Following his post-apocalyptic thriller, The Domestics, director Mike P. Nelson returns to the horror genre in Constantin Film's Wrong Turn. Jen (Charlotte Vega) and a group of friends set out to hike the Appalachian Trail. Jen's friends include her boyfriend Darius, and gay couple (Adain Bradley) & Gary (Vardaan Arora), and Luis (Adrian Favel). Engaged couple Milla (Emma Dumont) & Adam (Dylan McTee) are also along for the ride.
Despite warnings to stick to the trail, particularly from a pompous townie named Nate (Tim de Zam), the hikers stray off course and cross into a land inhabited by The Foundation, a remote community of mountain dwellers led by Venable (Bill Sage). The Foundation uses deadly means to protect their way of life. Suddenly under siege, Jen and her friends seem headed to the point of no return, unless Jen's father Scott (Matthew Modine) can reach them in time.
The first Wrong Turn opened in 2003 and was a nice throwback to gritty slasher flicks that I immensely enjoyed growing up. Two sequels, two prequels, and a previous reboot all followed, each diminishing in quality as the series progressed. Thankfully director Mike P. Nelson has the talent of screenwriter Alan B. McElroy, who wrote the original film, to guide the latest installment to the finish line.
One of the things I enjoyed about Wrong Turn is McElroy's script. The writer beings the film after some horrors have already occurred and then takes us back to how the events transpired. I also liked the change of villains from previous films. Instead of using cannibals, McElroy utilizes what some may somewhat see as deep woods Trump supporters who don't want to embrace the changes that are currently happening. McElroy portrays The Foundation as a society accustomed to its way of life and only retaliates when provoked. While I don't condone the extreme tactics that The Foundation employs, I give the writer credit for the angle he uses. I always enjoyed Bill Sage as our primary antagonist.
The group of hikers all provides the usual acting style required for a film like this, with Charlotte Vega) standing out. Vega portrays the role as a 2021 scream queen who wants to resolve the problem without it leading to violence, even during a tense moment. Similarly, Adain Bradley provided good supporting work as her boyfriend. The latter is a Bernie Sanders fan and wants equality among everyone. Furthermore, anytime I can see Matthew Modine on screen going against type, I'm in.
While the Wrong Turn reboot does feature hipsters, this is a horror film after all, and when the kills do happen, they are brutal and gory. One of the friends meets a particularly gruesome end that director Mike P. Nelson handles with taut care. Nelson carefully sets up the death and shows the audience the effect, but never becomes gory just for the sake of it. Every kill in the film is believable, which is rare in a horror film.
Wrong Turn's reboot isn't going to win any awards, but it's an effective fresh start for the series that began in 2003. The latest entry features likable characters and various views on America in 2021. Therefore the movie is worth a one-time view. Director Mike P. Nelson and his writer Alan B. McElroy have crafted a solid popcorn film that mixes horror and political opinions.
Final Grade C+
Wrong Turn is available for rent and purchase