Blu-ray Review: Wrong Turn - (2021)

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First let's take a moment and reflect upon the fact that it has been fully 18 years since the release of the original Wrong Turn. Simple but effective, that abducted-in-the-woods-by-inbred-hillbillies thriller spawned a series of five sequels. The last one, fittingly subtitled The Last Resort, was issued back in 2014. So it really shouldn't be surprising to see a brand-new reboot. The new Wrong Turn gets tripped up over its own ambitious to be more than just a horror movie. The filmmakers, including screenwriter Alan B. McElroy cult(writer of the original film) and director Mike P. Nelson, make great efforts in the supplemental material that their aim here was social commentary.

Even if it's a stretch to think of this Wrong Turn as especially relevant to today's times, it's admirable to see the filmmakers try to inject some real-world relevance. The group of backcountry hikers includes a multi-culti mix (and a gay couple) who find themselves pitted against a cult-like secret society called "The Foundation." All the inbreeding and cannibalism of the original series is gone (though cheekily referenced at one point). An interesting feature of this group of "heroes"—they're not a particularly likeable bunch. Reared on pure snark, these young adults are actually fairly repellant. They've essentially converged on a rural Virginian town, ready and willing to back-talk the locals, flaunt a superior attitude, and mostly ignore what turns out to be good advice.

Most viewers won't be familiar with the majority of this cast, with one big exception. Viewers of a certain age may be shocked by the aged appearance of Matthew Modine, an '80s and '90s stalwart who seems to have largely disappeared from the mainstream in recent years (though he turned up on the Netflix sensation Stranger Things). We're introduced to Modine as Scott, father of Jen (Charlotte Vega, The Lodgers). Jen and her friends are, of course, the missing/abducted hikers, and Scott is determined to find her. There's a bit of interesting backstory, only briefly touched upon, involving Scott's much-younger second wife. Maybe we'll see more of their family dynamic if a sequel ever happens.

Modine invests some actual grit in his characterization. Scott does some detective work as he tracks the missing Jen and company, who have fallen under the command of Venable (Bill Sage), leader/dictator of "The Foundation." Once you're entrenched in this secluded society, you can't get out. No fair spoiling some of the nasty doings executed by Venable, but suffice it to say that it's a bizarre lifestyle. In fact, it's pretty weird that most of "The Foundation" residents appear to have joined willingly.

Ultimately, this new Wrong Turn has only one central problem: it's just not that scary. The original Turn was unnerving in the sense that it was simple enough to be plausible. What if this happens to you the next time you're lost in the middle of nowhere? That's the stuff of nightmares. The higher concept ambitions of the new Turn make for a highly unlikely scenario. In fact, the scenes within "The Foundation" boundaries play more like something out of a post-apocalyptic thriller than a gut-level horror film.

And again without spoiling anything, the climax leaves more than a little to be desired. Let's just say that some fantasy scenes are inserted, feeling like filler—an attempt to compensate for a general lack of true concluding shocks. The "real" ending even unfolds as the end credits are running, almost an afterthought. But take the criticism with a grain of salt. If you have a nostalgic soft spot for the Wrong Turn series, this new one has enough freshness to make it recommendable. But it is hard to shake the feeling that it could've been even better.

Blu-ray features include director's commentary, a half-hour 'making of' (and it's worth the watch—deeper than standard EPK fare), and a selection of deleted scenes.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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