(On TV, February 2017) It’s kind of amazing that Wrong Turn spawned five sequels (and counting), given how much of a generic hillbilly horror film it is. Featuring college-aged protagonists pitted against murderous cannibal hillbillies, Wrong Turn delights in macabre gags, makes no secret of its affection for its monsters rather than its human victims, and feels like a cynical attempt to churn out just another clichéd horror film. It’s a film that doesn’t have much of a reason for existing, even while we’re watching it for the first time—it’s obviously following conventional genre formula, and it’s not particularly well executed enough to rise above the muck. Eliza Dushku and Emmanuelle Chriqui have featured roles (poor them), but that’s nowhere near enough to justify seeing the film. Wrong Turn’s meanness will be repulsive to anyone who’s not a convinced gore hounds, while not offering anything more than straight-up genre thrills.
(On Cable TV, May 2014) One of the benefits of being an omnivorous cinephile is that you never know when an oddball piece of cinematic knowledge is going to come in handy. In this case, Girl Walks Into a Bar‘s quirks makes far more sense when considered against writer/director Sebastián Gutiérrez previous films such as Elektra Luxx: the lead role of Carla Gugino (Gutiérrez’s girlfriend), fragmented script, interlocking subplots, varying tonal shifts, generally clever dialogue and presence of several good actors. It’s all meant to be a series of related stories set in various Los Angeles bars during one busy night, but it’s just as well-considered as a vignette film, with segments that don’t necessarily need to co-exist harmoniously in a coherent whole. There are highlights: Emmanuelle Chriqui’s world-weary monologue about the life of a stripper, Zachary Quinto’s clueless dentist trying to get his wife assassinated; Rosario Dawson as an employee of a nudist ping-pong club and a captivating presence for Robert Forster. While the film was conceived to be freely distributed on Youtube (although just for Americans…), it’s now making its way to specialty cable channels and can be caught there as a pleasant diversion. While Girl Walks Into a Bar is not particularly memorable, it does have a good cast, better-than-average dialogue and its inherent quirkiness makes it more interesting that most of the average fare out there.