The Stephen King Easter Egg You May Have Missed In Wrong Turn

Stephen King has such a broad reach that it's easy to miss some of the subtler nods and easter eggs that pop up in genre storytelling. When watching "Stranger Things," for instance, it's easy to miss the nods to "Firestarter" — a story all about a secretive government program that studies and trains psychic kids as weapons. Sometimes the references can be in your face, sometimes more subtle, but just about everybody working in genre storytelling in the last 20-30 years has certainly been influenced by King.

2003's "Wrong Turn" is a great example of a film that employs a perfectly executed easter egg that will simply go over the heads of those who don't clock it while garnering knowing nods from the King heads in the audience. "Wrong Turn" is about a group of attractive college kids whose rock climbing vacation in West Virginia is interrupted by some inbred, mutated, cannibalistic mountain people. It's one of those horror movies where the leads go off to places you know they shouldn't be venturing alone and then get picked off one by one.

The star of "Wrong Turn" is Eliza Dushku, who was at the height of her "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Bring It On" celebrity, and her character is the key to this Stephen King easter egg. In "Wrong Turn," Dushku plays Jessie Burlingame. If that name rings a bell for you then you're super close to figuring out the King nod.

This is not a game

Jessie Burlingame is also the name of the main character in "Gerald's Game," a 1992 novel from the master of horror which was adapted into a 2017 movie by Mike Flanagan, starring Carla Gugino.

The two Jessies turn out to have a lot in common. It wasn't just the creators of "Wrong Turn" liking the name and wanting to put an easter egg into their movie — both Burlingames are survivors who find themselves in an impossible situation and do everything in their power to fight back.

In the case of "Gerald's Game," the poor lead is handcuffed to a bed during some experimental sexy time with her husband when he suffers a fatal heart attack leaving her chained up and helpless. It's up to her to figure a way out of the situation and not give in to panic. The same can be said for the Jessie Burlingame of "Wrong Turn." She's a fighter who doesn't give up when things are at their bleakest. Heck, there's even a moment when she herself is tied to a bed, another potential nod to her "Gerald's Game" counterpart.

Surviving trauma

To dig a little deeper, both characters also experience some form of sexual trauma. In "Gerald's Game" much of her internal struggle is coming to grips with abuse she suffered at the hands of her father when she was a child. In order to escape the life or death situation "Gerald's Game" Jessie finds herself in she has to finally face this trauma that has been over her shoulder her entire life.

"Wrong Turn" isn't as deep as that, but Dushku's character is absolutely assaulted by the creepy mountain man in the sequence where she's tied to the bed. 

The question then becomes how much did the filmmakers base their lead on the "Gerald's Game" character? Or was it a case where there were parallels already and they decided to just give her the same name as the King character as a fun little easter egg for the hungry horror fans? If I had to guess, I'd say it's more likely the latter. There are certainly parallels that run deeper than just sharing a name, but Dushku's Burlingame doesn't really strike me as the younger version of the character from "Gerald's Game." 

Still, it's a fun nod and one that was right in front of us this whole time and maybe flew under the radar. That's what a good easter egg does, so well done to the "Wrong Turn" team.