WRONG TURN | ©2021 Lionsgate

WRONG TURN | ©2021 Lionsgate

Rating: R
Stars: Charlotte Vega, Adain Bradley, Matthew Modine, David Hutchison, Emma Dumont, Dylan McTee, Vardaan Arora, Adrian Favela, Tim deZarn
Writer: Alan McElroy
Director: Mike P. Nelson
Distributor: Lionsgate
Release Date: February 23, 2021

WRONG TURN 2021 is in theory a remake of the much-sequelized 2003 WRONG TURN. It even has the same writer, Alan McElroy. However, while it has the same general premise – a group of young, attractive people go into the woods and have trouble with the folks who live there – it doesn’t have exactly the same plot, or even exactly the same genre.

Indeed, one of the biggest things WRONG TURN 2021 has going for it is that it’s hard to peg. Instead of THE HILLS HAVE EYES cannibal horror, this could be described as a very gory contemporary Western set in a forest. On the other hand, given what the title leads the audience to expect, this may lead to a number of dissatisfied customers. There’s also the problem that the filmmakers’ mythmaking skills aren’t up to their ambitions.

We meet very worried father Scott Shaw (Matthew Modine), who has landed in a tiny Virginia town seeking his daughter Jennifer (Charlotte Vega). Jennifer and five friends disappeared six weeks earlier, after announcing their intention to hike the Appalachian Trail. The townsfolk, who give off DELIVERANCE vibes, aren’t helpful.

We flash back six weeks and see Jennifer, along with her boyfriend, nonprofit exec Darius (Adain Bradley), oncologist Milla (Emma Dumont) and her aggressive boyfriend Adam (Dylan McTee), and cheerful couple Gary (Vardaan Arora) and Luis (Adrian Favela). Although the group is warned by everyone they meet to stay on the trail, Darius is obsessed with finding the remains of a Civil War fort, and the others indulge him. They get lost, and then some very bad things happen.

There are some good twists here, but they are undercut by inconsistencies. These can’t be discussed without giving away big plot points. Let us just say there are stumbling blocks when the overall framework demands a certain suspension of disbelief.

The acting is all very good, with Vega convincing in both Jennifer’s aimless suburban aspect and the toughness beneath. McTee ably gives us the kind of thoughtlessly entitled jerk who creates problems without ever taking responsibility. Dumont has some affecting moments, Modine is appropriately loving and driven as the searching parent, and Tim deZarn is fine as a menacing local.

Director Mike P. Nelson creates a handsome look and generates alternate surprise and suspense by springing things on characters and showing us traps they haven’t noticed.

The final scene of WRONG TURN 2021 plays out under the closing credits. This raises the question of whether this was always the intended finale, or whether it was added after the fact (it’s certainly more satisfying than what seems to be the end before that). Either way, if you’re watching the movie, by all means, don’t stop until the titles have rolled.

WRONG TURN 2021 actually has something on its mind, but it’s not built to service its ideas in the best way possible.

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