Sometimes the most random series of movies continue on-and-on past their expiration date, without much evidence as to why they should. Mike P. Nelson’s new incarnation of Wrong Turn is the latest horror movie to stretch its name beyond necessity. Alan B. McElroy, who wrote the original Wrong Turn in 2003, returns as the writer of the 2021 version.
The movie begins with Scott (Matthew Modine), traveling through a small town in search of his daughter Jen (Charlotte Vega). Jen and a group of her friends went hiking on the Appalachian Trail and Scott hasn’t heard from her since she left. As any parent would, Scott begins to panic, thinking something terrible has happened to his daughter, and he is willing to knock on every door and talk to every local, hoping to find information.
The movie cuts back to six weeks earlier with Jen, her boyfriend Darius (Adain Bradley) and their friends (Dyaln McTee, Vardaan Arora, Adrian Favela and Emma Dumont) arriving in Virginia to start their adventure. Upon arrival, they hit a local bar, and immediately feel every set of eyes on them. The townspeople don’t appear too welcoming to the group of “hippies,” who stumbled into their town, and set the threatening tone for their trip. Once they hit the trail, all hell breaks loose, along with just about every typical horror movie trope.
The first half of Wrong Turn offers some effective cheap thrills and wince-worthy moments, but the movie clocks in at 110 minutes and can’t keep up with itself. Once revelations come to light about what is going on around the town and mountains, Wrong Turn becomes progressively sillier. The tension it built in individual moments deflates, when it should be ratcheting up.
Wrong Turn wades into some political and socio-economic territory, giving an us-versus-them undercurrent to the people and the visitors, not just the hikers versus the Big Bads. Horror films can be a goldmine for commentary, when done effectively, but here it feels like a shoehorned thin layer of nuance for the sake of nuance. Wrong Turn would have been more effective if it just had committed to being a predictable slasher.
A movie like Wrong Turn is meant for a night at the drive-in, so it loses some of its luster coming out in these cold winter months. Moreover, these backwoods adventures have grown tired and Wrong Turn doesn’t breathe any necessary new life into the genre.
Saban Films will release the horror film On Demand, Digital, Blu-ray and DVD on February 23, 2021.