Wrong Turn is a remake of the 2003 film of the same title, which hardly had a singular vision worth revisiting. To the credit of returning writer Alan McElroy, he does try to tell a different kind of story with this attempt—albeit one which amounts to a protracted disappointment.
The film follows a group of obnoxious millennials on a hike through the Appalachians. Arriving in a small town at the foot of the mountains, they have tense encounters with the surly, sullen locals. There is one funny scene where an old drunk in a bar accuses the group of never having worked real jobs. Jennifer (Charlotte Vega), the nominal protagonist, replies in outrage that they in fact work as sustainable energy consultants, bistro managers, and app designers.
And at first the film does seem to be setting itself up as a confrontation between irritating SJWs and Trumpist reactionaries. The real antagonists of the film, however, are the Foundation, a group of anarcho-primitivist survivalists living up in the mountains. When Jennifer and her friends stray from the marked trail, they find themselves hunted by these holdouts from old America.
Any film where the characters spend a significant portion of the story walking through the wilderness pursued by some nebulous menace has to work pretty hard to maintain interest. Otherwise it can simply feel like you yourself have been dragged out on some unbearable hike. Wrong Turn fails in this regard—watching the millennials blunder through a seemingly endless series of tripwires becomes dull extremely quickly.
And indeed one of the film’s biggest problems is its length. There is simply no justification for a film of this kind running for 110 minutes. Around the 60-minute mark it switches perspective from Jennifer to her father, who has set out to find her in the mountains. He retreads the same locations, talks to the same characters, sets off the same traps—I almost felt as if the film had started over again from the beginning. Cutting this plotline entirely could only have been an improvement.
Another serious issue is that, in trying to freshen up an incredibly tired story, Wrong Turn neuters any of that story’s initial appeal. The film attempts to avoid an unpleasant “poor rural people are inbred monsters” dynamic by positioning, for a time at least, the yuppies as the aggressors. However, this just leads to an atmosphere of moral confusion and a sense that all of the characters are equally intolerable. When the leader of the Foundation goes on a spiel about how it’s unfair to prejudge his people just because they stalk the woods in furs and animal skulls and have littered the mountain with deathtraps, it’s unclear what message, exactly, you’re meant to take away from this. Is it that the woke are the real bigots? The film doesn’t think seriously about any of these issues.
But really, it’s the length that got to me. Wrong Turn barely even seems to want to be a horror movie; even the gore feels perfunctory, a sop to viewers who came expecting 2000s-style torture porn. If there was something else here, some kind of coherent message, or some well-drawn characters, it wouldn’t matter that the film isn’t at all scary. As it is, however, the film has almost nothing to offer. The ending is an utter non-sequitur, but given the senselessness of everything that precedes it, it feels like the only kind of ending this film could have.
Wrong Turn is currently playing in cinemas.