign), surrounded by a junkyard full of ominously discarded automobiles. With alarm bells still not chiming, they wander inside where they are greeted by the inhospitable stench of human decay and, even more disparaging, a number of pickle jars crammed with various hacked off body parts. With the penny now beginning to drop hard, their swift exit is soundly thwarted as the terrible tenant returns from his most recent hunting expedition to commence preparations for the evening’s banquet.
While the resulting game of hide-and-seek may be a little cliché, Schmidt comes more than good on the execution front, revealing the full extent of the ordeal ahead to our compromised city slickers in no uncertain terms. Watching in abject horror as the woodsman’s fresh meal ticket is carved flesh from bone before their very eyes, they are forced to set aside their anguish and make one helluva dash for it before he puts his questionable culinary skills to use once again. This is where Wrong Turn moves swiftly and decisively into survival horror territory and the director has learned sufficient tricks of the trade to ensure that the final leg of his race is suitably breathless.
However, on this occasion, I wish to highlight one of our group in particular. My primary introduction to Sisto came courtesy of Alan Ball’s flawless long-running HBO series Six Feet Under although Grueheads may prefer that I mention Lucky McKee’s May, Matthew Leutwyler’s Dead and Breakfast, or Jeremy Kasten’s The Thirst, all of which benefited significantly from his inclusion. Regardless of the whereabouts of your exposure to Sisto, he has charisma to spare and it is in abundance here. As Scott, he has an easy-going posture and immense likeability that makes him stand out as the guy we root for. Indeed, I shall provide a parting gift at the end of the appraisal in his honor, showcasing other horror also-rans whose safe-keeping became of paramount importance.
Anyhoots, Wrong Turn strides briskly on with our unfortunates numbers duly diminishing until we reach our typical showdown scenario. What separates Schmidt’s film from the droves of like-minded drivel is the inventive dispatches and, where the series has increasingly relied on dubious CGI going forward, here we are provided a masterclass in practical splatter. One dastardly decapitation in particular provides the kind of show stopper that the franchise would spend forever attempting to surpass and, with the exception of the opening kill from Lynch’s sequel, would never come close to matching. Meanwhile, John S. Bartley’s photography ensures that, when the wide open expanses close in around us, we can taste the hanging mist on the back of our tongues.
If there is a problem with Wrong Turn, then it would be that our first venture into these woods will likely be the fondest. A landmark horror movie has the capacity to mature with subsequent views, but that kind of depth is never on exhibit here. For all of its style, there is precious little in the way of innovation, aside from some admittedly canny carnage. This alone thwarts any hopes of Schmidt’s film ever graduating into the major leagues although this brings me back to my earlier point about reinventing the wheel. What it does, and does with considerable assurance, is to follow a well-worn template to the very letter and it possesses more than enough charm to pull it off.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 4/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: There is evidently much love poured into the dispatches which include a gloriously thorny barbed-wire muzzle and enough excess mutton to pack out a butcher’s window. However, it is Carly’s high-flying treetop termination that really takes the bacon here and is the reason why slow play was invented. As an axe pins her top box to a nearby oak right in the kisser, we are treated to an out-of-focus shot of her flimsy torso plummeting into the low-level mist and landing with a feeble thud while Schmidt’s lens remains fixed on her now redundant gaze.
It shouldn’t have been me!
I’ve always considered myself up for a challenge and find it tiresome egging on whatever guy or gal has been pre-selected for leading role duties. Rooting for the alban-haired do-gooding cherry grasper extracts much of the fun from the whole process of elimination, whereas gunning for the long-shot supplies far better odds and a secondary objective to keep things flavorsome. Thus, I feel inspired to divulge thirteen also-rans whose unlikely preservation became my uppermost priority.
Hollis – My Bloody Valentine
While Tom Atkins and Tom Selleck were providing the mustache a much deserved eighties run-out, neither were a patch on the nasal attachment that this fine figure of a man sported. Pruned to within an inch of its life and flicked at the tips with precision, this was the kind of distinguished ‘tache you would expect to find perched atop a penny farthing reciting Shakespeare, not slumming it down a mine shaft. Alas, poor Hollis ultimately misplaced his monocle and collected a brow-load of nails before he could say tally ho.
Private Jeanette Vasquez – Aliens
If I were to compose a list of ultimate badasses, then this ballsy battle-ax would be right in the thick of it, up to her asshole and elbows. Possessing more testosterone than her entire unit combined and raring to rock, Vasquez did her level best to wipe out the Xenomorph front guard and honor the memory of her snuffed out soul mate Drake. It was all going so well until she hit the maintenance tunnel and the sniveling Gorman requested she tighten his head bandage. My sole consolation was the manner in which she bowed out as anything less than a hero’s send off would have been criminal.
