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Wrong Turn (2021), Matthew Modine, Charlotte Vega - (Horror Movie Review)

Wrong Turn (2021), Matthew Modine, Charlotte Vega - (Horror Movie Review)
5 10

PLOT: A group of Gen Zs decides to go on a journey and hike the Appalachian Trail. After they make the tragic mistake of going off the path for a bit of exploration, they discover a violent cult that's been living off the land and has a zero-tolerance policy for trespassers.

LOWDOWN: I was in high school when the original Wrong Turn hit theaters and remember having a lot of fun with it. Eliza Dushku was formidable, beautiful, and commanding as the lead and though it was a bit of a knock-off of The Hills Have Eyes, a more modern spin was refreshing for a younger me. I purposefully didn't revisit it for this review because, with any remake or reboot, the baggage of the original is a heavy cross to bear and most remakes/reboots never find their own identity. So with an open mind, an open heart, I gave Wrong Turn 2021 (WATCH IT HERE - OWN IT HERE) my undivided attention. How does it do compared to its '03 counterpart? Does it stand on its own?  Well, make yourself a drink and make it strong because this will be a bumpy ride. Oh, and the original movie came out eighteen years ago... eighteen! Where does the time go?

A group of friends are all at turning points in their young lives. With the optimism of youth, they decide to go on a group adventure and hike the Appalachian Trail. When de facto alpha leader Darius (Adain Bradley) makes the smart decision to go off the beaten path for a bit of exploration, things become a sh*tshow once a deadly "accident" reveals they aren't alone on the mountain. The real story starts at a rundown bar where our group of young whippersnappers gets into a verbal altercation with the hillbilly locals. As something that sounds like it's out of a Salon article, dialogue wise were are told (not shown) how entitled and better they are than the townsfolk. This is where a different story's cracks started to peek through and where Wrong Turn loses sight of what it should be. We get the hint that this reboot may be something else entirely.

The final girl, Jen (Charlotte Vega), plays the moral compass and brings a sense of compassion to balance out her friends aggressive behavior. And it must be said that even if we don't get much character development with Jen, Vega is great in the role with an intensity and passion that does impress. Things go the way you'd expect when they encounter creepy figures cloaked in animal hide and animal skulls, and though predictable, it's here where Wrong Turn feels most at home. Some intense chase scenes follow by some well-paced cat and mouse hunting makes for a decent time. This isn't anything new, and it ain't reinventing the wheel, but it works on the level you'd expect it to. Annoying Gen Z kids getting hunted and kidnapped with a lush landscape as your background can do a lot, and Wrong Turn is at its best when it keeps it simple. Things take an odd turn when the mountain-dwelling tribe opens up an exposition dump, explaining their purpose like a classic Bond villain. It's at this moment where we get our "expectations subverted."

There are no longer cannibal hillbillies that populate these woods, as this new reboot makes the villains a reclusive cult living off the grid, like a lost tribe in the Amazon rainforest. Called "The Foundation," they have a utopia that functions as a singular society with a primal sense of law and order. In theory, this can work, but things become almost bi-polar in their execution and leave you confused over anything else. Director Mike P. Nelson and writer Alan McElroy want you to understand this ancient community. They try and somewhat humanize them as having good intentions with barbaric results. As a current trend, I hate how everything needs to have a message, the need to say something. Wrong Turn wants to be a smart movie with a poignant social stance; only it comes across odd at times and laughable during others. Can't I just have Matthew Modine revenge killing cannibals? Being almost a completely different movie doesn't make this enjoyable as much as it confuses the audience as to why it's called Wrong Turn.

Wrong Turn cuts between Scott (Matthew Modine) on the hunt for his missing daughter Jen, while six-weeks earlier, Jen and her friends are being hunted and held captive by the cult. I got into the time jump at first, as its sets the showdown for the dad seeking out the truth to his worst fears and the group being brainwashed and tortured. Only these two separate timelines don't result in a peak of excess and gore, but more of a whimper with some fun kills tossed in for good measure. But I guess my expectations were once again subverted, so, well done? Wrong Turn wants to be two different movies without having the balls to commit to one. Why do we need to "elevate" every genre piece? When this sticks to the tried and true, it works, but I can't take it seriously when it gets preachy about society and our troubled past. Like, this is a reboot of a trashy cannibal movie; for f*cks sake, lighten up and have some fun.

The 2003 Wrong Turn wasn't a genre classic, but it understood its Drive-In roots and built a strong enough fanbase to last six sequels. The reboot isn't a terrible film, and it presents some interesting ideas, but in no way do they belong here. You should be different and try new things when an IP becomes stale, but you also need to work within the same recipe and find a way to evolve and improve without coming across as a cash grab. Wrong Turn 2021 co-opts the name and tells a story so different that it shouldn't even have the Wrong Turn label on it. If things worked out and my only complaint was the name, then this would be a different review, but the new direction wasn't developed enough and came with its own set of improbabilities and narrative issues.

GORE: Most of the kills are shown offscreen, with the aftermath being the preferred way to go about gore. Here and there, we get some great practical effects kills, but it's few and far between.

BOTTOM LINE:  Though it is well-intentioned, I found myself more annoyed and confused than anything else. Some of the Salon.com-inspired dialogue that populated the Gen Z banter made for a few laughable moments as well, but I'm not sure that was intentional. Matthew Modine and Charlotte Vega are great in this, but they can't save it from itself. Maybe it's the rum talking, but removing goofy backwoods cannibals is an idea that should work, but the story told here doesn't do enough to warrant such a drastic change. Overall Wrong Turn has a couple of moments and a few kills that are quite effective, but it's inconsistent enough to where I was more excited about refilling my drink than I was about the next gruesome kill or plot twist.

What do you think? Check out the link above to watch Wrong Turn 2021 and comment below on your thoughts about the movie.

Saban Films releases Wrong Turn On Demand, Digital, Blu-ray and DVD on February 23, 2021.

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