MTI Home Video presents
"You go out in the desert, and it will eat you alive."- Petey (Anthony Connell)
Stars: Ashley Elizabeth, Jill Jacobs, Aaron Buer
Other Stars: Brent Tyler, Kelsey Wedeen, Micky Levy, Jessica Osfar, Ryan De Rouen, Anthony Connell, T.C. Davidson, Renee Madison Cole, Tiffany Shepis
Director: S. Lee Taylor
Manufacturer: DVD Masters
MPAA Rating: R for strong horror violence/gore, language, sexuality
Run Time: 01h:29m:18s
Release Date: 2003-12-02
DVD ReviewDetour is essentially an updated retelling of Wes Craven's classic The Hills Have Eyes, and the premise is basically the same: a group of innocent victims-to-be end up stranded in the desert, and break down in the realm of a pack of murderous cannibals. Instead of a family, as in Craven's film, this time it is a group of seven young hipsters returning from a wild desert rave in a big motor home who decide to take a detour to search for a rumored field of wild peyote adjacent to an abandoned mine. Even the warnings of a demented gas station owner (Anthony Connell) won't change their course, and since the film's opening sequence featured a pair of wayward lesbian travellers (including Troma queen Tiffany Shepis) meeting a most unpleasant end via meat hooks and punji sticks, we know there's trouble ahead.
The story follows standard genre guidelines by allowing a few moments to learn the one-dimensional personalities of the main characters before they're start fighting for their lives, and the script quickly identifies each (the Goth girl, the hot chicks, the logical leader, the comic relief, the sexed-up couple). Detour was written by director S. Lee Taylor, along with producer Steve Grabowsky, and aside from creating one of filmdom's most obnoxious and annoying characters (white boy gangsta Loops, played by Aaron Buer), the film has its share of sharp, caustic dialogue and humorous back-and-forth banter. This is usually an area where the so-called "dead teenager" flicks fall apart, but in Detour, I didn't mind the pre-horror chatter one bit, because it was actually pretty damn funny. Even the annoying sexed-up-baby-talk of Harmony (Jill Jacobs) and Tara (Ashley Elizabeth), which bordered on becoming grating at times, generated some of the better riffs of dialogue.
I found the film's only real weakness to be the cannibals themselves, who despite their propensity for wholesale murder and dismemberment, only seem threatening from a distance. Boy, from far away they look creepy, but up close, they're just ordinary-looking people with bad makeup effects, and that was probably the most disheartening realization I had during Detour. I desperately wanted these freaks to be vile and hideous looking, but something about them was too clean, and the closeups almost managed to take me out of the moment.
A film like this needs a strong, terrifying personification of evil to drive home the horror, and that is where Taylor has stumbled. Wes Craven had Michael Berryman, a man who required really no makeup effects and who became The Hills Have Eyes' most iconic image, but in Detour, it seems that the filmmakers came up short when it came time to developing the look of the cannibals. At times, this has that feel of a bad low-rent zombie movie where your eyes gravitate towards the shoddy makeup of the undead, which makes you realize "hey, those are just actors shuffling around in bad makeup trying to act like zombies." It's just a mood killer.
Weaknesses of the cannibals aside, the rest of Detour remains a fun mix of death and dismemberment as the seven travellers are slowly whittled down by blood-thirsty maniacs, and S. Lee Taylor even plays against standard genre convention in spots by dispensing with characters you assumed would make it to the final reel. Taylor shows a flair for emulating the look and feel of 1970s horror, especially Craven, and with better-looking villains, Detour could have been damn near perfect.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B
|Aspect Ratio||1.78:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The relatively clean nonanamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen transfer is full of bright, natural colors (boy, that is some red blood) and evenly rendered fleshtones (witness Tiffany Shepis and her micro shorts). Shadow delineation and black levels are decent, and a bit of murkiness actually enhanced a couple of scenes. A bit of shimmer and ringing is evident in spots (the grillwork of the motor home, for example), but overall is devoid of any glaring print flaws.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in a no-frills front-channel dominant 2.0 stereo track. Minimal separation, but dialogue (screams and all) is clear and understandable at all times. Nothing fancy, but it works.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Learning Curve, Hunting Humans, Lucky, Maniacts
1 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Steven Grabowsky, Susan Wright, S. Lee Taylor
Extras Review: Writer/producer Steven Grabowsky, producer Susan Wright, and writer/director S. Lee Taylor provide a casual and occasionally informative full-length commentary track that is an easy-to-listen-to blend of mockery, comedy, and even some production facts. This is one of those tracks where you don't necessarily learn anything earth-shaking about the making of the film, but the presenters make it entertaining, regardless.
Behind the Scenes (17m:35s), where some of the actors refer to the film as Hell's Highway, is a collection of location footage, cast interviews, and leering footage of the tiny shorts worn by most of the lead actresses. Also included are an Audition reel (11m:12s), an Extended Opening Scene (04m:17s) that features some entrail munching, and a set of trailers (Detour, Learning Curve, Hunting Humans, Maniacts, Lucky). For added comedic effect, The Most Annoying 24 Seconds in Film History (:24s) is an edited montage of Aaron Buer's annoying Loops uttering his annoying gangsta speak.
The disc is cut into 20 chapters, and includes optional Spanish subtitles.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsWell, Detour is certainly a throwback to things we've seen before, but that's hardly a crime. This won't make me forget The Hills Have Eyes or even Race With the Devil, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a good time.
Highly entertaining, and very much a recommended choice for horror fans.
Rich Rosell 2003-12-21