The real challenge for filmmakers intent on revisiting and updating the slasher genre is not to stray too far from the basics and get lost in fancy digital special effects. Co-producer and ace make-up artist Stan Winston assembled an above-average crew for “Wrong Turn;” and Alan McElroy's screenplay maintains some fidelity to genre conventions via some truly brutal death scenes, and the exploitation of primal fears in a compact time frame.
The DVD's commentary track gathers director Rob Schmidt, and stars Desmond Harrington and Eliza Dushku, but never really settles into a coherent production narrative. In addition to large gaps, the vacuous couch chatter pretty much hovers around the physical challenges of the actors as they run, crouch, jump and leap to safety, and little else.
To make up for the lack of substance there, Fox's collection of featurettes, somewhat awkwardly divided on both sides of the disc, offer more articulate opinions from the filmmakers. It's admittedly amusing to see the personality contrasts between director Schmidt, and Stan Winston; whereas the latter reveals his excitement in creating the grotesque make-up for the three cannibalistic rubes, Schmidt remains morosely serious. His decision to make a straight-faced shocker in place of a tongue-in-cheek send-up was the right decision, and his comments reflect an understanding of what makes a good slasher flick tick.
The “Making Of” featurette economically covers the style and execution of the production, although some added behind-the-scenes footage - particularly the eerie, isolated cabin, excellent set décor, and ominous forest – would've given the featurette an improved visual scope.
The remaining featurettes are short portraits, with “Babe in the Woods” exploring the physical demands of being a heroine on the run; and “Stan Winston” offering some good background of the genuinely gifted make-up artist. (Winston also knows how to market himself, and part of the strong research and production detail involved in each of the ugly mountain men is a deliberate cue to his fan-base, in that a Stan Winston Production will deliver goods too severe for a standard studio production.)
“Fresh Meat” delves into the make-up and gore, and it's a visually visceral peek into the nasty organic effects that characterize each of the killings. Each demise is pretty gruesome, and the deconstruction of one actor's departure by ax shows the crew's cleverness, twisted creativity, and need of minor therapy.
Some of the ingenuity and the patience by doomed cast members is evidenced in the deleted scene gallery. One actor's demise by a string of razor blades is shown in its rough cut form, and viewers can watch the 10+ takes from which the director and editor extracted the best bits. Dying ten times doesn't look particularly fun, but it's amusing to see mis-timed and badly aimed efforts. The last scene is an alternate version of the “The Waterfall,” with a different backstory delivered by a weathered Dushku during a rare lull in the film.
With Halloween right around the corner, this well-timed scare/gore fest is sure to hit all the right notes for its intended audience.
© 2003 Mark R. Hasan