Glen Lantz – A Nightmare on Elm Street
There were two reasons why Johnny Depp deserved to stay one snooze ahead of the Sandman. Firstly, he had to put up with Nancy’s incessant rambling and, secondly, he managed to pull off the kind of high-cut baseball shirt that few outside of LeRoy from Fame would ever had the bottle to attempt and emerge with credibility still in tact. Meanwhile, it seemed most ironic that his eventual demise be provided by scissorhands.
Jennings – The Omen
If ever an also-ran deserved to make it to the end credits, then it would have to be this faithful hound. After escaping his near-death experience in the cemetery by the seat of his corduroys, I started to believe he would too. Alas, it all went south at Jerusalem after Thorn suffered a hissy fit and discarded the seven mystical daggers of Megiddo. Being the staunch comrade that Jennings was, he attempted to gather the artifacts but his supposed BFF’s insolence preempted his dizzying downfall and we were left cursing that lousy hand brake. On the plus side, his decapitated head stuck around for a fair few moments afterwards while we bid our adieus.
Patricia Montelli – Amityville II: The Possession
The fact that Patricia was played by America’s sweetheart Diane Franklin was reason enough to pray for her safe passage and, after being subjected to a highly questionable game of show and tell with her older sibling, we just wanted to cradle her in our arms and convince our babe in the wood that it would be all right. It wouldn’t of course. Come on Sonny – pops simply had to go, mom was far too whiny to spare, and the ankle-biters were hardly missed, but Patricia? I would liken his callous actions to snapping the limbs of a defenceless white bunny. No wonder Jack Magner didn’t show his face in movies again. Take our Diane will you? Bastard!
Ted – Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter
I’m prepared to meet resistance for this particular inclusion. While tough to argue that Ted wasn’t something of a dick with ears, any dude with the ability to convince a fully grown man that there he possessed an invisible database (in the shitting eighties!) deserved a bit more of a run than he was ultimately provided. Admittedly, Crispin Glover was the kind of fruitcake (affectionately speaking) who would believe such a preposterous claim but kudos for making it so convincing. I spent the whole time looking over his shoulder to learn his password as he must’ve had quite a cache of porn on that thing.
Dave – The Burning
I’m not entirely sure what made Dave such an incalculable extra but the baseball top certainly didn’t harm none. From the moment I watched JoBeth Williams blowing around the wind tunnel in Poltergeist in a suchlike garment, I yearned for my very own, even though I had never had the vaguest interest in the sport it derived from. Dave was the only person on this list to escape the icy grip of death and, while Sally and Karen revealed enough of their supple white flesh to more than pay their dues, we couldn’t help but be won over by his laid back demeanor and playful banter.
Jack Goodman – An American Werewolf in London
There’s never a good time to watch Griffin Dunne perish and, ever since watching him excel in Martin Scorsese’s magnificent black comedy After Hours, this man could do little wrong in my book. Alas, he fared less well in the English moors than the mean streets of New York at night and took one for the team as his buddy watched helplessly on. The only grain of consolation here was that Jack wasn’t quite ready to pass through to the other side just yet and spent the remainder of the film making wise cracks about the disadvantages of decomposition. Thank the heavens above for afterlife.
James Carpenter “J.C.” Hooper – Night of the Creeps
I’m not about to cuss his buddy Chris for snatching J.C.’s spot on the winner’s podium as he was almost as loveable a douche and the pair shared a rather magnanimous chemistry. However, I was less enthralled that his wingman was never afforded the chance of using his walking aids to cosh a few space slugs before they burrowed inside his cranium and the smell of wasted opportunities is too strong to ignore. J.C. was the kind of best pal that we could all benefit from having around and his quips were sorely missed after his doomed restroom excursion.
Jill – Halloween II
Never before have I been so desperate to have my temperature taken rectally. Last minute cuts meant that Jill received far less screen time than was intended and, of all of our also-rans, none were given such precious little dialogue to chew on. However, this ill-fated intern was sexier than Rosie Dixon Night Nurse and possessed a bedside manner warmer than a camel’s chafing buttocks; making her undeserving of the back stab she ultimately received. If folk closed doors behind them, then Jill may still be performing her ward rounds and I would have a reason not to dread hospital visits.
