When it was announced that there would be a remake/reboot of the early 2000s horror feature, Wrong Turn was set for a release, I have to admit that I was a little skeptical, more that I presumed we would be presented with yet another bunch of teens lost in the woods, fighting for survival against a group of mutant hillbillies in the backcountry of the States.
It was also a little surprising that this is actually the 7th installment of the franchise.
Don’t get me wrong. I kind of dug the original feature despite its numerous faults, which were all the more obvious upon re-watching ahead of the 2021 version.
I mean, that may have a lot to do with the casting of Eliza Dusku. And yes, I was always a Faith fan more than Buffy. Sorry folks. Also Desmond Harrington was doing the whole smouldering, moody thing, way before he was eventually cast in Dexter and made it even more his thing.
All this aside, I was pleasantly surprised by the way the 2021 version was presented that ticked the box of a successful sequel.
It managed to stay true to the premise of the original feature and the folklore set around it, whilst providing a whole new slice of survival pie that marked a successful entry into the franchise.
Director Mike P Nelson delivers a solid feature film, learning from his predecessor, The Domestics and centring on the core theme of a battle of survival at all costs.
The manner in which the narrative is presented also goes against the grain of the usual tropes, (which is a good thing in this instance) as we’re introduced to Scott (Matthew Modine – Stranger Things) arriving at a small country town on the outskirts of the Appalachian Trail in search of his daughter, Jen (Charlotte Vega – The Lodgers), who has been missing some two weeks hence.
This method of storytelling allows the audience to not only engage with Scott as a character, but also outlines the guarded nature of the local people, prejudicing us against them and their ‘backward’ ways from the get-go.
Nelson then bravely pushes our preconceptions and forces us to confront them and question not only our morals but our position on communities as a whole.
So quickly we jump to conclusions or presume something of a particular person or group of people before understanding their position, and in doing so, leads to an amount of trouble, aggression, and in this case, bloody revenge on all sides.
Nelson soon casts us among the group of youths, including Jen and straight away challenges our current in build misconceptions around gender and equality, before eventually thrusting us down the rabbit hole of misgivings.
We see these youths as outcasts among the local community, but are equally highlighted as the outcasts among the group with the greater society. There’s the Black American, Darius, whose skin colour has led him and his generations to have been ostricised over hundreds of years, and then the gay couple, Luis and Gary, who have also been oppressed. The trouble is that despite a decent amount of attention laid down on the bones of the plot, it’s a shame that not enough was paid to the depth of the characters. The closest we get for a multi-dimensional evolution comes in Adam (Dylan McTee – The Wind) who at first is your typical red-blooded alpha male, but at one stage shows a human side, before unfortunately resorting back to type.
These misconceptions drive the group deep into the heart of America’s wilderness and foundations, where they come face to face with a group of America’s descendents of their founding settlers who carved a new walk of life away from the world to form their own community. When these two worlds collide, both belief systems are challenged leading to a bloody and brutal path that leads to an unknown horizon.
Mike P Nelson directs the unimaginable; a decent and well crafted movie that strengthens and supports the original movie, while still delivering a strong independent movie of its own.
It breaks the rules and conventions of your standard horror tropes and for that it must be commended.
Plus, it projects some delightfully confronting images for horror enthusiasts that leave you wincing, and serves this with some sharp, thoughtful insights into human conditioning and the impact that communities have on the psyche.
The wrong turns are not necessarily the wrong ones, but they will force you into action.
It’s biggest stumbling block comes in the lack of depth in the characters though, who deserved greater attention for the subject matter to truly have a lasting impact.
- Saul Muerte