Oh no, not again — another horror flick with unsuspecting twentysomethings traveling through the boonies and getting waylaid by dark forces. Let’s see: That sounds like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) or is it Evil Dead (1983) or maybe The Blair Witch Project (1999)? Then there’s the striking resemblance to Deliverance (1972). … Hell, why bother? As directed by Rob Schmidt (who helmed 2000’s Crime and Punishment in Suburbia), this rehash of clichés warmed over for the umpteenth time delivers the usual gory ride through the back country — this time, West Virginia — as hip but helpless city kids go like lambs to the slaughter. And the butchers? Why they’re mutant rednecks, of course.
Geezer: There’s a Hollywood horror establishment and it’s pretty dangerous to inventive filmmaking. The truly creative horror movies don’t come through that system.
Weezer: No good horror movie comes from there. Those guys just perpetuate the crap.
Geezer: You wonder how makeup and special effects artist Stan Winston, who’s been involved with so many important projects (John Carpenter’s The Thing, Edward Scissorhands, Terminator 2, etc.), could produce a piece of shit like this. Maybe he met Rob Schmidt at a party and they smoked a joint together, then decided to do a movie — but were so tired and lazy that all they could do was repeat everything their memories contained.
Weezer: Usually, in this kind of horror flick, there’s an awful script with lots of stolen ideas, but at least the makers try to invent something. And when they finally go out on a limb and do something creative, it ends up blowing up in their faces. Maybe the producers said, “Hey, whenever we try to do something original, it always fucks up, so let’s just use all stolen stuff.” Because there’s not one original concept in this film.
We bashed Dreamcatcher a few issues ago for stealing lots of ideas — we bashed Bulletproof Monk for its tired concepts — but Wrong Turn has to be the worst offender. And it’s filled to the brim with physiological inconsistencies. Lots of horror movies stretch credibility, but this one does it a good six times in the last 15 minutes.
Geezer: The script combines Deliverance, Texas Chainsaw, Blair Witch, an adult version of Jack and the Beanstalk …
Weezer: … and tries to recapture the cult-classic Evil Dead. But I’m afraid to mention that title, because I don’t want to bring it anywhere near this film that does such a rotten job of ripping Dead off. This flick was originally titled Cabin in the Woods, an obvious Dead reference for the source of all the evil.
Geezer: The thing about Evil Dead that’s insidious is that so many first-time directors seem to think (and this happens a lot in the Detroit area), “Oh, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell made it big in Hollywood by starting out with a small-budget zombie movie.” But just because one guy had a really interesting imagination and was able to follow up on it in subsequent movies doesn’t justify all these rip-offs of Evil Dead. Hey everybody, get over it. It’s not an interesting way to make a movie anymore. It’s as if every new poet wanted to be Allen Ginsberg, though there are all kinds of other models out there.
Weezer: Just make your own models …
Geezer: Raimi, his first time out, invented a new camera technique, came up with dynamite DIY special effects and had a great sense of humor. But when will this wave of imitators end?
Weezer: Wrong Turn’s production values are on a pretty high level — it’s got a clean Hollywood look. Yet the worst part is that it takes itself seriously. There are little elements of humor in the beginning — like in any horror movie, the kids are acting stupid — but there’s no satirical value whatsoever. And the producers don’t even realize how corny it is. Evil Dead embraces its corniness and takes it to a campy, hilarious level. Even teen slasher films have elements of fun satirical writing. But in Wrong Turn, everything comes from another film – they do it poorly and they keep doing it. It’s awful.
Geezer: What’s this flick really about? Like the movies it copies, it’s afraid of the rural underclass, afraid of nature …
Weezer: … of the dark, unknown woods.
Geezer: I guess we’re so alienated from nature now, that any idea of going out there is terrifying. And we’ve turned white Appalachians into the ultimate horror stereotype. Imagine if movies kept doing that with black people? Everybody would say, “Well, that’s the most blatant racism.”
Weezer: Like having a big black guy attacking white girls …
Geezer: … which is what they used to do. That’s Birth of a Nation. Now we keep stereotyping rednecks — that they’re ignorant, inbred, evil. At a certain point you wonder what the hell’s going on politically.
Weezer: But Wrong Turn’s mutant rednecks are on a whole other level. Through inbreeding, they’ve become these deformed super-rednecks who are ugly, 8 feet tall and strong as four men. Yet regardless of all that, every time I saw them running around with their bows and arrows, I thought, “These look like the fucking Orcs from Lord of the Rings with almost the same makeup. They’re the same sadistic goblins.” Which made me laugh to myself and completely destroyed any tension they were trying to build.
Geezer: Besides, the real West Virginians have been dirt-poor coal miners exploited to death by capitalism. They waged a bitter struggle to unionize the mines in the early years of the 20th century. And their current senator, Robert C. Byrd, was one of very few voices raised in Congress against the invasion of Iraq. The horror here is based on mythologizing.
Weezer: This movie’s not going to make a dime. Desmond Harrington, the lead, has a good face and screen presence and he’s way too cool for this mess — though he’s the reason I’ll give it half a star. But don’t even go see it in the dollar show with your friends. It’s got no redeeming qualities, not even camp value to laugh at. It’s just awful.
George Tysh (Geezer) is the Metro Times arts editor. Bruno Tysh (Weezer) is a high school senior. E-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.