Directed By Mike P. Nelson
Starring – Charlotte Vega, Adain Bradley, Bill Sage
The Plot – Friends hiking the Appalachian Trail are confronted by ‘The Foundation’, a community of people who have lived in the mountains for hundreds of years. Soon, a once peaceful getaway becomes a full-fledged fight for survival against blood thirsty captors.
Rated R for strong bloody violence, grisly images and pervasive language
– A different direction. This is the loosest definition of the word remake that I’ve ever seen in cinema, but one that I deeply appreciated for making an almost entirely different movie that doesn’t rely on the influence or structure of any of the six previous Wrong Turn films. Besides the name itself, the only link to the previous films is the setting. Beyond that, this is an entirely fresh idea for the franchise that allows it to reinvent itself, and one that I deeply feel works best creatively because it blazes its own trail toward an experience that is every bit intensely gripping as it daringly unpredictable in the face of the audience. It’s a welcome breath of fresh air that I honestly wasn’t expecting, and one that I hope will serve as the inspirational canvas for other franchises who feel constrained towards recreating characters and sequences that we have already seen.
– The antagonists. Without spoiling anything pivotal towards the integrity of the plot, I can say that villains are anything but an imbred breed of local hillbillies whose only motivation is to kill at any cost possible. In fact, the antagonists in this film work exceptionally well because of the abundance of logic stitched together with the backstory of their characters, giving them a purpose that we understand without fully condoning. Much time and exposition is spent on fleshing them out in a way that garners empathy for their jaded disposition. Likewise, it’s the intelligence in home field advantage that they constantly exploit which maintains the urgency and anxiety of the narrative, all the while illustrating a menacing opposition that is virtually inescapable at any given time during the establishing acts.
– Thrills and chills. It’s rare that a horror movie will effectively trigger me at 36 years of age, but there were times of unnerving resonance during this film that I applauded for the abundance of chances that Nelson and company took that mostly paid off. For one, the kills themselves are shot and edited in a way that constantly bottles the urgency and vulnerability of the scene, brought to the forefront with a combination of knee-jerk cinematography and tight-knit framing that articulated the ensuing claustrophobia that was cornering our protagonists. Likewise, the make-up and attention to detail showcases just enough gore and brutality without feeling exploitative or gratuitous for the sake of startling shock horror. This underlines the emphasis with a brunt permanence that repetition would oversaturate, and offers occasionally earned jump scares that I commended for the way they are influenced to the scene.
– Thought-provoking. Did you honestly expect this in a Wrong Turn movie? Did you honestly think that a movie with a concept of young adults getting lost and slaughtered in the woods would result in an abundance of sociological dissection that is easily accessible for the audience without it being spoon-fed as the attention stealing focus of the picture? The short answer is no, but the long answer forces us to endure a legitimate examination not only of the characters we spend the entirety of this film with, but also within ourselves, all the while questioning the morality of society in law and order that doesn’t always give us these clearly concise observations. I wouldn’t call “Wrong Turn” a smart film by any stretch of the imagination, but it is one that has a lot to say about the world we live in, forcing us to confront our own unfortunate stigmas and misconceptions with unflinching awareness brought forth by those we ironically label barbaric along the way.
– Tonally consistent. Without remorse, I can say that it’s refreshing to see a horror movie know and understand what it is without alienating itself for the sake of artificial audience delight. I’m of course speaking about the lack of tacked-on humor to this incarnation of “Wrong Turn”, which by itself proves as one step above the unintentionally laughable instances of its antagonists, both in background and character designs. This one instead remains seriously focused throughout, cutting through the tension only with stark realizations and devastating circumstances that plays coherently towards ominousness that hangs over this film like the dense fog that our characters can’t escape from. Unless done to perfection in a way that only sharpens the depravity of the situation (See Krueger, Freddy), levity in horror films is often more condemning than not, and with its absence here allows the nightmarish surrealism no means of escape to nagging persistence.
– Perfectly paced. There is no bit of the 105 minutes of screen time given to audiences that I would even remotely trim, remove or alter, as I feel everything included played as an ingredient to the final bigger picture that materialized as a completely different beast than I was logically expecting. Simply put, every single scene matters. If you don’t believe me, stick around for the closing credits of the movie, when the ending in the previous scene was headed in one direction that left me slightly disappointed and questioning reality, and then the other redeeming itself in a way that is every bit creative cinematically as it is unpredictable thematically. There was never a time in this film when my interest was even remotely trailing off, not even during the weaknesses of the first act, which I will eventually get to. It was a consistently rampant good time, and one that I won’t soon forget in a year with no shortage of forgettable cinema.
– Abysmal characterization. Easily the biggest weakness for me, and one that will momentarily compromise your investment to the film is the minimal outline in personalities brought to light by some horrendously wooden performances and lukewarm dialogue that outlined intentional circumstance. Aside from knowing very little about these characters other than the table scraps in obviousness that the movie constantly documents before our eyes, they easily fit into the molds that decades of slasher cinema have preserved as a cliche of its own, maintaining a bullet point influence instead of these living, breathing entities of humanity that make them even remotely appealing. The dialogue itself time and time again was so obviously setting movements in motion that it quite often grinded momentum to a screeching halt during the establishing opening act, made all the worse from extras-turned-protagonists who never feel like they truly believe the words they are commanding.
– Sloppy structure. “Wrong Turn” is another instance in the growing folder of contemporary films that uses the “Six weeks earlier” framing device as a means of pulling audiences in immediately to the unraveling narrative. This is seen through two different arc’s; one with the exploring young adults who are led by an adventurous female protagonist, and one with said protagonist’s father, who is searching for her after a sudden disappearance. Unfortunately, it’s once again completely unnecessary, convoluting the execution in its sequencing of events in a way that lacks inspiration for the inclusion. Because every transition begins with this on-screen text that keys the audience in to when everything is taking place, there’s a missed opportunity at distorting reality in the form of the passage of time that the movie conveniently spoon-feeds to us consistently throughout. For my money, I would’ve loved the film to ambiguously play into these two sides without stitching them together in a way that they are obviously running simultaneously with one another. This would’ve not only forced audiences to invest more in the jumbled pieces in a fight for clarity, but also would’ve climactically startled them once the passage of time weighs heavily on the two sides eventually converging.
– Visual inconsistencies. For the most part, “Wrong Turn” is able to elude some of the constricting elements of a limited production, which often stunts a film’s creative growth throughout. Unfortunately, one such instance that doesn’t go unscathed is color grading between sequences, which sometimes feels like we’re watching two different films between overwhelming dramatic shifts. For the daytime sequences, there’s an overexposed artificiality to what is being documented, often feeling serene or peaceful during sequences that we are seeing enveloped by trees that should be giving off a darker hue. Speaking of darker hue’s, the night time transitions take the same advice that I wish for the daytime and render them during settings that are already difficult enough without any electricity to garner much needed lighting for clarity. In making these scenes twice as dark, it obscures sequences of chase, reducing them to a series of blurry shapes that I never could properly make out in detection.
My Grade: 7/10 or B-