There is something so lovely, so Darwinian about slasher flicks, even forgettable nonsense such as "Wrong Turn."
The TV commercials make you anticipate seeing young, cute people getting murdered in the woods of West Virginia, and a choppin' and a hackin' we go.
The problem with this film is that it hews so rigidly to genre convention that it irritates instead of entertains. All the expected elements are there, a plot-by-numbers effort that includes the smart guy, the plucky girl, the devil-may-care types and the lovers. Oh, and this trio of creepy mountain men who may or may not be cannibals. You know who will die, and who won't.
Med student Chris (Desmond Harrington) is running late for an important job interview. In an effort to get around a six-hour highway backup, he takes a back road, only to collide with an SUV occupied by a quintet of lovely youths. Turns out the SUV has been disabled by a strand of barbed wire placed across the road (cue sinister, minor-keyed music). The group heads off to search for a phone, and the party begins.
Jessie (Eliza Dushku) and Chris become leaders and, ultimately, the prey in a hunt being conducted by the killers. Not surprisingly, the two decide to fight back, and what luck, Jessie has just been dumped by her boyfriend, so those moon-eyed looks shared by her and Chris ultimately won't be in vain.
Think of "Wrong Turn" as being like "Survivor," and you'll have a great time watching characters get croaked in direct proportion to their degree of annoyance. You can even root for individual deaths, because this film so faithfully follows the arc of every other slasher film you can predict when your wish will be granted. "I sure wish somebody would kill her," you think, and in comes the machete.
There's the predictable malleability of the characters' intelligence, as well. They're smart or stupid, depending on what the plot needs. This keeps viewers from being really surprised because the typical young teens who will go to see this movie want to see something they already know.
Making the hunters these hairy, rat-faced mutants is an irritating, but anticipated cop-out. Of course we hate and fear them just look at them. If the killers were real people, the filmmakers would have to invent reasons for their sociopathy no time for that.
Nor are the blood and guts particularly inventive. You see the odd body part being hacked off, and fun ways to use barbed wire, all droll and obvious.
The sole saving grace of "Wrong Turn" is its honesty. You get exactly what you expect blood, guts and people being taken to the killing floor.
But just because it's honest doesn't make it good.