The American horror film, like Michael Jackson's nose, has become a denuded affair. It seems everybody's taken a whack at it by now, and when you have the director of The Big Chill, Lawrence Kasdan, filming a Stephen King adaptation about alien slugs that nest in your colon, as in the recent Dreamcatcher, well, something really has to be done, preferably with a chainsaw.
There have been a handful of upstart nightmares over the past decade ' The Blair Witch Project, Wes Craven's Scream, the first 30 minutes of Jeepers Creepers ' but lately we've also had the hellishly bad Valentine, Ghost Ship and their ilk. These days the real screams are emanating from other shores. The upcoming 28 Days Later, by U.K. favorite Danny Boyle, looks interesting, as does the Aussie zombie import Undead, while a spate of Asian horror is also being readied for domestic release or remake. Wrong Turn, featuring effects work by Oscar-winner Stan Winston, begins promisingly, but soon falls prey to obvious genre tropes.
If the past is any indication, the current aura of global dread should be a boon to horror films, which tend to get their bad mojo on whenever the economy goes south. Wrong Turn, which borrows liberally from Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes, is less a sign of the times than a sign that the genre is seriously played out and badly in need of fresh visions. On his way to a job interview, med student Chris (Desmond Harrington) bypasses interstate traffic in favor of a back road and promptly runs into, literally, a quintet of model-perfect youth in a stranded SUV ' among them the recently heartbroken Jessie (Eliza Dushku), on whom Chris soon develops the sort of lusty crush that occurs when bad things happen to dumb people.
With cell phones down and cars immobile, the five stumble into a backwoods shack, where they discover body parts in the fridge and a trio of mutant hillbilly cannibals looking for a between-meal snack. You can probably guess how it goes from here, and if you can't, you really ought to get out to the movies more often. This was already tired stuff when cult fave Sleepaway Camp came out in 1983, and it's downright comatose by now.