In the new wave of what is being called "torture movies," Wolf Creek is, apparently, based on true events where a psychopath in the backcountry of Australia preys on kids who have lost their trail on backpacking trips in a region by the same name. No, folks, it's not Wolf Creek, Colorado. That territory is still safe. In this case, a car becomes inoperable and a man named Mick helps the kids out by taking them to safer territory where he then captures, beats, kills and discards these soon-to-be victims. And, while I normally have a problem with villians having too much personality, psychopath John Jarrett is sick sick sick and perfectly blends comedic elements with just down-right nastiness. He also looks like Harlan Williams which is just creepy as hell. Plenty of shock and hair-raising cinematics for all the hunt-and-kill fans out there.
CHILDREN OF THE CORN
One of the earlier standouts in this sub-genre, Children of the Corn is the story of two well-to-do kids (one Linda Hamilton and another Peter Horton--who wouldn't love seeing this guy hunted down?) on their way across the barren corn fields of Nebraska when a kid who has been wandering in the cornfields and then cut to shreds by a faceless knifer, stumbles onto the road and Peter almost guns it and sends the kid flying. Knowing well they can't leave the kid out there because, well, how will they ever happen along the creepy corn cult that has taken over the nearby town, they pick him up and then make their way into town where the kids have killed off all the adults in the town and vow to annihilate any "outlander!"--in the end, it's a little, eh hmm, corny, but still is one of my favorites. Especially when you get to watch Peter Horton narrowly escape danger around every corner.
THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
You know the story, three kids go out in the wilderness to hunt down the Blair Witch. They don't make any wrong turns on their way to the site, however, once on foot, wrong turns abound! Delerium, hallucinations and disorientation take over as they try to stay just one step ahead of the Blair Witch who eventually takes them into her clutches and brings them down to their ultimate demise. (Editor's note: Metallica's "Seek and Destroy" comes on.) This movie col' freaked some kids out. I saw it on opening weekend on the largest screen in Texas at the Galaxy in Dallas. The fanfare around this movie was insane--maybe nothing I've ever witnessed. It's still legendary, however, less cool now that you know none of it is real.
Thrill-seeking spelunkers bounce through the wilderness in search of the ultimate descent. They find the cave, descend into it and then a cave collapse leaves them stranded and, after a number of wrong turns, they find themselves deep in a den of crawling alien-like predators that are only thirsty for the sweet blood of female spelunkers. It's a new take on an old formula, but make no mistake, this movie is ill. The effects, the monsters, the tension and the (believe it or not) fearful acting of the lead roles brings together everything that a good wrong turn movie requires, but it's much better than status quo.
THE DEVIL'S REJECTS
Rob Zombie, who is quite well-known for his love of the genre, takes on his second ambitious project--the follow up to his debut House of a 1000 Corpses. While House left me quite disappointed, The Devil's Rejects managed to more than make up for its shortcomings. Sleazy, gory and just plain sadistic, The Devil's Rejects follows the terrible trio from House as they make their way across the region evading (and slaying) law enforcement and strangleholding unsuspecting travellers. One such family was just staying a night at a local hotel and next thing you know, some lady's wearing the face of her murdered husband. Yeah, sick isn't it?
Janet Lee's Marion made one wrong turn and that was trying to steal $40,000 from her employer. Let the truth be known, Hitchcock really was just trying to teach the viewers a lesson about theft. Bad things happen to thieves. After taking the cash and hopping town, Marion gets caught up in a nasty storm and pulls off to stay a night at the Bates Hotel where we find Gein-ish Norman chomping at the bit to introduce Marion to a little local flavor. Dude dresses up like his mother who is rotting upstairs and plays peeper while Marion gets her shower on. Sicko. Oops, I mean psycho. Don't steal from your employer or you'll end up in a weird hotel face down in a bath tub knifed up like a sirloin.
You know, I wasn't the biggest fan of this movie when it first came out because, well, I was a young buck who just enjoyed blood and gore (which this movie lacked both). But after seeing multiple times now on cable, I've finally come around. Kathy Bates truly is remarkable and James Caan plays perfect victim. The wrong turn for novelist Paul Sheldon is really no wrong turn at all, but the misfortune that the dude has no clue how to drive in snow. He flies off the road and gets hauled in by Anne Wilkes. Being a nurse, Anne conveniently has access to all the drugs she would ever need to hold James Caan at bay. In fact, I think she gives him enough tranquilizers to kill an elephant in seconds. And then, when that doesn't work, she just breaks his ankles. Gangsta! Gangsta!
This is the quinessential CHILLING WITH THE LOCALS thriller. "Where you goin', city boy?" Four buddies decide to canoe a river when they're hunted down by local rednecks and Burt Reynolds make a figurative wrong turn when he kills one of the locals and the four city boys attempt to hide their trail not knowing that they've awakened every stupid redneck in the state and they're descending upon them. A canoe is split in half by roaring rapids and then Ned Beatty is raped in his first theatric role. Poor guy. I'm sure he still doesn't live that scene down. You can't forget the creepiest of the creepy--the banjo boy--who perfectly captures the genre just by his one scene. That banjo boy is what the "wrong turn" movie is all about.
THE HILLS HAVE EYES
Yeah, screw the purists. The remake was better. I don't care who disagrees, you're wrong. The premise is this: family takes a shortcut through the desert on their way to California. The territory they hope to negotiate takes them through an old nuclear test site. They ask the local for directions to ensure they're on the right track. The toothless local leads them down another shortcut (unknowingly the wrong turn) right into the hunting grounds of deformed desert crawlers who prey on the family night and day. It's more stylistic and disturbing than the original climaxing at the torturous trailer scene. It's a well-done remake that holds no punches. It's madness, it's mayhem, it's wrong-turn cinema done right.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
The ultimate wrong-turn film finds a group of hippies making their way across the backroads of Texas to investigate a family graverobbing. When they're too victimly dumb to think of topping off the tank, they run dry on gas and wander on foot right into Leatherface's farm. The family of cannibals then run amuck (as they always do in these films) and proceed to hunt down every fun-loving hippy. Leatherface is a menacing and righteously fantastic villian as a retard who wears human flesh and dances about with chainsaw. You can not possibly dream up anything more nightmarish. Even the recent remake holds true to the same wonderfully simple plot except it pulls more sexuality and torture into it--sometimes to points unnecessary. But, nonetheless, the franchise was done well by the remake. Especially with the developement and exploration of the haunting locals (the sheriff, the trailer trash, the bucktoothed roach-looking kid). However, the recent prequel was a trainwreck. After all is said and done, Texas Chainsaw is head and shoulders above the rest and makes every resident of this great state proud of its heritage.