[Movie Review] WRONG TURN (2021)

[Movie Review] WRONG TURN (2021)
Courtesy of Saban Films
The original WRONG TURN was released during my junior year of high school. I was finally comfortable with being out and had a slight taste of independence as I had my own car, utilizing it primarily to go to the movies every week. A variety of different kinds of horror movies were coming up and I made sure to see every single one. As a huge “Buffy” fan, I was really excited to learn that Eliza Dushku was going to be the lead of a new horror movie. I took my younger brother to see it opening night in a packed theater and it was clear that WRONG TURN was a crowd-pleaser. I loved every minute and ended up taking a friend to see it the following weekend again. It was not an original concept by any means, but it had a rare mash-up of bloody grimness and fun. It slightly pushed the envelope for mainstream violence during that time which was right before Saw and Hostel hit the big screen. WRONG TURN was clearly inspired by films like Deliverance and The Hills Have Eyes. It was released in 2003 and it was very much a movie that was made for me.

While the movie didn’t break any box office records, four years later, it spawned a direct-to-video sequel. Director Joe Lynch took over the reins for this one, taking the series into a more self-aware and much more violent direction. Wrong Turn 2: Dead End not only became the best-reviewed entry, but it also led the way to several more sequels. It’s safe to assume these sequels must have made a profit on home video to generate one after another, it was a surprise when news broke out that a reboot was in the works. Why label it a reboot? The plots of these movies are straightforward and don’t require much to draw us fans in so a sequel would have been just fine. After watching the new WRONG TURN, these concerns were quickly addressed.

Jen Shaw (Charlotte Vega, Rec 3: Genesis) and her friends make the ever so wise choice to hike the Appalachian Trail. Prior to stepping onto the mountains, they interact with some of the locals who initially react to them as ignorant hipsters. While that assumption can be argued, the film is quick to acknowledge that they are college-educated even if they still work at coffee shops. Their visit draws negative attention, but that doesn’t stop them from still venturing onto their hike. Despite warnings to not stray from the trail, that’s exactly what they do. Soon enough, skillfully crafted traps cause the body count to start as Jen and her friends encounter a secret community called The Foundation who preferred they remained unbothered.

Still from WRONG TURN l Courtesy of Saban Films

If you’ve seen the trailer or read the synopsis online, then you probably know what The Foundation is. However, WRONG TURN is better approached in the dark. It’s also best to acknowledge that this is nothing like any of the films in the franchise, mainly that there are no cannibalistic inbreds. The concept of venturing into the unknown with ignorance, leading to dangerous consequences is all that it shares. I have to admit: I really enjoyed this new direction.

Alan B. McElroy is the writer of the original WRONG TURN and returns to provide a grim, modern twist on the cult classic. Personally, I cringe when I see the term “reimagining” or “reboot” as they sound like pretentious versions of a remake. However, McElroy truly provides a new vision on his original story. Fans are given a new experience with quite a bit of political and social commentary unexpectedly thrown in.

Vega isn’t initially given too much to do, but that’s primarily due to the story being congested with her friends whose screen time doesn’t last long. The second half of the movie more than makes up for it as the rather fast progression of her character arc is fun to watch. The underrated Bill Sage (Mysterious Skin) devours the screen as the head of The Foundation. Damian Maffei (The Strangers: Prey At Night) has a small but memorable role as another member, showcasing more of his acting skills compared to previous roles as mostly quiet villains. Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket) also gives a strong performance as  Jen’s father, hellbent on finding his missing daughter.

With a running time of almost two hours, WRONG TURN could benefit from some trimming as it drags a bit halfway through. The last act will deliver for fans hungering for blood on the screen as it embraces its horror roots. In the end, this reboot is a turn I don’t regret taking. WRONG TURN has some great performances, beautiful cinematography, and is capped by a memorable end credits sequence.

WRONG TURN will be available in theaters on January 26, 2021.

Disclaimer/Editor’s Note: Nightmarish Conjurings doesn’t endorse seeing movies in theaters at this time due to the pandemic. Please consider VOD and/or Drive-In options and, if you go to the theater, please be safe.

Jovy Skol
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