The 2021 release of Wrong Turn is a breath of fresh, modern air pumped into the once-lifeless, straight-to-DVD franchise. Swinging for the fences with a new take on the horrors that can befall spurious young hikers, but what's new here doesn't necessarily elevate the series so much as simply using the name.
Hard to Buy: Horror is won and lost through character. Unfortunately, the film brings us a host of well-to-do young adults who actively antagonize the world around them, for no real reason, which makes their ensuing struggle hard to sympathize with. Their behavior comes off as oblivious — they've only ever learned of the existence of Virginia through second-hand, editorialized opinion. The fact that Wrong Turn treats the state like an entirely different country is damning on the messages it wants to re-enforce, without much to say, about today's youth and their commitments to inclusivity. It's a miscalculation because Virginia itself is a relatively prosperous state compared to their less fortunate neighbor, West Virginia (where poverty is higher and life expectancy is lower.) The commitment to having the Appalachian Trail in the film for five minutes sets it back miles in terms of credibility.
Twisted Up: Fortunately, while the setup may suffer from tunnel vision, Wrong Turn has a bag of ideas to throw around. Matthew Modine makes a surprise appearance at the outset, where the film engages in nonlinearity and slow-moving mystery. He lends himself to the actual drama in the beginning, before our band of hikers squash any such notions under the boot of their collective snobbery. Seasoned horror watchers may think they'll know exactly what's going to happen — they might be right, but Wrong Turn itches to prove everyone wrong. Nothing is as it seems, where the film dances dangerously close to being a Remake In Name Only. There's not much to update about the original, as it's about as bare-bones as one can get, but what threatens to derail the experience is the total shifting of the chess pieces and introduction of new ones. You'd have to squint to recognize the first half of the film in its second half. One half of the film is a visceral, backwoods, head-crushing survival, and the other half is a slow-burning folk horror (with American fundamentalist explorations that are both historically and tonally confusing.) There's a lot of credit to be had for transforming the experience, but here's where Wrong Turn draws unfavorable comparisons to films as recent as Midsommar — however, Wrong Turn has had a unique legacy and identity set out for it. Wrong Turn ends up presenting three different endings, back to back, teasing three modes of resolution, but never decides on one.