Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wrong Turn


My triumphant return to Broadway, in the title role of the musical, The Girl From Oz, is in its final stages of preparation. All of the Peter Allen frou-frou has been removed in favor of that other Australian singing star, Olivia Newton-John, making the material more gender appropriate. The producers have considered adding a couple of the new numbers to the current show with Hugh Jackman, but I feel it's much more appropriate to keep it all under wraps until the big unveiling this September. Bob Mackie has designed lavish new gowns for me. The music is being rewritten in my keys to show off my glorious alto belt, something Olivia Newton-John is sorely lacking, and casting of the supporting roles is falling into place. We've been very fortunate in signing Marissa Winokur to play my daughter, Chloe.

The marketing firm the producers have engaged to better understand public reaction to the title change and my famous name have come up with an interesting finding. The word 'Oz' has become more and more identified with a maximum security prison than with Australia and some potential ticket buyers have been confused. I've come up with the perfect solution. We're inserting a dream ballet in the second act in which Olivia dreams she's plucky correctional officer Dianne Whittlesley. The Emerald City Inmates then join the muses from Xanadu in a full chorus tap, before pairing off in an earnest exploration of relationship building while I sing Olivia's famous hit I Honestly Love You.  It's going to be a knock your socks off dramatic moment.

Normy and I have been very busy with the new show, but we did have a few moments the other evening to spend some time together in the home theater. We were too lazy to look through the 'To View' pile and ended up channel surfing on my new plasma HDTV system, cunningly hidden in a lovely piece of 18th century Louis XV chinoiserie. We stopped on the film, Wrong Turn, a little horror thriller from last summer that came and went without our notice at the local cinema. Being something of a fan of 'B' pictures, I decided to dedicate eighty-five minutes of my life to see what the makers had come up with.

Wrong Turn is a standard young people being chased by murderous forces film, sort of a cross between The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Deliverance. It stars Desmond Harrington as strong jawed Chris Flynn, a young man desperate to make it from West Virginia to an interview in North Carolina. When the freeway is blocked by an accident, he decides to take a back road through the Greenbrier area of West Virginia despite the usual 'B' movie portents of disaster. While driving up the road, he manages to smash the only other vehicle in a ten mile radius, an SUV with a group of young college friends who have decided to go camping together. They include such types as the spunky girl (Eliza Dushku), the fragile romantic couple (Jeremy Sisto and Emmanuelle Chriqui) and the completely undeveloped secondary couple who we know will be murdered rather quickly (Kevin Zegers and Lindy Booth). Both cars are out of commission and soon our heroes have stumbled upon the home of the locals, a trio of psychotic deformed mountain men with a taste for murder and cannibalism. This leads to much running through the woods, multiple deaths and dismemberments, and an eventual showdown involving a police truck, Molotov cocktails, a bow and arrow and a shotgun.

The film is utterly predictable as it contains every clich√© of the genre, from the prologue involving a couple of disposable youngsters, to the strange montage credits sequence that provides all the back-story in gruesome images (a necessity in this sort of film since Se7en), to the survival of strong resourceful characters and the protracted demise of hysterical weak characters, to the semi-apocalyptic final showdown, to the Carrie epilogue. Usually, when a film is so by the numbers, I tend to lose interest very quickly, but I stayed with this one for its entire length and I have been pondering why.

It certainly isn't the script. Alan B. McElroy's screenplay has no true characters, just types. The villains aren't even recognizably human in any way shape or form. They could just as easily be aliens, tarantulas, or rabid Fuller Brush men. The young people, while attractive, haven't got much more to work with. Eliza Dushku and Desmond Harrington do make a bit of an impression, but they've got a good deal more screen time than the others. They have some charisma, alone and together, and keep the viewer interested.

I think the strengths of the film come from Rob Schmidt's direction and hopefully, he will be given better material for his next project. He keeps sequences short; he knows how to ratchet up the tension through cutting and camera angle and he's smart enough not to try and show or explain too much. There's the requisite graphic gratuitous gore but it's presented rather matter of factly and then we're off to the next moment. He realizes there isn't much in the script with which to develop his characters so he doesn't really try. He's more interested in suspense and atmosphere than anything else. He also keeps his villains somewhat in shadow. Like the young people they're chasing, we never really get that good a look at them, giving them more power. The film also uses the summer Appalachian woods well and has a good sense of place. Unfortunately, that place is rural Ontario, which really doesn't look that much like southern West Virginia with its deep gorges and hollers.

While I can't say it's a good film or that I recommend it, it's really not a bad example of the genre and does what it sets out to do quickly and efficiently, a lesson some recent Hollywood bloated epics could take to heart.

Flying rock climbers. Toothless gas station attendant. Cell phone accident. Gratuitous car sex. Under bed hiding. Gratuitous co-ed dismemberment. Tiara. Gratuitous disgusting bathroom. Blood spattered vehicles. Burning guard tower. Arrow through eye socket. Gibbering maniac. Gratuitous surprise survival. 

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