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Wrong turn

Peter Malone MSC  |  12 February 2021

WRONG TURN, US, 2021. Starring Charlotte Vega, Matthew Modine, Bill Sage, Adain Bradley, Dylan McTee, Daisy Head, Emma Dumont, Valerie Jane Parker, Rhyan Elizabeth Hanavan. Directed by Mike P Nelson. 102 minutes. Rated MA (Medium level Violence. Horror theme)

Wrong Turn is a pretty good title for a creepy thriller. In fact, it was used back in 2003, when a group of five young people are stranded deep in the Virginia mountains, facing difficult tracks and treks, as well as the mountain’s mysterious inhabitants. It garnered good reviews and fan support. And the title held good for another five sequels from 2007 to 2011 with added themes to the titles: Dead End, Left for Dead, Bloody Beginnings, Bloodlines, Last Resort.

And, in 2021, here we are again. But, better.

Prolific writer, from Star Trek to horror films, Alan McElroy, created the original characters and wrote the screenplays for the sequels. He has written this film. We are back to a group of young adults trekking the Appalachian Mountains, with warnings from the locals, looking eerie and suspicious, not to veer from the tracks, that nature devours travellers and no one returns. But, this time the subtitle of the film is: Foundation. And we discover what Foundation means, that in 1859, 12 families took to the mountains, before the Civil War, and set up a society that would be an exemplar so that if the world collapsed, the members of the Foundation and their descendants could emerge. An arresting idea.

However, the film opens with veteran actor Modine as Scott, a father searching for his daughter Jen (Vega) who was one of the trekking group. The locals are not particularly welcoming or helpful. Then the action goes back six weeks to the group arriving in the town, getting the same warnings.

While Jen is a sympathetic character, the same cannot be said for the other five adults on the trek. (Vega, who has some action sequences, previously demonstrated her action skills in the Netflix series, Warrior Nun). Jen’s boyfriend is the leader of the group, urging them to go off the beaten track to see a Civil War fort, only for them to get lost (understatement) and experience weird goings-on in the woods.

So, a lot of weird scenes, characters wearing huge animal masks, stalking the group, vicious traps in the forest, lots of fear – and, one of the characters, more than smugly arrogant, denouncing these backwoods people. (We look forward to his comeuppance!)

Actually, these are not supernatural experiences at all. It is the members of The Foundation, the descendants of the original people, preserving their isolation (although we have seen the daughter of the leader and a little girl in town and selling souvenirs). Actually, the members of the Foundation are rather barbaric, despite their claims that they are not, with a large prison, execution rites…

There are some flashbacks to the father, then he takes centre screen for a while, locals offering to help him search for his daughter, experiencing the traps in the woods, face-to-face with the Foundation members, and seeing the fate of his daughter.

There are sufficient twists and turns, some wrong turns, to keep us alert – and the screenwriter seems to have prepared three possible endings, and includes them all. One seems ordinary enough. The other is a dramatic trick. And, just as the credits start to come up (and a warning not to leave), the third and final ending (quite effective) takes place as the credits roll.

The young adults are prone to limited vocabulary over-swearing – something which tapers off as we encounter the Foundation people. There are some gory moments. But, overall, this is an entertaining variation on its themes.

Released 4 January
Peter Malone MSC is an associate Jesuit Media


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