Wrong Turn is available to rent now on Amazon Prime Video.
Horror reboots are one of the industry’s hallmarks; here, you can bank on the pre-existing audience to market your film, regardless of their feelings. Occasionally, something of merit is created, like Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead, but this is rarely the case. In Wrong Turn, the original creator of the franchise, Alan B. McElroy, returns to pen the script and attempt to resurrect the franchise. 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. However, here the reboot evolves 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 and the unwelcoming town. Of course, familiarity can be good if there’s a self-reflexive response to it, which McElroy lacks entirely. The modern cultural references that update this film beyond its 2000s tropes are remarkably cringy, with buzzwords tossed in between sentences as an indicator of “hey, this is set today!”
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Each teen’s characterisation oscillates 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 feels 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. Here the production design is intricate and creative while allowing the group’s members to be literally anywhere at any time – springing from the ground, the bark of a tree, or shadows of a rock.
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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-00s horror. His subversion of the original transgressor in Wrong Turn is undoubtedly intriguing. Still, it feels out-of-place in how we reach it. However, what is worse is the fact that McElroy only seems interested in telling his story over the first hour, making the following hour entirely unnecessary. The pacing slows to a crawl, with three ‘fake’ endings, making its continued watch-time the most agonising 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.