Wrong Turn (2021) Takes Series in a New Direction
Title: Wrong Turn
First Non-Festival Release: January 26, 2021 (Limited Theatrical Release)
Director: Mike P. Nelson
Writer: Alan B. McElroy
Runtime: 109 Minutes
Starring: Charlotte Vega, Adain Bradley, Bill Sage, Matthew Modine
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Jennifer (Charlotte Vega) and five of her friends stay overnight in a small Virginian town before heading out to hike the Appalachian Trail. After a slight detour, they find themselves lost in the mountains, and eventually fall victim to a deadly trap. With one of their own killed in what looks like a freak accident, the group must find their way off the mountain and the terrifying force that lurks within the woods. Six weeks later, Jennifer’s dad Scott (Matthew Modine) sets off to find her, fully unprepared for what he is about to discover.
In name only remake, Wrong Turn, delivers plenty of satisfying backwoods carnage despite its detour from its iconic source material.
Wrong Turn has a unique take on backwoods horror and what that means. Here the antagonists aren’t inherently evil but more focused on protection. There’s a nice play on morality and justice here that complicates the plot more than the simplistic source material. The entire film challenges the audiences’ perceptions of others. Characters make decisions or judgments without fully knowing what is happening. Many times, this is shown through the divide of class and geography. While that doesn’t excuse any actions taken by the characters in the film, it’s a nice meditation on misunderstandings spiraling into aggression.
Jennifer is afforded a fantastic character arc which leads to one of the most satisfying endings of 2021. She begins the film with this lost and naïve understanding of the world. We learn throughout the film, that something is hidden deep within her. While most of her development happens off screen, there are moments where we see great vulnerability. Whether pleading for her life, and that of her friends, or holding the hand of someone who earlier that night wanted her dead, Jennifer isn’t afraid to put herself out there. Jennifer is a dynamic character that keeps the viewer guessing what she will do next. By the end, she is calculating, aware, and wholly stronger than when she started.
Enough world building makes the story feel plausible enough without leaping into the laughable realm of unrealistic. Certain moments, however, feel like a stretch but they are forgivable given cultural mores and language barriers that likely would prevent such communication from happening. The group of friends are painted as largely selfish and bumbling. Beyond Darius (Adain Bradley) and Jennifer, they don’t have much depth beyond their archetype. Thankfully, the cast does a solid job for the most part despite hamming it up for scares every now and then.
Aside from the general idea of people getting lost in the woods and falling victim to creative traps, there aren’t many similarities to the original Wrong Turn franchise. This film might have been more exciting if it had been titled something else to avoid unfair comparisons. Aside from plot, it has a completely different tone, plot structure, message, and even the kills feel starkly different. It’s slower paced, more serious, and decidedly downbeat. It still delivers in the gore department, even if it is further in between compared to earlier entries. The special effects team gets to shine here with what few gnarly moments they get. All of this doesn’t make Wrong Turn a good or bad film but makes one question why it had to be shoehorned into this series.
Fans of the Wrong Turn franchise may find themselves struggling to justify this film’s inclusion in the universe. Regardless, they can enjoy the many callbacks to the original films that make this iteration of Wrong Turn a worthy and inspired reimagining. Featuring some brutal traps, a truly interesting mythology behind the woods, and a rock-solid final girl character arc, Wrong Turn surprises more than it confuses. It doesn’t all come together in the end, but Wrong Turn is a good slasher for those wanting something a bit more non-traditional in their “campers get lost in the woods” fare. If you’re thinking that you need to check this one out, I can promise you that you’re going in the right direction.
Overall Score? 6/10