A group of friends make the mistake of venturing off the trail while hiking through the Appalachian Mountains. There, they encounter a group of people who have lived out there for hundreds of years and they don’t take kindly to trespassers.
Most horror fans are familiar with the 2003 inbred-cannibal thriller, Wrong Turn, and the sequels that followed it. Now, director Mike P. Nelson (Summer School, The Domestics) has teamed up with the original film’s screenwriter, Alan B. McElroy (Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers), to reboot the film. While both films take place in the Appalachians and involve hikers being hunted, the similarities end there. This film follows a group of friends, all of whom are quite accomplished. They have an unpleasant encounter with the locals in a small town before heading out to hike the tail. Everything goes great until they leave the trail. They encounter a group called “The Foundation” who have lived out in the wilderness for generations and they will do whatever it takes to maintain their way of life. The plot is a refreshing change from what fans are used to in Wrong Turn films. Instead of being straight-up campy gore, the plot relies more on suspense and keeping the audience at the edge of their seats. It quite effectively holds your attention and keeps you guessing from start to finish.
I was pleasantly surprised by the new direction the filmmakers went in Wrong Turn. It’s the kind of film that draws you in and allows you to come up with your own theories about what’s happening, yet still manages to deliver some strong surprises. While I enjoyed most of the plot and felt drawn into the story, there are some plot holes, specifically when it comes to “The Foundation” and their treatment of outsiders. The filmmakers seemed to be trying to make a point about not judging people at face-value, but it makes everyone feel like the villain, even the good guys. One of the aspects of the plot that feels a bit lacking is the treatment of the queer characters. In the core friend group of six, there is a gay couple. While they are generally likeable characters and one character points out they are business owners, they each get arguably some of the worst fates of all the characters in the film. The result is the feeling that two gay characters were included for no other reason than to watch them suffer, although most of the characters end up suffering at some point. What it likely comes down to is a lack of character development. Wrong Turn has a lot of characters, but we really only get character development for one of them, making it hard to connect to the others in peril.
When it comes to the actors who play the characters, the performances are quite enjoyable. Charlotte Vega (Another Me, Warrior Nun) stars as Jen. Of all the characters, Jen is the one the audience is able to connect with the most. While all of her friends have great careers, Jen is kind of directionless. Yet Vega shows that Jen’s greatest strength is her perseverance, adaptability, and quick thinking. Another memorable performance comes from Bill Sage (The Pale Door, We Are What We Are) as Venable, the leader of “The Foundation.” Sage not only does a great job of maintaining an accent throughout the film, but he also manages to make Venable appear benevolent and sinister in turn. Other strong performances in Wrong Turn come from Adain Bradley (Riverdale), Adrian Favela (The Try Out), Daisy Head (Underworld: Blood Wars), and Matthew Modine (Stranger Things).
The unique plot for Wrong Turn is a definite draw, but what horror fans will likely remember most is the practical effects. It doesn’t take long while watching this film to notice the filmmakers clearly love head trauma! There are many scenes where heads are crushed, shot, burned, and generally obliterated. All of these wounds, and many more, are disturbingly well done. It delivers the gore horror fans love from the previous Wrong Turn films, yet with a more realistic edge that ultimately makes the kills more shocking. These practical effects create some of the most memorable moments of the film, including one very grim sequence in a dark cave that will haunt my nightmares.
Wrong Turn effectively breathes new life into the familiar horror franchise while still making viewers wary of going into the woods. Nelson and McElroy make a great team. Together they delivered a film that is equal parts eerie chills and gnarly gore. The performances of the leads and the practical effects only make the film more fun to watch. While there could have been more character development and the story could have been streamlined to eliminate plot holes, Wrong Turn still delivers an entertaining movie-going experience.
OVERALL RATING: 6/10