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Review: Wrong Turn (2021) – “A brutal backwoods nightmare”

Released by Signature Entertainment on digital platforms on the 26th of February and on Blu-ray and DVD on the 3rd of March, the new Wrong Turn is written by Alan B. McElroy – who as well as writing Halloween 4 also wrote the original 2003 Wrong Turn, directed by Mike P. Nelson (The Domestics) and stars Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket), Bill Sage (We Are What We Are) and Emma Dumont (Inherent Vice).

After not hearing from his twenty-something daughter Milla (Dumont) for six weeks, worried dad Scott (Modine) heads off to the Virginia backwoods to try and find her, or find out what happened to her. While Scott questions the super suspicious locals and racist local police and searches the thick forests for his first-born we flashback to see what actually became of Milla and her friends…

A group with gay and mixed-race couples in their number, Milla and her friends do not exactly go over well with the good ol’ boys and girls of the ‘Mother of states’. After being intimidated for their progressive millennial ways in the local watering hole the gang set off along the Appalachian trail to try and find an old civil war fort. Instead, they find the forest floor littered with lethal booby traps and themselves subject to the sinister attentions of a creepy group clad in moss, skulls and antlers led by Venable (Sage).

Those here for crazy, inbred, cannibalistic mutants may be initially disappointed but it won’t last. Writer Alan B. McElroy has taken a different angle this time and rewritten the rules of the franchise he himself birthed. The result is a fresh and fucked up folk horror that will delightfully wrong foot you the more familiar you are with the first film and the more you are expecting a straight forward part 7.

The “baddies” here feel as modern as the dialogue sounds but are no less dangerous than Three Finger and co. Deeply camouflaged and appearing out of nowhere like the very bark and bracken has come to life, ‘The Foundation’ have laid chest-smashing tree trunks triggered by tripwires and razor-sharp tiger pits galore so as to be left alone on their land, so when Milla’s group trespass and transgress they take no prisoners.

Wrong Turn is an exciting and unpredictable sharp turn for the franchise that has magnificently gory make-up effects and jumps and scares galore and Matthew Modine is its perfect anchor – giving the film direction and structure alongside his everyman caring dad charm. 

Emma Dumont has more to do and is given far more to thrillingly go through with a character whose arc is fascinating and exhilaratingly frightening to behold, while Sage is playing a variation of his We Are What We Are character in unrelenting and magnetic fashion. The rest of Milla’s crew are only sketches really as we know they are cannon fodder, but some of their performances go over as badly as a misjudged one-liner inserted as a nod to the series’ roots.

Fans of the original film with an open mind will be pleasantly surprised as expectations and tropes are constantly subverted and used to catch you out in a film that director Mike P. Nelson drenches thick with foreboding and punctuates with shocking and unsettling moments that builds to a brilliant crescendo.

The new Wrong Turn is the series’ concept twisted, modernised and elevated. It is a wrong-footing folk horror meets survival horror that is full of chills, jumps, traps and gore that descends into a brutal backwoods nightmare and beyond that is completely unexpected.

Signature Entertainment presents Wrong Turn (2021) UK Home Premiere on Digital Platforms 26th February and Blu-Ray & DVD 3rd March.

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