You ever find yourself walking on a beaten path of the woods and maybe for just a second you get the feeling that you’re not alone? It’s a thought that has crossed my mind plenty of times, but unlike some people that I’ve spotted, I don’t wear headphones when I’m hiking alone. Call it a safety measure or just a man enjoying the great outdoors. With the news of the seventh installment of the Wrong Turn franchise due to release tomorrow in theaters, let’s think back to when we first encountered the cannibal family living deep in the woods.
Wrong Turn was released back in 2003 and saw five sequels that were released over the course of eleven years and now a rebooted entry is on the way. Alan B. McElroy (screenwriter for the first film) returns to pen the script for this latest installment. As far as we know, this isn’t a sequel to any of the films in the franchise and will bring us an entirely new story to work with. From the trailers that have been released, it appears that this movie is looking to return to form of being a horror film that features suspense instead of the over-abundance of gore and nudity as present in the five sequels. This latest entry does show promise as breathing life into this franchise that went in a bad direction, or shall we say, a wrong turn.
So, why is Wrong Turn not as popular as other films in its genre? Why are the sequels given the bad reception that they are remembered for? And what about the future?
Cannibals, inbreds and disfigured people is certainly nothing new, especially in the horror genre. Usually, they are portrayed as either deranged killers or perhaps children who have the most unfortunate gift of life. Films such as The Hills Have Eyes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Cannibal Holocaust and The Silence of the Lambs involve the use of cannibalism to tell their stories. Each of these films vary in plot, violence and impact on culture but no one can deny that these films are among the most recognizable in terms of dealing with brutal, savage and haunting material. Wrong Turn on the other hand only slightly delves into this macabre genre but goes along the path of the typical slasher film instead. It’s a forgettable film by most standards but is still worthy of a look as a decent horror flick.
The plot isn’t that memorable but it tells the story of how a group of people take a wrong turn only to become stranded. Instead of venturing back from which they came, they decide to go further into the woods where they find a house. No one is home and housekeeping isn’t a priority of the homeowners. It’s discovered that whoever lives here is hiding a dark secret. Things are found in the home that are the things of nightmares and when the homeowners come home and discover intruders have invaded their land, the hunt begins.
Turns out, the homeowners are a family of cannibals and have staked their land in the remote forests of West Virginia. The stranded strangers run for their lives and end up battling the trio of inbreds in order to survive their horrifying ordeal. While Wrong Turn isn’t exactly a scary movie, it’s nevertheless a fun horror flick that’s entertaining and equal parts goofy. Anybody remember that goofy laugh from one of the cannibals? The first film was directed by Rob Schmidt and is without a doubt the best entry in the franchise for several reasons.
The Five Sequels
I will say this the best way I can. The sequels to Wrong Turn were all released direct-to-DVD and given the production values, acting, atrocious writing, gratuitous nudity and cheap looking gory kills make the first film look like a masterpiece. To sum them up in simple terms, the five sequels followed the Saw formula. Instead of involving the audience in plot, suspense and so generally good scares, the filmmakers decide to settle for how savage can we get in order to gross out the audience. I will admit that the sequels were way more graphic than the first film which was restrained in its violence (a reason why the film is somewhat enjoyable) and thus allowed the audience to determine what occurred.
For example, there are many scenes in the sequels that showcase cheap sex in order to get a rise out of the audience and kills that are sometimes quite inventive but feel as if the crew who made these movies was only looking for ways to kills their characters instead of drafting a somewhat interesting script. Declan O’Brien (who directed films 3-5) is the guy who is guilty of this. The only exception is the second film in the franchise which was interesting but still a step down from the first film.
The character of Three-Finger (the cannibal who has that funny laugh) appears in the sequels and is a fan favorite. He racks up the body count very quickly but watching these kills is exactly how the Saw franchise went. The violence was more brutal, there were scenes of torture which isn’t fun nor entertaining to witness and the plots became dumber and lackluster. Take for example the sixth entry, Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort which feels the need to talk about incest and feature scenes to fill my mind with images that no one cares to see. The same thing happened in the The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007). I don’t need to see scenes of rape and incest; I’d rather just assume what happened.
One thing about the sequels is the lack of scares and that’s to blame of the settings. Here are some examples. One takes place in a small town which appears more like a movie set, another is a spa resort, while the others are an abandoned mental facility and the other showing escaped convicts who wander through the woods after finding an armored car filled with cash. I’ll give credit to the abandoned mental hospital one but how can one be scared or even slightly nervous with those aforementioned settings? Another issue with the films are that while the actors do what they can with what they are given, none of them match the debut film’s cast which included Desmond Harrington, Eliza Dushku, Emmanuelle Chrqui, Jeremy Sisto along with Kevin Zegers and Lindy Booth (both of whom starred in Dawn of the Dead a year later together).
I don’t want to sound cruel on slamming the sequels but as a fan of the horror genre, I should expect more when it comes to sequels. I rejoice when the sequels can match or do better than their predecessors but the Wrong Turn series has never benefited from its sequels.
Since the release of the trailer for the newest entry with an amazing title, Wrong Turn, it appears that this film is looking to repeat what the 2003 film attempted to do. Make a scary movie work for the audience. As I said before, Wrong Turn isn’t really a scary movie but at the time, it did have an impact on me. It doesn’t match the iconic status as the other films I mentioned and I don’t think it has to either. Wrong Turn took the idea of inbreeding and exploited it to make a profit in the movie market. As a film, Wrong Turn is enjoyable if you’re into movies of that nature. If you looking for gore, thin plots and movies that feel like a soft-core porn flick, then the sequels may be for you.
The newest Wrong Turn film will focus on a community of people who live off the grid and away from society. They may be cannibals and the youngsters that cross their path may not have bargained for what they will surely have to deal with. The film will be playing for two-nights in select cinemas on January 26 and January 30 before having a wider release in the U.K. With Alan B. McElroy returning to write the script (he didn’t contribute to any of the sequels) I hope that this film can bring Wrong Turn back into the spotlight with a good film that worth our time and money. The sequels felt like quick cash grabs without a care in the world for delivering a fun experience to the fans of the first film.
The future isn’t certain but one can hope that this reboot can breathe some life into a franchise that isn’t even that popular. Wrong Turn is a great ride and I surely hope that the reboot can match the atmosphere that was created whenever we entered that creepy cabin for the first time. If anything else, you could always read up on the legend of Sawney Bean. Whether or not the stories are true, the very idea is enough to engage the most hardcore of horror fans.
So, be sure to check your local listings to find out if going into the woods is a good idea. Wrong Turn arrives in theater on January 26th and 30th. This land is their land and they will do anything to ensure their own survival. Be sure to stay on the right path this time or die trying.