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Leftovers make for a thin plot

June 02, 2003|Kevin Crust | Times Staff Writer

"Wrong Turn" suffers a fate similar to that of many other horror and supernatural thrillers released in the last decade: It leaves you with the feeling that you're watching an episode of "The X-Files," only Mulder and Scully never show up. In this case, the feeling is especially strong, as the movie closely recalls an episode called "Home," featuring the inbred Peacock brothers. Perhaps Rupert Murdoch (the owner of the studio and the network behind the movie and the show) has a found a new way to repurpose horror.

Like the TV episode, "Wrong Turn" eventually leads to a murderous family with a genetic pattern that would hearten European royal families of yore -- only these guys also eat their victims.

The film begins a bit slowly, taking its time establishing its rural milieu and introducing its six attractive characters. It opens with a medical student (Desmond Harrington) driving through West Virginia on his way to Raleigh, N.C., for an important interview.

A back-up on the highway leads him to take a back roads alternative (evidently he hasn't seen any horror movies), where he plows into a disabled sport-utility vehicle belonging to a pair of well-heeled stoners (Kevin Zegers and Lindy Booth), a newly engaged couple (Jeremy Sisto and Emmanuelle Chriqui) and their depressed friend (Eliza Dushku).

No one is hurt in the accident, but the vehicles are totaled and it seems someone has deliberately tripped up the SUV. Surrounded by endless mountains and forest -- and these hills definitely have eyes -- the sextet splits up. Needless to say, once the young'uns are divided into smaller meals -- er, parties -- the pace picks up and the grisliness escalates.

Director Rob Schmidt, working from a screenplay by Alan McElroy, manages to keep the suspense up through the final hour of the film. Cast members acquit themselves agreeably, carrying off horror archetypes without much fanfare.

Even though the feral mountain men were cooked up by special effects wizard Stan Winston, when they are finally seen, they actually look a lot like the Peacock brothers. But then, maybe if you've seen one family of inbred, bloodthirsty killers, you've seen 'em all.


'Wrong Turn'

MPAA rating: R for strong violence and gore, some language and drug use.

Times guidelines: Lots of blood, severed and pickled body parts, not an after-dinner movie.

Desmond Harrington...Chris

Eliza Dushku...Jessie

Jeremy Sisto...Scott

Emmanuelle Chriqui...Carly

Kevin Zegers...Evan

Summit Entertainment and Constantin Film present, a Constantin Film/Summit Entertainment/McOne/Stan Winston production, in association with Newmarket Capital Group, released by 20th Century Fox. Director Rob Schmidt. Producers Robert Kulzer, Erik Feig, Stan Winston, Brian Gilbert. Executive producers Patrick Wachsberger, Mitch Horwits, Aaron Ryder, Don Carmody. Screenplay by Alan McElroy. Cinematographer John S. Bartley. Editor Michael Ross. Costume designer Georgina Yarhi. Music Elia Cmiral. Production designer Alicia Keywan. Special makeup effects created and designed by Stan Winston Studio Inc. Art director Elis Lam. Set decorator Zeljka Alosinac. Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes.

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