Wrong Turn – Alan B. McElroy’s reboot takes more than one wrong turn

Wrong Turn is available to rent now on Amazon Prime Video

Horror reboots are one of the industry’s hallmarks. You can bank on the pre-existing audience to market your film, regardless of their feelings on it. And occasionally, something of merit is created, like Fede Alvarez’ Evil Dead. Very rarely is this the case in Wrong Turn, with the original creator of the franchise, Alan B. McElroy, returning to pen the script and resurrect the franchise anew. It provokes a curiosity at the creator’s interest in returning to his own material. But, perhaps he has something to say, and Wrong Turn is his vehicle to say it? Unfortunately for me, while McElroy is talking a whole lot, he’s also not saying anything new.

Wrong Turn’s plot is similar to the original; a group of hikers stumble off the beaten track and uncover a horrifying community lurking in the wilderness. The reboot evolving from the mutant cannibals of the original to a feudal mountain community known as The Foundation. McElroy packs the script with familiar tropes – the unseen watcher, the disappearing teens, the unwelcoming town, the one-by-one disappearances. Familiarity can be good as long as there’s a self-reflexive response to it, which McElroy lacks entirely. The modern cultural references that update this film beyond its 2000s tropes remarkably cringy. With buzzwords tossed in between sentences as an indicator of “hey, this is set today!”

Each teen’s characterization is an oscillation between hysteria and aggression, and their preferred language is that of the screech. Every character fights to get their turn, their loud and obnoxious outbursts somehow more horrific than the violence itself. Meanwhile, the score finds a way to distract you from the narrative flow of scenes, which initially felt like a curse but the longer spent with this group, the more it feels like a blessing. Admittedly, when ‘The Foundation’ does appear, it’s terrifying – the production design intricate and creative, allowing members to be literally anywhere at any time. And whether springing from the ground, the bark of a tree, or shadows of rock – you feel as though they could be absolutely anywhere.

For most of the first hour, McElroy’s return to the franchise seems utterly pointless – all he’s done is regurgitate long-dated tropes of the heyday of early-2000s horror. His subversion of the original transgressor in Wrong Turn is certainly interesting. Still, it feels out-of-place in how we reach it. And what is worse is that the story McElroy seems interested in telling is over by the first hour, making the following hour seem entirely unnecessary. The pacing slows to a crawl, with the film managing to have three ‘fake’ endings, somehow continuing beyond what appears to be the denouement every time, making its continued watch-time the most agonizing transgression of the film.

It doesn’t feel as though McElroy has honed his craft since penning the original Wrong Turn enough, and this reboot is proof of that – while there are some interesting ideas, he needs to let go of the past to embrace what could be a potentially interesting future. Ironically, it seems it was Alan B. McElroy who made the wrong turn after all.

Further, explore Sabastian Astley’s reviews with Willy’s Wonderland and Judas and the Black Messiah

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