Wrong Turn (2021) – Movie Review

If it doesn’t involved inbred cannibals, annoyingly unlikeable characters, and oodles of gratuitous nude scenes, is it even really a Wrong Turn movie?  This latest reboot from the screenwriter of the original movie (Alan McElroy) seeks to answer this question.

Wrong Turn (2021) takes itself far more seriously than any of its predecessors, and while it has brutal kills and moments of unbearable tension, it bites off a little more than it can chew theme-wise.

If you’re hoping for the return of this inbred cannibal family, you will be sadly disappointed.

(Minor Spoilers)

City vs. Countr
The film opens with Scott (Matthew Modine) traveling to a small town in Virginia along the Appalachians, seeking out his daughter Jen (Charlotte Vega).  She had been traveling there with her boyfriend and a group of friends but has seemingly gone missing.  Right away, he feels a sense of hostility, like the locals don’t want him there.  Even the sheriff tells him there’s no point in looking.

Flashing back several weeks, we meet Jen and her group of “hipster” friends, as described by the locals.  They’re a diverse group of people, including interracial and same-sex couples, and thusly they stick out like sore thumbs in this small rural town.  The apparent disdain goes both ways, as they openly antagonize someone at the bar in an almost condescending manner.

To be fair, Jen and her friends do seem like a group of real people with fully fleshed out personalities and quirks. It’s a far departure from the slew of unlikeable characters in this franchise.

The next day their hike through the mountain trail begins, but it quickly goes downhill as they take the titular wrong turn and come into contact with death traps, and hunters bearing animal skulls as masks.  Here, this reboot takes its biggest departure from the franchise and instead of dealing with an inbred cannibal family, features a cult-like woodland society similar to that of Midsommar.

All is not what it seems as both the hikers and the “Foundation” as they’re called both have blood on their hands, and both believe that their actions are morally justified.  It’s an interesting exploration into nuance and bias, demonstrating that well-meaning “liberals” on the left are very capable of harboring prejudices, and that backwoods “conservatives” aren’t automatically bigoted.

In fact, the demographic of the Foundation is rather diverse, as it was founded 150 years ago by people from all different backgrounds.  And many of the locals in the town, whom the hikers looked down on, end up being quite helpful and caring.  Their initial hostility was motivated solely out of a desire to drive people away from the nefarious Foundation living in the mountains.

Instead of mutant cannibals, they find a civilization that’s been living in isolation for over 150 years.

Biting Off More Than It Can Chew (No Pun Intended)
To the reboot’s credit, it doesn’t simply retread everything that the original was.  And that can’t be praised enough, because far too often, reboots and remakes are just beat-by-beat imitations that didn’t really need to exist.  That being stated, this film doesn’t quite pull off everything that it tries to.

Whether is liberal vs. conservative, left vs. right, or urban vs. rural, many films have tried to tackle this very real social disconnect, and while well-meaning, it usually comes off as preachy.  The Hunt managed to do it perfectly, but that was partly because the movie didn’t take itself too seriously and used that comedic approach.

Wrong Turn (2021) does take itself very seriously however, and it really tries to be the profound social commentary that something like Get Out or Us pulls off.  And while it’s a noble intention, it doesn’t quite have the nuance or skill to do it.  The movie itself either needed to be shorter and lose some of the clunkier plot points, or it needed to be longer and fully explore them properly.

Jen goes through a massive transformation, but it sadly occurs mostly offscreen. It would have made for a fascinating plot point to see how she adapts and survives with the Foundation.

Speaking of its runtime, as we get into the third act, and circle back with Jen’s father Scott as he tries to find her.  The movie isn’t quite sure when or how it wants to end.  So we get a series of three different “endings”, each one making the audience believe that the movie will now be over, just for another pivotal scene to follow.

Granted, its final ending is pretty awesome, but it’s hard to fully enjoy after the moving gives us pacing whiplash by having so many fake out endings.   Still, it boasts some great production design and during the initial hike in the woods, the movie knows how to make its audience feel tense.

Overall, this Wrong Turn reboot is something of a mixed bag.  The acting is solid all around, the tension is plentiful, and the kills are brutal and effective.  It tries to do way more than the original did, and ultimately that’s its downfall.  It’s less “campy fun” than any of the other sequels, but still an overall okay slasher, if you could even call it that.

It doesn’t even really feel like a Wrong Turn movie, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective.

Wrong Turn (2021) is currently in theaters as a special Fathom event, and will be streaming on VOD February 26, 2021

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