When it was announced that screenwriter Alan McElroy was returning to the Wrong Turn series to write the seventh entry in the slasher saga – and it was to be a reboot, no less – it is unlikely that anybody was particularly excited by the prospect. The series had weakened in quality considerably with each sequel/prequel, ending up with tedious straight-to-DVD cliché-fests filled with inbred cannibals and grim, repetitive gore. Audiences expected more of the same tosh with this 2021 entry.
However, the result is something totally unlike any of the previous entries in the film – and it is all the better for it. “I was fully prepared on the first read to be thrust into a crazy slasher world of cannibals eating human flesh and splitting people down the middle”, director Mike P. Nelson said. “When that didn’t happen, I was pleasantly surprised. There was something else at the core of the story that got me”.
With that said, the premise of this Wrong Turn may sound similar to previous entries: a group of young hikers are warned by mysterious locals to keep to the path on their Appalachian Trail adventure, but of course, they ignore all warnings and cross into land inhabited by a hidden community of mountain dwellers. But those coming into the film expecting more cannibalistic psychopaths and monstrous savages may be disappointed to learn this film’s antagonists take the series in a new direction (if you’ll pardon the pun). Gone are the Hills Have Eyes-esque nutters of 2003’s original and sequels, instead presenting a far more complex and layered group of villains that are all the more sinister for their originality. And a parallel subplot following the father (Matthew Modine) of one of the teens as he tirelessly searches for his daughter (Charlotte Vega) shows a fresh angle on the slasher genre – the effect these mysterious disappearances have on the family of the victim.
Fans of the series will be glad to see this reboot retains the series’ stomach-churning gore as the young group fall one by one in increasingly bloody ways, but the film is not anywhere near as focused on the violence as previous entries. So-called “torture porn” this ain’t, with the visceral bloodshed somewhat more grounded. Combining that with the new approach to the antagonists mean that this new update is a Wrong Turn by name only, presenting a new vision in rural terror that actually feels held back by its title. It is likely that some audiences will be reluctant to take a chance on this film due to the reputation of the schlocky series, while fans may be disappointed by the new direction it has taken.
But ultimately, this Wrong Turn is the best yet. Taking its time to build the suspense and dread rather than throwing viewers into a soulless bloodbath, the film is a dark and disturbing journey into the heart of darkness that feels fresh and exciting.
Signature Entertainment presents the VOD Home Premiere of Wrong Turn (2021) on February 26, 2021