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Wrong Turn

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Wrong Turn

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If you like to hunt campers with bows and arrows, chop them up on the dining-room table, eat their boiled meat, and keep their possessions as souvenirs, you might be a redneck. Or so it would seem in Wrong Turn, a horror film predicated on the notion that the wilderness of West Virginia is home to horrors much worse than the country roads and mountain mamas John Denver used to sing about. So medical student Desmond Harrington discovers when, after encountering a traffic jam on the way to a job interview, he decides to take a shortcut through the woods. There, he bumps into five stranded hikers on a vacation designed to cheer up heartbroken Eliza Dushku, whose mind shifts from her loutish ex-boyfriend to more immediate concerns when a trio of cackling, overalls-clad, misshapen mountain men begin picking off the group one at a time. Like House Of 1000 Corpses, Wrong Turn is a throwback to the friends-get-terrorized-in-the-middle-of-nowhere subgenre of horror films that thrived in the 1970s after the success of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. Here, the hills again have eyes (and pickup trucks and shotguns), but Wrong Turn lacks the creepiness and craft of the films that inspired it. There's at least a tinge of satire when the heroes come across an elephants' graveyard of bloodstained SUVs, but otherwise, the film is as devoid of humor as it is of scares that don't rely on people suddenly appearing from the edge of the frame when least expected. Stan Winston co-produced Wrong Turn, and his studio provided the makeup effects, but like the rest of the movie, the villains seem pretty half-assed, like the subjects of Brother's Keeper dressed up in leftover George Romero zombie garb. (Don't expect a scene in which Harrington and Dushku battle a rubber-caked baddie, in a studio set unconvincingly dressed to look like a towering treetop, to make any future highlight reels touting the power of movie magic.) Up to a finale that leaves her bound, gagged, and in need of rescuing, Dushku reprises her tough-girl persona from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but this is otherwise the sort of unthinking horror product that Buffy should have put out of business by now. Everyone does the wrong thing at the wrong time, and women suffer the worst of the consequences. Or maybe it's the West Virginia Department Of Tourism that suffers the most. Actually, it's probably the audience.

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