A group stranded on a dirt road deep in the wood of West Virginia face an uncertain and possibly horrific fate at the hands of gruesome mountain men.
''Maybe I need to remind you of a little movie called Deliverance,'' one of the film's protagonist tells his girlfriend, after she suggests knocking on the door of a mountain cabin they have just stumbled upon. How they got there, however, was not exactly the accident it appears to be. Jessie (Eliza Dushku) and her four friends are heading up to West Virginia for a weekend of camping when their SUV's tires blew out on a dirt road. Solo motorist Chris (Desmond Harrington) is distracted by road kill and slams into their truck. In usual slasher fashion, the group splits up: two (Kevin Zegers and Lindy Booth) stay at the scene of the accident while the other four go off into the woods looking for help. This is when the foursome, out of desperation, enters the seedy cabin--a decision they will soon regret. The dilapidated place is filled with old junk, including broken doll parts and rusty old music boxes, but what they find in the fridge, not to mention the bathtub, tells them they should scram. But before they can open the front door, they spot the cabin's inhabitants approaching and are forced to take refuge under a bed, where they witness three gruesome mountain men perform unspeakable acts. Their aim is to get out of the cabin alive and out of the woods--for good.
The film begins with six teens but gets whittled down to four in, like, 10 minutes: Carly (Emmanuelle Chriqui), Scott (Jeremy Sisto), Chris and Jessie (moviegoers can rejoice in the fact that the most annoying two get rubbed out at the very beginning). Harrington's (Ghost Ship) polished character Chris emerges as the group's leader and the actor takes this responsibility seriously. Chris is an urbane man of few words, a med student who takes charge for the good of the group, especially Jesse, with whom he forms a strong bond. Unlike most slasher-flick heroines, Dushku's (City by the Sea) character is not a helpless victim but a quick thinking fighter. Perhaps she picked up a few tips from her appearances as Faith in TV's Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, but it is nice to see a woman in a horror movie that is not waiting around to be rescued. That role is actually reserved for co-star Chriqui (On the Line). Her character Carly trips at all the wrong places and breathes too loudly under pressure. Her poor boyfriend Scott, played by Sisto (May), spends most of the film with his hand over her mouth to keep her from yelling--and getting everyone killed.
Director Rob Schmidt's Wrong Turn will make you rethink your plans for a getaway mountain retreat, and for that reason alone, it works. Although the story sticks to the tried-and-true horror formula, it delivers plenty of scares and enough suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat. The visual effects by Stan Winston Studios are so detailed, from the putrid lungs in a moldy Tupperware to the mountain men's mangled limbs, that the film is horrifying even before the gruesome story gets underway. Surrounded with old junk trucks and old broken bicycles, the cabin oozes with depravity before any of the characters even set foot inside. Schmidt (Crime and Punishment in Suburbia) never gives the audience a chance to examine the cabin-dwellers at length, which makes them even more sinister and mysterious. Producer Stan Winston, a leading figure in modern movie effects, has been grossing out moviegoers for almost 20 years and Wrong Turn's grotesque effects definitely lift this film to a higher level. His studio has created some of film's most fantastic figures, including the monster effects of Aliens, The Terminator trilogy, the razor-fingered Edward Scissorhands and the grotesque Penguin makeup in Batman Returns.
With Stan Winston's disturbingly realistic effects and spine-chilling mountain men, Wrong Turn takes the concept of hillbillies to a whole new level. You seriously may never go into the woods again.