The seventh (!) installment in the Wrong Turn series serves as a complete reboot of the concept itself and has virtually nothing to do with the rest of the franchise. I noticed a similar-looking waterfall in one scene that brought to mind a part from that original film, but otherwise I didn’t notice a single other connection. With the writer of movie #1 finally returning, Alan B. McElroy, I thought we would be in for something that would either bring the story full circle or reimagine some of the major themes in an exciting way. Instead, the newest Wrong Turn just feels like a regurgitation of cult tropes that removes itself so far from the series mythology and is so clumsy in its plotting and setup that you have to wonder why they even bothered in the first place.
No connection to the other movies wouldn’t be such a major issue if what we received here felt even half as fresh and exciting as the 2003 movie. At the very least, I was expecting this film to surpass many of the terrible sequels in this series. If I was forced to decide, I guess The Foundation, as it was originally titled, would fall just barely above Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines, and that’s being generous. The runtime is a grueling nearly-two-hours, and while I’m all for lengthy movies, this isn’t the kind of material that needed so much time devoted to story development.
The basics: a group of diverse hipsters gets lost in the woods after steering off the hiking trail (this film’s version of a ‘wrong turn,’ perhaps?) all the while 6 months later, the father of one of the missing girls is desperately trying to find her. The structure of the movie itself feels very disjointed and much of that has to do with the split timelines – from our opening scene, it takes us an hour and 10 minutes to play catchup. The opening doesn’t grab you the same way as most of these films – at least they had an exciting kill or something to latch onto. It almost feels like two movies jammed against each other, with the Matthew Modine stuff essentially an afterthought.
The sense of logic or reason they are trying to setup with this grittier, more grounded take on the series is lost entirely when it comes to character motivations. The characters in this movie aren’t just unlikable, they’re real dumb. They set up a tent in the woods right on top of a graveyard and don’t even notice till the next morning when they discover the gravestones. There’s another scene where one of the characters gets frightened so they move about 5 feet then relax again as if they’d so securely and safely hidden themselves way. The character actions and reactions frequently make no sense and are frustrating to watch as the movie around them is desperately trying to be a pretentious cult flick.
If there’s one major positive, I have to hand things off to director Mike P. Nelson, who provides some visceral thrills in the more intense sequences. Even when we don’t get to the see the violence dead-on, the aftermath is always gruesome and the gore effects are mostly practical and well-done. There’s a whole lot of smashing faces and the blood comes fast and furious.
We didn’t get mutated cannibals, but we did get crazy people saying “I can smell your juices” and weirdly misunderstood territorial trap-setters. The kills and decent acting make it more tolerable than you’d expect, but I couldn’t help walking away from this Wrong Turn uber disappointed. There’s so much promise with the obvious Hills Have Eyes / Texas Chainsaw Massacre rip-off that’s inherent in the DNA of the series, but instead they tried to draw on The Wicker Man and it just doesn’t fit. To casual horror fans, there might be some fun to be had here, but as a moderate fan of about half the original film series, this just did not do it for me.