Cannibals, backwoods folk, inbreds and hungry mutants are nothing new to the horror genre and when Wrong Turn was first released back in 2003, the film didn’t provide much in terms of establishing itself from other memorable horror icons such as Friday the 13th or Halloween. Even after all these years, Wrong Turn is a mostly forgotten film that is best remembered for the five sequels that turned the franchise into nothing more than a soft-core porno series with cheap gore effects, cardboard cut-out characters and featuring poorly written stories. Safe to safe the franchise took a wrong turn. With the announcement and release of the reboot, this Wrong Turn strays off the path of conventional genre tropes and instead aims for a story driven mystery that’s involving, suspenseful and may not be what you’d expect from a horror reboot.
The story takes place in Virginia! How surprising! The film follows a group of young twenty something year-olds who are taking time off from work in order to venture out into nature. They want to get away from everything and be able to explore what nature has to offer. We start the film with six people, three couples. We have Jen and Darius (Charlotte Vega and Adain Bradley) and interracial couple, Milla and Adam (Emma Dumont and Dylan McTee) who are successful in their respective career and finally we have Luis and Gary (Adrian Favela and Vardaan Arora) who are members of the LGBT community. They are all on vacation and are looking forward to spending time together and exploring the unknown deep in the greenery of the forests of the Appalachian Trail.
The locals in town warn these group of youngsters to not stray off the path and to watch where they wander. Most of them don’t take kindly to these “backwood types of white-trash” as one character points out. It isn’t long before the group heads out into the woods where problems begin to arise. Straying off the path, the characters are in search of a rumored Civil War memorial and end up getting lost. While trying to get their bearings (despite being unable to locate their cellphones) they do discover a cemetery and a plaque which is dedicated to twelve families who deem themselves to be “The Foundation”. A group of people who vacated from their homes prior to the Civil War in order to live a free life of their own volition.
It becomes apparent soon enough that someone or a group of someones is lurking close by. One by one, members of the group start to go missing and then we are lead to something that is quite a surprise. We get to meet this so-called “Foundation”. I won’t reveal any details but I can say that they are led by a man named Venable (Bill Sage). They have their own community, rules and way of life. Going into a film titled Wrong Turn, you’d think we’d see some cannibal action and maybe even some cool kills. I can promise you that you’ll get plenty of action, but to compare this to any of the films of this franchise prior would be unfair. This is a very different movie that has a lot of ideas on its mind than just satisfying a blood thirsty crowd.
One of the main themes of the film is the consequences of passing judgement on others and referring to the age-old stereotypes that can be offensive to others especially if they are ones who suffer from being persecuted via judgement. I will say that Charlotte Vega is tremendous in her performance. From being captured, making a vital decision to secure her future and being able to defend herself reminded me of seeing Alicia Vikander in Tomb Raider for the first time. Did I mention that Matthew Modine is also in this movie as the desperate father in search of his daughter Jen? Modine is great as the father who will do anything to find his daughter whether she is dead or alive.
Screenwriter Alan McElroy (writer of the first Wrong Turn) has brought many ideas and created a unique mythology for this film. He decided to break away from typical formula of the slasher/horror genre and crafted a story that does feature some genuine suspense and even some brutal and savage kills. I admire his writing and for developing a plot driven story instead of the making the “final girl” type movie.
Director Mike P. Nelson also deserves some credit here to bringing us into a world that is literally frozen in time. The Foundation’s settlement is eerily similar to the Pre-Civil War era with even some hints at the Viking world. I was amazed at the level of clarity in how the story was told, the idea that this wasn’t just some remake that most people would expect and the fact that he delivers on a story that’s involving, interesting and at times downright horrifying. If you’re looking for a typical hack and slash movie, then you may be disappointed although I did mention that there were some brutal kills. That’ll be enough to enthrall the audience for the gory parts, but in all, Wrong Turn is a good step in making the right direction for a horror film that more that delivers. The performances and convincing and feel authentic and to my surprise the movie adds a layer of emotional impact; something rarely seen in movies of this nature.
Score 4 out of 5 Stars
Wrong Turn may not be what you expect but if you go into this movie as just a horror film, you may walk away feeling surprised. This isn’t a mere copy of the first film or those awful sequels, but instead this is a film where a lot of thought was given in terms of the plot, settings, suspense and overall themes that are present in this film which is something of a refresher. Wrong Turn has been plagued with a bad reputation and this film provides a needed boost to this long-forgotten franchise. It’s nothing like what came before, but what is offered is something more entirely and that alone is more than enough reason to see this film as soon as it arrives on streaming platforms and VOD. Give it a chance, Wrong Turn is making a comeback and rest assured that the kills in this movie will deliver the goods too!