Wrong Turn Review – Baffling and Ridiculous Viewing

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Exhausting and absurd, this Wrong Turn reboot gets it wrong with every turn it takes.

For a seventh film in a franchise, how is it possible to have such an identity crisis? With only a mere suggestion of the original before diving deep into an embarrassing and heavy-handed dupe of A24 horrors, only then to have a go at being a Liam Neeson-lite Dad-saves-the-day-thriller. None of these different narrative territories are smoothly integrated, instead it’s a whip-lash shift from narrative to narrative that ends with you losing track of what you were actually watching in the first place. None of it makes all that much sense but the most confusing thing of all is the Wrong Turn title. This isn’t a reboot with a new twist, this is completely disconnected and should’ve just been released under its own “The Foundation” title.

After the most unnecessary of preludes setting up the Dad (Matthew Modine) for his eventual return, the dribble of the original begins with the classic set up of a group of friends going deep into hillbilly territory. It’s 2021 now so we have ourselves a much more diverse gang: There’s Adrian Favela and Vardaan Arora as gay couple Luis and Gary, who lack any character whatsoever. There’s a selfie taking quasi-feminist (she utters something about girl power- what a girl boss!), Milla (Emma Dumont), with her angry white boyfriend, Adam (Dylan McTee) (who, ironically, is the most compelling character of the group). Then there’s Aidan Bradley as the black socialist boyfriend Darius of our final girl; Charlotte Vega as Jen Shaw, a blonde white girl who can change a tyre all by herself! The points of diversity are superficial and offer nothing outside of their tokenism. But to be fair, outside of Jen and Adam, none of these characters have much going on to them at all. Even together, the group lacks any sense of camaraderie, there’s barely a sign of friendship outside of the fact they’re physically hanging out together.

The only decent conflict comes from Milla and Adam when he deserts her in a moment of terror, he makes his promise to never leave her, only to do it all over again when she (literally) falls victim to a fatal trap. Milla shish kabob’d in a hole yelling “fuck you” as Adam bolts to save himself is exactly the kind of moments a film like this should be full of. When ol’ mate Gary is left with his face smooshed thanks to a rolling log trap (a rather exciting and well executed moment), Luis has a moment of grief only to spend the rest of his time lingering in the background seemingly unaffected until it’s time to be used for another kill. Darius ends up committing himself to “the foundation” due to his socialist beliefs, which is a misguided and lazy interpretation of that. There’s no gravitas to these characters, they ultimately serve no purpose.

The most annoying thing about the lazy characters is there are actual moments hinting at potential. In an early bar scene, a white trash boomer local lashes out at these visiting entitled millennials. This interaction of generational resentments could’ve been further explored, adding an interesting layer to the story. Instead of the characters retorting and revealing aspects of themselves, Jen announces each of their job titles as a rebuttal. It’s comes across as reading out dot points to establish character in place of actually showing it. 

Speaking of Jen, she is a terrible final girl. She’s written to be autonomous and capable, but she exists as the most shallow “badass female” trope. Her whole storyline is forced, and she’s just not the girl to be leading this story. Even her final act is laughably ridiculous as she out of nowhere becomes a skilled warrior, efficient in archery and knife throwing. 

There is a positive to be acknowledged though with some good and gnarly gore that had decent impact, particularly Gary’s aforementioned crushed face. It was a relief that shoddy special effects were not to be seen as instead the film embraced timely cuts from the action to the bloody reveals. The Foundation members had some great initial costuming with shaggy nature-bodies and various skulls and horns adorning their heads. It’s a shame their foreboding look wasn’t used to full effect. There was no mystery about whether they were mysterious creatures lurking in the woods, they were plainly presented as man. Like with everything else going on in Wrong Turn, it’s just a good idea wasted because they were too distracted by everything else to actually focus on what worked.

When the story shifts to the village of The Foundation (barbarians in lieu of inbred hillbilly cannibals), the audience gets served a soggy plate of c-grade A24 horror. Heavily referencing the likes of The VVitch and Midsommar, the setting was distracting and even at times felt like a spoof. The setting was so far away from the hiking trail that it felt like the group had found themselves in a completely different film.

The barbarians themselves were plain silly, led by Bill Sage in a role where the poor guy could barely keep from breaking his kinda Russian, vaguely Scandinavian accent. It was particularly distracting in a scene where he was yelling and his full American accent came out. Clearly a committed performance from the Mysterious Skin alum, it’s just a shame it didn’t work.

Another committed performance came from Matthew Modine as the Dad, Scott. Bless his best efforts but this was some odd casting. He looked too frail for an average hike, let alone to be going on a off-track mission into the wilderness to save his daughter from the clutches of an underground barbarian society. There’s a scene where the hillbilly townsfolk beat him up and the poor sod didn’t look capable of taking even a single hit.

The worst thing about Wrong Turn is that even when you can be relieved it’s finally over… it has a whole extra and even more unnecessary finale with a tiresome fake out. I can’t express just how many unnecessary things this film is overstuffed with. I can’t tell if those who made this film did so with a bit too much excitement, shoehorning so many new ideas that they forgot what they were even making in the first place, or, if it’s an insecure reboot that was all too desperate to get away from what it was in the first place. 

I don’t know what they wanted to achieve with this film. Honestly, I’m all for trying something new and giving a worn-out property a fresh twist. As much as this movie baffled me, there’s part of me that can’t help but respect they at least attempted something more than just a standard remake. This film isn’t short of effort, there’s a lot that’s been put into making this something much more than the original Wrong Turn was. Unfortunately, it’s just so misguided and haphazardly executed that you can give it all the kudos you want. but it just doesn’t work. It’s a tiring and ridiculous ride that exhausts itself of the slasher genres simple thrills.

Director: Mike P. Nelson

Cast: Matthew Modine, Emma Dumont, Charlotte Vega

Writer: Alan B. McElroy

Scot F

Appreciator of independent and arthouse cinema, I love a good story and love good characters even more. Mysterious Skin, Young Adult, and Welcome to the Dollhouse are among my favourite films- great taste, I know. In good time I'll be writing films myself, but until then I'll happily write about films instead.

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