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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

WRONG TURN (Blu-Ray) -- DVD review by porfle

(Blu-Ray comments by Ian Friedman)

When in tarnation are them thar city folks gonna learn to stay out'n them thar woods? In WRONG TURN (2003), six tenderfeet--two camping couples plus a recently-dumped girlfriend named Jessie (Eliza Dushku) and a stranger named Chris (Desmond Harrington) who just plowed his Mustang into their minivan on a dirt road and stranded them all in the deep middle of Nowhere, West Virginia--find out the hard way that they should've stayed home that week.

This mishmash of elements from the likes of TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, DELIVERANCE, and a couple dozen other backwoods thrillers still manages to seem fresh thanks to good acting, a taut script, excellent makeup effects from the shop of producer Stan Winston, and an imaginative director, Richard Schmidt, who films it all with style and never allows the pace to let up. The formula of city slickers in hillbilly hell has yielded a truckload of half-assed, boring movies over the years, but when the filmmakers put some effort into it there's no reason they can't come up with a cracking suspense thriller like this one.

The first couple goes down pretty quick--their unfortunate purpose is to clue us in on just how crazy and bloodthirsty these inbred yokels are. Schmidt stages an early scene in which the good guys are hiding in closets and under beds while the hillbillies go to work on one of their first victims. It's horrible stuff, but the director shows us just enough to inspire ghastly mental images of the rest.

As we get to know the characters better, the stakes become higher and each death is more painful. One particularly shocking demise, a decapitation which comes suddenly at the end of a nailbiting stalking sequence in the deep, dark woods, is dazzling in its design and execution. Equally impressive are the makeups devised for the killers, which render these monsters believable yet utterly revolting.

Experienced at hunting for their supper, they're expert killers, too. One massive ogre-like beast, Sawtooth, wields a shotgun, while One-Eye strikes with deadly accuracy using a bow and arrow. The most demonstratively deranged of the bunch is a blade-wielding scarecrow named Three Finger, who resembles a redneck Ork. These single-minded psychos trail our heroes tirelessly through the woods and pick them off one by one until finally they capture the fair maiden Jessie and drag her back to their cabin. I won't tell you exactly how things turn out, but the finale is a well-staged free-for-all of bloody, fiery mayhem.

The new Blu-Ray disc from 20-Century Fox is in 1.85:1 widescreen with English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles are in English and Spanish. The picture quality is pretty good--a little soft at times, but nothing horrible. The bit-rate for the video is in the upper 20's, if not the 30's.

Extras include a commentary track by director Rob Schmidt and stars Eliza Dushku and Desmond Harrington, deleted scenes, and a trailer. There are four brief featurettes: "Fresh Meat: The Wounds of Wrong Turn", "Making of Wrong Turn", "Eliza Dushku: Babe in the Woods", and the aptly-titled "Stan Winston Featurette." These are the same features that appeared on the previous DVD release.

One of the best-made examples of this kind of film that I've seen in years, WRONG TURN easily climbs right into the upper echelons of the hillbilly-stalker genre, a mere rung or two down from the classic 70s shockers that inspired it. I don't mind seeing a rehash of familiar ingredients as long as they get the recipe right, as they do here.

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