The 2003 hillbilly horror flick is given a slick and inventive reboot that detours into unexpected new territory.
From Deliverance and The Hills Have Eyes to Just Before Dawn and Mother’s Day, backwoods horror has been a dependable staple of the genre, pitting inbred/mutant/cannibal clans against whitebread city slickers that trespass on their turf.
A later entry in the cycle, 2003’s Wrong Turn was a fairly generic recycling of the primary ingredients and notable for featuring Eliza Dushku (hot off Buffy the Vampire Slayer) in a gutsy final girl role, as well as spawning five sequels of variable quality.
With the franchise laid to rest following Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort in 2014, the announcement that a reboot was in the works left many horror fans wondering if the world really needs one.
Screenwriter Alan McElroy, who penned the very first WT, may have been thinking the same thing. While this update sticks to the familiar formula for much of its lengthy running time, it deserves kudos for introducing an interesting new breed of feral antagonists who are every bit as vicious as their cannibal cousins. Horror fans shouldn’t expect three-fingered mutants with lopsided snarls, but should be pleased by the eerie atmosphere, brutal kills and appropriately meaty makeup FX.
Ignoring the warnings from local yokels not to venture into the mountains, a group of friends determined to hike the Appalachian Trail soon find themselves lost and dodging lethal booby traps (some unsuccessfully) before being captured by a strange, hidden community that pre-dates the Civil War. Intercut with their ordeal is the search for one of the girls by her concerned father (Matthew Modine), who is of course unprepared for the horrors he must ultimately face…
Horror films often tend to reflect the current social climate and Wrong Turn rather blatantly confronts some hot button issues while riffing on ideas that are still fresh from Midsommar. There’s a sustained creep factor that results in a number of genuine scares, but the mood is more in tune with Jim Mickle’s 2013 remake of We Are What We Are than previous Wrong Turns.
Wrong Turn has a bit to say and wants to be more than just your everyday descent into hillbilly hell, and for the most part it succeeds. Although the film is at its best when acknowledging its roots and delivering the bloody goods.
In cinemas: February 4, 2021
Starring: Matthew Modine, Charlotte Vega, Dylan McTee
Directed by: Mike P. Nelson