It takes a lot of guts for a writer to completely change his original concept for a movie that’s already been made, remaking it into something timely but altogether different. Alan B. McElroy has done just that in Wrong Turn (2021). In fact, he’s sort of given us three-movies-in-one this time, which is far superior to his original idea, although it feels more like a retcon than a reboot.
Wrong Turn (it has dropped The Foundation in the original title) is directed by Mike P. Nelson who is mostly known for his foley work and the movie The Domestics. That horror survival film is the perfect segue into this Wrong Turn makeover which employs some of its same principles right down to political allegory and costuming.
Forget what you know about the original Wrong Turn and its follow-ups including cannibal mutants with specialized marksman skills of their trade weapons. This film follows six college friends who for some reason want to hike the mountain trails of Appalachia. Whereas the original movie’s premise followed someone who actually made a wrong turn, in this one the kids have a motivation for being where they are and it’s not because of a seemingly serendipitous car accident.
As stated before, this movie is a parfait of narratives, the first layer of which is about a father (Mattew Modine) searching for his missing daughter, Jen, played by the energetic Charlotte Vega. He visits a small town just below the mountains to look for her because she hasn’t called him in two weeks. The townsfolk aren’t too helpful and warn him that she’s probably gone forever.
Flashback to six weeks earlier and we see the friends en route to their destination. This chunk of the film is really the only remnant of the original. After an awkward bar scene in which the locals scare them, the friends set to the trails the next morning. For about half an hour after that, we get some Wrong Turn trap sequences to appease the fans, then the movie makes a hard left and becomes a timely tale of neo-patriots living in the woods who, for over a hundred years, have developed their own society called The Foundation. Think, Midsommar meets The Hunger Games.
The remaining young hikers are then put on trial in front of the presiding clan daddy John Venable (Bill Sage) in a cavernous courtroom with flaming wall scones made out of large bull horns. The male inhabitants are dressed in pelts, and antlers while the women and children look like they haven’t showered in ages and run around barefooted. You get the dimly-lit picture.
By this point, you are either invested in the film or have abandoned it. But this is where the film intrigued me the most. Vega’s character has to outsmart the doomsdayers in order to survive. She makes some hard choices, each with its own set of consequences. I felt compelled to root for Jen on her journey from lass to lionheart especially in the final act.
Modine of course is the star power this film needs. The veteran actor brings human connectivity to a script that otherwise calls for the young adults to repetitively scream, “We gotta get the fuck out of here!” over and over again. Modine and Vega find their motivations and make the film come alive especially in the action-packed last third.
Not everyone is going to like this new version of Wrong Turn. It’s not a direct sequel and the formula has been tweaked so much only the name has survived in spirit. It has its fair share of gore, however sparse. But I’m going to recommend it because I like the direction it took. I was on the edge of my seat at some points and genuinely invested in the outcome even though logic suffers in the process.
McElroy has written something timely that may have betrayed his original plot, but I think it’s worth it. I think Wrong Turn is better than the first film and therefore its celluloid siblings. Perhaps my favorite part of the movie was when the credits roll, not because I was glad it was over but because the denouement plays out over them in a single take. And that’s exactly what this movie does: subverts what you’re expecting in order to freshen up the premise no matter how you feel about it. And if that doesn’t sum up the state of the world right now then I don’t know what does.
Wrong Turn (2021)will premiere in theaters for one-night-only January 26, 2021, and January 30, 2021. Tickets for the premiere event are available now at www.FathomEvents.com and at movie theater box offices.
Correction: the text was updated to credit Bill Sage as the character John Venable not Tim DeZarn.