Wrong Turn (2021)

Mike P. Nelson

Running Time: 110 Minutes

Certification: 18

Starring: Charlotte Vega, Adain Bradley, Bill Sage, Emma Dumont, Dylan McTee, Daisy Head, Matthew Modine, Adrian Favela, Vardaan Arora, Tim de Zarn

Since the first film's release in 2003, Wrong Turn has quietly built up its franchise through direct-to-DVD sequels. The seventh feature veers away from the established timeline, opting for a reboot 18-years after the original film, a time-frame which has seen the likes of Spider-Man and Batman receive multiple updates with varying results. Returning to pen the screenplay is Alan B. McElroy, the original film's screenwriter, who opts to take the series down a wildly different path.

In the opening moments, we're introduced to Scott Shaw (Matthew Modine), a father desperately searching for his missing daughter, Jen (Charlotte Vega). It then flashes back to six weeks earlier, when Jen is hiking in the mountains with her friends, before they decide to venture off the beaten path. A freak accident sees them driven deeper into the mountains, where hunting traps lay in their path, and the group soon realises they are not alone.

Before their ill-fated hike, Jen and her friends arrive at a small town in West Virginia, populated with what appears to be familiar Southern stereotypes. The group recognises this, as the interracial and same-sex couples within feel on edge about expressing their love, and being who they are. This familiar storytelling avenue highlights the film's largest issue, as it chooses to have the characters tell us important elements, rather than more effectively showing them. Case in point, we're given too many scenes of the group laughing in a montage, as opposed to the actors conveying the friendships in a believable way.

This is especially true of Adam, who's possibly the most unlikeable character within the film. It becomes a struggle to believe any of the other characters would put up with him, as the screenplay doesn't dig deep enough into the group, as they're too underdeveloped to care about. By default, Matthew Modine is the most interesting character, proving wholly believable as the father doing whatever it takes to find his daughter. A special mention for Tim de Zarn, who most memorably played The Harbinger in The Cabin In The Woods, and almost a decade later, portrays a serious version of that archetype his prior role parodied.

Laying within the forest is a mysterious group, whose inclusion plays upon what those familiar with the franchise would expect. Gone are the cannibalistic family who were a result of inbreeding, swapped out for something closer to the folk-horror subgenre. This leaves one to question this films connection to an established franchise, when an entirely different direction is taken anyway. One wishes this film had the chance to stand apart on it's own, yet this doesn't diminish the interesting angle this story takes, playing on perceptions and audience expectations, questioning who the real villain truly is.

Living in their hidden part of the woods, The Foundation is brought alive through terrific set design and costumes, as these elements do well to breathe life into this group. There are interesting ideas to flesh this out, such as their method of justice, and a creepy idea where the punished must live in darkness, although there's a distinct lack of tension in the proceedings. Credit for having more on it's mind than just gruesome kills, which are brought alive in grisly ways, yet this isn't enough to sustain the entire feature. By the time it reaches the tacked on ending, complete with a dream sequence and a moody cover of "This Land is Your Land", this film has outstayed it's welcome.

Wrong Turn is available on Digital Download from 26th February, and on DVD & Blu-Ray from May 3rd