Nauls – The Thing
Of all of the mysteries of the universe, few are quite as baffling as the whereabouts of Nauls. After enduring the blood test and watching freshly transformed Palmer masticate the skull-cap of poor defenceless Windows, he decided he was out of his depth and skulked off into the shadows, never to be seen or heard from again. While John Carpenter’s original script provided Nauls with more decisive closure, the final cut had us pondering one of two options. Either T.K. Carter didn’t receive sufficient roller skate training and found all that dry ice a little too tricky to navigate, or he was an ungrateful swine for not informing MacReady and Childs of his intention to split. I guess only Nauls knows the answer.
Hank – Demons 2
I deliberated long and hard over which of Bobby Rhode’s twin Demons turns to highlight as his attendance for both movies was more than appreciated. As sharp-dressing pimp daddy Tony in the original, he was our go-to guy for bitches and could quite easily have made the grade here. However, Lamberto Bava deserves rapped knuckles for sending Rhodes to an early shower not once but twice! Here, his flash white three-piece suit was replaced by a muscle vest and, having misplaced his bitches, the gymnasium seemed like the ideal sweatshop to recruit some more. Regrettably, all that bench pressing didn’t help Hank as history eventually ended up repeating itself.
Steel – Day of The Dead
Yes, I’m very much aware that this matchstick-chomping heathen deserved to meet his maker for his constant roguish behaviour. That said, we couldn’t help but soften to Steel after spending so much time with him in enclosed quarters and he never once surrendered his winning sense of humor. When his inevitable departure arrived, it was with both relief and acknowledgement of his stature that it did so courtesy of his own sidearm. By a solitary chin whisker, Steel fends off C.J. from Zack Snyder’s 2004 Dawn of The Dead reboot, who also retained his dignity to the bitter end.
It had to be me!
Time for the flip side, as often, even the worst atrocities are justifiable. In the interest of naming and shaming a handful of suchlike offenders, here are half a dozen rascals deserving every last horrendous punishment they had coming to them.
Franklin Hardesty – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
After his long-suffering sister Sally had to listen to him whine on like a bitch for the whole duration of their Texas excursion, I’m surprised she didn’t slide his brakes off as Leatherface loomed large and provide his chariot with a gentle nudge in the direction of the oncoming chainsaw. It could have bought her valuable breathing space with the cross-country marathon that lay ahead and ended Franklin’s incessant whingeing in the process. Two birds, one stone.
Crazy Ralph – Friday the 13th Part 2
“You’re all doomed!” Speak for yourself Ralph. While the town nutbag seemed far less deserving of penance than any number of the disposable teens that failed to heed his warnings, ultimately he was little more than a hypocrite. After dedicating so much of his free time to harping on about the dangers of choosing the cursed Camp Crystal Lake for summer vacation, the next thing on Ralph’s to-do-list was to peddle there himself and a swift garroting was the reward for not practicing what he preached. What was he thinking?
Richie – Madman
After listening to Max relay the terrible tale of Madman Marz and warn of the repercussions of speaking his name above a whisper, this inconsiderate scoundrel hollered the very two words he was forbidden against at the top of his lungs, consigning his camp chums to a cruel fate while he swanned off on a nature trail. The only person on this list not to meet a grisly end, Richie did eventually regret his actions but got off decidedly lightly by surviving to tell the tale. Didn’t help your slaughtered friends though, did it you dim-witted moron?
Johnny – I Spit On Your Grave
Never has a Johnson been in such dire need of detachment. After what our beleaguered belle had to endure at the hands of this filthy piece of shit, I actually thought she showed considerable restraint in nonchalantly slicing off his manhood when feeding him alive to pigs would have been a more fitting punishment. Meanwhile, the equally villainous Krug from Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left should count himself fortunate at being a pubic hair away from taking his place on this hit list.
Ashley and Ashlyn – Final Destination 3
These two airheads met their maker inside twin tanning beds and I had a mental foot on the each lid, attempting to roast the skanky bitches further. In truth, any number of disposable teens from this particular franchise could just as easily have replaced them as Final Destination was never the best advertisement for the youth of today but anyone who fakes their tan gets precisely what they deserve. Besides, I’ve always been a sucker for a two-for-one offer.
Kathy – Assault on Precinct 13
Few could have predicted the outcome of this particular visit to the ice cream van and fewer still could argue that it wasn’t warranted. This obnoxious little brat received her just desserts for bitching about the flavor of her cornet, courtesy of a smattering of shrapnel to her mid-section. If you dare suggest that Kathy’s demise didn’t make you bust a gut laughing then you’re clearly insincere. Possibly one of the most shocking moments in seventies cinema, her look of sheer desolation is beyond calculable as the realization sets in that she will never get to enjoy her vanilla twist.
Read Wrong Turn 2: Dead End Appraisal
Read The Hills Run Red Appraisal
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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