WRONG TURN (2021) tries and fails to reinvent the classic franchise

The Wrong Turn franchise has thrilled horror audiences for the better part of 18 years, ever since the release of the first film in 2003. The franchise has become an all-time classic in the world of B-movie horror, with each of the 6 films embracing the cannibalistic gore and wild traps and weaponry used to cut through the unsuspecting teens who make a “wrong turn”. I love the sequels, despite some of them being very poorly written and acted, so the notion of a reboot left me wishing they just did a 7th film, while hoping this entry is still great.

Screenwriter Alan B. McElroy returns to the reboot the franchise he created almost 20 years ago, attempting to add some fresh ideas and bring an updated flavour to his own work. The film follows a new group of teens who attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail, but end up being confronted by The Foundation, a community that has claimed the mountain as home for hundreds of years. The premise is very simple and nothing entirely new, taking some very obvious cues from the other Wrong Turn films, while attempting to do something fresh. Unfortunately, the attempt to do something different and veer off from the path set by the previous entries proves to be unsuccessful, ultimately lacking in what makes the Wrong Turn franchise appealing. Don’t get me wrong, the other films in the franchise have never been renowned for their writing – so it’s no surprise that the writing here is average. But it’s the very simple structure of those films and focus on crazy traps and gore that just works, whereas the departure from that makes the whole thing feel a little more empty.

The first half of the film very much feels like a love letter to the franchise and those early 2000’s horror vibes. It hooks you with a very quick and familiar introduction to the characters, quickly puts them in peril and lets chaos unfold. It harkens back to the barebones structure of previous entries, feeling comfortably familiar yet still definitively new. There’s a bit of mystery and an overall very eerie tone that had me ready for a fun ride. Then, as the narrative begins to take shape, weaving the story into a completely new direction, it all falls apart. It slows down drastically, eliminates any and all elements of mystery and just feels like a completely different film using the Wrong Turn name. It severely lacks any sort of tension, to the point where I don’t really know what it’s going for. At best the latter half has a couple of moments where it’s entertaining, for instance the very last sequence is great, but overall it leaves behind a very sour taste. I applaud Alan B. McElroy for trying to refresh the franchise with a new take, but sometimes it’s best to just stick to your guns.

All that being said, there are a couple of notable highlights that extend beyond the narrative in the first half of the film. For one, the film is surprisingly very well shot from beginning to end. For what is presented as a generic gory slasher flick, the cinematography and camera-work is noticeably impressive. So many shots and sequences, especially during the day, look quite beautiful and get the most out of the film’s setting. Then there’s the score, which is actually pretty damn neat and helps maintain a creepy atmosphere. Finally, there’s the presence of Matthew Modine, who brings a nice touch to the film. He delivers a solid performance and shines through his few scenes over the course of the film. It’s a pretty safe bet that if you cast Modine, you’re going to get a solid, committed performance out of him.

When it comes to the main cast, save for the lead, the performances are okay at best. There’s some strikingly average lines of dialogue and a couple moments of poor line delivery spread amongst the cast. Perhaps they all did their best with what they were given, but none of them really made you feel like they were actually in these scenarios. A couple of times, it just felt like it was obvious that they were acting – which takes you out of the film. I am a fan of what Charlotte Vega does in the lead role for the vast majority of the film. Even in the latter half, where shit hits the fan, she’s the one holding things together with a pretty grounded performance. She gives off some likeable qualities that makes you root for her in the scenarios her character finds herself in. I can definitely see her doing more and going further with future roles.

In the end, the reboot of Wrong Turn fails to hit the mark – adding in too many fresh ideas to the point where it eliminates the tension, intrigue and familiar elements that were staples of the classic 2000’s horror franchise. It certainly has its moments, with a chilling first half that is as entertaining as it is thrilling, and some noticeably impressive cinematography to go along with it. It even harbours a solid performances from both Matthew Modine and Charlotte Vega. However, it all falls apart in the latter half – lacking any real tension, slowing down the pacing and just not being all that enjoyable – turning the film into something entirely unrecognisable. You might even say that the film takes a “wrong turn”.


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