Somehow, the 2003 film Wrong Turn has had a durable appeal over the last 18 years, prompting five sequels and now a reboot. For this writer’s money, it may be the most perfunctory horror movie ever made. It’s completely devoid of any creative ideas, characters or even kills, which should otherwise be a standard requirement for all slasher flicks.
The 2021 rendition, however, corrects the flaws of the initial feature and offers a far more satisfying experience than anyone acquainted with the franchise could have imagined, fans or otherwise. Original writer Alan B McElroy returns to the series to pen this latest instalment. Replacing Rob Schmidt in the director’s seat is Mike P Nelson (The Domestics). A new helmer is undoubtedly beneficial – especially one equipped with a stronger visual sense to execute violent sequences with panache – but the former’s writing exhibits improvement as he adjusts his classic premise to the modern world.
Much like the original, this version centres on a group of college-aged hiking youths who make a wrong turn in the woods and find themselves confronted by a mysterious, murderous tribe. Back then, the villains were inbred hillbilly cannibals. This time, they’re a self-sufficient community of people who call themselves The Foundation and punish any intruder with medieval methods of violence. This cult is so charismatic that it almost becomes easier to root for them than the heroes. A key character design choice, though, is aped from the recent British spooker The Ritual, specifically an imitation of the terrifying Jötunn.
The protagonists here – played by familiar TV faces such as Harlots’s Daisy Head and The Gifted star Emma Dumont – have a pluckier spirit to them than the former cast. However, they are still prone to the same silly mistakes and illogic. Their arc is benefited by a clever structural trick in which the audience learns from the outset that bad news has reached the city, as viewers watch Matthew Modine’s character initiate a search for his missing daughter. It allows for the narrative to subvert expectations and the directors successfully offer surprises until the very end. With a stronger foundation, gnarlier action and the greatest cinematic technique across all seven movies, this is the right turn for the long-running horror film series.
Wrong Turn is released digitally on demand on 26th February 2021.
Watch the trailer for Wrong Turn here: