- Nate Adams
Review: Plenty of backwoods splatterfest mayhem in 'Wrong Turn' reboot
Courtesy of Saban Films
Director Mike P. Nelson takes the cannibalistic franchise in a fresh direction with the 2021 reboot “Wrong Turn,” based on Alan B. McElory’s seven film catalog. Though the only entry that saw a major theatrical release was Rob Schmidt’s 2003 original starring Eliza Dushku (full disclosure it's the only one I’ve seen) others received straight to video releases. Nelson finds the medium in which his film works both for big and small screen thrills, and he seems more interested in telling a halfway decent story than mutilating sitting ducks. There’s some gnarly slayings to be sure (why else would we watch this?) But you might be surprised at how invested you become in where the narrative lands. Nelson does for “Wrong Turn” what David Gordon Green did for “Halloween.”
In any case, there’s still one dimensional characters who get needlessly led to slaughter without so much as five minutes of screen time, but that’s always the fun of these cheap, grungy slasher flicks. Nelson almost rids his “Wrong Turn” of any cannibal lineage save for creepy locals who prey on innocent college students ready to hike a mountain everyone else stays away from. In doing this, Nelson lays the groundwork for a film that pays homage to its roots while exploring completely different terrain. Oh and there’s plenty of stomach churning practical effects to wet the beak of horror aficionados everywhere.
As for the characters: there’s Jen (Charlotte Vega), and her friends Darius (Adian Bradley), Adam (Dylan McTee), Milla (Emma Dumont), Luis (Adrian Favela, and Gary (Vardaan Arora) all of which didn’t listen to the backwood hillbillies who warned against traversing up the mountains. They have now found themselves entangled in a decades old cult of barbarian outcasts dubbed “The Foundation” who live and die by their own set of rules and guidelines, including a flawed judicial system that bashes your head in for trespassing. So much for due process?
Led by Bill Sage’s terrifying alpha-leader John Venable, The Foundation is a batch of folks you don’t want to cross paths with and are a worthy update of the original series’ main baddies: Three Finger and Co for a slew of different reasons, namely they don’t kill people for sport, but kidnap healthy, able body citizens and use them for slave labor while severely maiming those who step out of line. You get the picture.
A subplot around Jen’s father (a grizzled Matthew Modine) going on a rescue mission is an admirable addition that wouldn’t normally make it past the first draft in previous iterations, but he adds a human element to standard B-movie carnage. Nelson also grabs inspiration from films like “Deliverance,” “The Hunger Games,” and “The Village” to hone his vision, with clear nods utilized to create an expansive world. It doesn’t always work and folks will surely locate a plothole or several, but there’s no denying this franchise just took a major step in the right direction.
WRONG TURN opens in select theaters January 26th and 30th via Fathom Events with a digital release set for February.
COVID-19: Here at TheOnlyCritic.com, we’re committed to covering theatrical releases, but there’s still inherent risks in regards to going inside movie theaters. Please make sure you look up your local theaters COVID-19 guidelines and procedures before purchasing a ticket, and if you don’t feel comfortable going into a theater, please don’t. A positive review of an exclusive theatrical release is not an endorsement to put your health and safety at risk. In most cases, critics receive digital screeners or are invited to socially distanced press screenings, which defers heavily from what you might experience.