The original Wrong Turn (2003) was a huge hit, spawning a legion of direct to DVD sequels. Planting itself firmly on the shelf alongside such ‘Hillbilly horror’ classics as Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes (1977), and more recently Lucky McKee’s sequel to 2009s Offspring (which was basically a rip off of The Hills Have Eyes), The Woman (2011). These films all address a slightly controversial topic: clashing cultures, but they do it in a problematic way. These films project the idea that those who choose to live apart from mainstream society are barbarians, cannibals, inbred, and animalistic.
The naïve teenagers caught up in this horrible nightmare are mostly innocent, give or take a bit of sex, maybe some drugs and drinking, all acceptable pastimes in the modern world. Recent films in this genre try and add more subtext to the proceedings. Examining colonialism and the patriarchy in The Woman, and in the case of this year’s reboot of Wrong Turn, capitalism vs. socialism.
The line between good and evil is messily portrayed in more contemporary releases. As younger generations turn to the internet for their politics, they are exposed to more than just the mainstream news. Political allegiances aren’t so much cultural as educational and generational. The reboot of Wrong Turn addresses just that conflict. As the moralistic standpoint of the young people we are supposed to be rooting for, and their woodland enemy, is more ambiguous as opposed to judgemental. Alan B. McElroy’s (writer of the original Wrong Turn) script leans into this, signposting the vagaries of judgement based on a way of life. It’s shockingly relevant and allows the audience to pick who they actually want to side with. There are recent examples of films to compare it to, and in that sense Wrong Turn is quite derivative at times, but mentioning those films would give the whole game away.
The sharp contrast between connection with the environment and connection with the economy are brought to the foreground, with Mike P. Nelson’s direction and Nick Junkersfeld’s cinematography emphasizing the sharp white lines of modern homes vs the mud, blood, and guts of the woods. That’s not to say that this is a pretentious piece of work, it really isn’t. Wrong Turn lives up to its namesake in that it’s fundamentally a survival film. The usual tropes are all here. It is suitably gruesome, violent and has tension by the bucketload. Occasional references to other films, suggestions to “keep to the marked trail,” and a charming acknowledgement of its influences work well to keep it grounded and fun.
The leads are un-annoying, Jen (Charlotte Vega) fulfils her arc with aplomb. Matthew Modine appears as Jen’s father, searching for the daughter he hasn’t heard from in six weeks. Unfortunately, there are moments when he seems like he can’t really be bothered, but it doesn’t detract from the film. He’s mostly there to add a big name to the poster, rather than as the lead.
The other doomed students are a diverse variety of smart people, mostly. Thankfully there isn’t a huge amount of shouting at the screen needed, as they tend to act logically in the face of their mysterious enemy. However, their powerlessness is felt, especially as the moralistic arguments unfold making you wonder who is really the enemy here? Especially when certain acts take them past the point of no return.
Wrong Turn is not perfect by any stretch, the derivation and some poor pacing at times drag it down a touch. But for the most part it’s a legitimately entertaining genre movie that will please horror fans looking for their next gorefest.
Blu-Ray and DVD Extras:
- Audio Commentary with Director Mike P. Nelson
- Monsters Among Us: Making Wrong Turn
- Deleted and Extended Scenes
Wrong Turn is released in the UK on Blu-ray and DVD from Signature Entertainment on the 3rd of May