Review by Sean Boelman
The unexpectedly decade-long franchise based on the 2003 horror flick Wrong Turn isn’t known for particularly high quality, hence the surprise of most when it turned out that the 2021 reboot is a legitimately entertaining addition to the genre. Sharing the title and Appalachian setting but not much else with the series, this is the type of brutal but not overly cheap film that horror fans didn’t know they wanted.
Alan McElroy, who also wrote the original movie, penned this new script that also has a “characters by” credit for himself. Following a group of friends who get lost hiking on the Appalachian Trail and find themselves at odds with a ritualistic community, the film eliminates the cannibal threat that defined the other six entries.
Instead, the movie takes an approach that is much more reminiscent of something like Saw — a series of gruesome and creative traps resulting in some truly inspired death scenes. It may not be much more original than what the premise that kickstarted the series had to offer, but it’s executed much more effectively.
It’s also interesting to see this film have a lot more substance than one would expect from a B-movie horror flick. There is obviously the clear didactic message, but what really stands out is the way in which it explores the idea of barbarism and how society has arguably become less evolved despite its development.
Perhaps the best thing that this film has to offer is its world-building. This takes the series in a very different direction and while this does work well as a one-off, it would be interesting to see some of the mythology of The Foundation explored and expanded upon. However, the potential is also there for this to turn into yet another derivative franchise.
The acting in the movie is also surprisingly strong. Bill Sage gives an enjoyably unhinged performance as the antagonistic cult leader. It’s a big performance in many ways, but it’s never so over the top as to go into caricature territory. Charlotte Vega is also very good, giving a strong turn as the final girl.
There are also some really interesting technical aspects in play here. Although the gore shots don’t last very long, they are disturbing despite their brevity. Some of the deaths happen so quickly and unexpectedly that they have an undeniable visceral impact that a lot of shock factor horror films have failed to achieve recently.
This new take on Wrong Turn shouldn’t be underestimated just because of the series’s bad reputation. This is an unexpectedly well-crafted horror movie with some genuinely great moments that will be etched into viewers’ memory for quite a while.
Wrong Turn hits VOD and DVD on February 23.