Benjamin Wollmuth is a lover of literature who enjoys sharing his thoughts on everything from movies and video games to books and music.
I've never been that big of a fan of the Wrong Turn franchise. The movies always seemed very low quality, with characters that lacked development, stories that failed to pique my interest, and antagonists that got more annoying with each entry. The only thing that managed to keep me watching was the kills, but most of them were pretty lackluster; only a few have stood out. When I heard that the franchise was getting a hard reboot, I wasn't too terribly excited. This was due to the fact that it's a January horror film that did not advertise too much and it's Wrong Turn. But hey, any excuse to go to the theater in times like these is a good one to me. Plus, I'm a horror fan and was really curious on whether or not this reboot would be good for the franchise or not.
I was a little surprised. This film is not nearly as bad as the shitty sequels that came after the first Wrong Turn movie. There was actually some decent content to keep me engaged. However, I wouldn't call the film good. There was potential for it to be good, possibly even great. The filmmakers obviously had some good ideas... but that leads to the issue: they had too many. The film juggles so many different ideas that just don't work, and the timespan that the film takes place in is too long for the hour and a half runtime to handle. The deeper issues became very apparent to me after reflecting on what I had just watched, and now I think I fully understand why this film didn't work for me.
Let me explain.
Oh, by the way, this review will contain spoilers. You have been warned.
The theme of equality is one of the most prevalent in this film. That's awesome. Equality is a much-needed thing. My issues come with how they handle the idea of equality and discrimination that people face. First, we have, who is more or less the main male lead, an African-American. He is dating a white woman, and the film makes it very clear that he is on edge because they are in Virginia, a place where the Confederacy thrived in the mid-1800s. Catch my drift? The idea of racial discrimination is brought up on a few occasions, but we don't actually see any of it. The group does get weird looks when they are sitting in a bar, but we later learn that this was because the town doesn't like newcomers due to how many people disappear thanks to the Foundation, the new antagonists of the film. The film also includes a gay couple, with one of the guys also being on edge because he seems to feel the locals don't like it. Maybe these characters had experienced discrimination before, but if they had, it was never mentioned, and we never see them face it in the film. Making a big deal out of skin color and sexual orientation only works if you are truly going to commentate on discrimination by showing it. Otherwise, there's no point in emphasizing the fact that someone is gay or black or anything else.
But I think I know what they were going for. The Foundation is built around a community of people who accept everyone: white or black, straight or gay, male or female, it doesn't matter. So, when the time comes for the two main leads to make a choice that would save their lives, they do it. Then, there is a time jump, and when an opportunity arises to escape, the male lead doesn't want to leave because the Foundation is a place where he can truly feel equality. And maybe that's the case. But the film never showed discrimination towards that character at any point, so I found it insanely hard to believe that he would want to live a very primitive life over the one he had in the outside world.
What I'm trying to say here is the film had a good idea––dealing with equality and discrimination is a strong topic to cover, especially today––that they never fully act on, which allowed for zero impact whatsoever.
The Timespan and the Connections
After the movie was over, the friend who I had seen it with told me something that I wholeheartedly agree with: the film's story would have worked better in a limited series.
The film opens with a father looking for his daughter who he hasn't heard from in six weeks. It then jumps back six weeks prior to show what exactly happened, and after certain events happen, the two main characters end up living with the Foundation, with the female lead marrying the leader of the Foundation and the male lead working as somewhat of a builder. Then we jump forward to six weeks later again, and the father finally finds the place and helps his daughter escape. The male lead doesn't want to leave because he feels like an equal, so he stays. The female lead escapes, using her new hunting skills that we never see her gain, and she finally gets back home. Then the Foundation's leader and a few other members somehow track her down, even though they live in a very primitive society, and take her back because she's pregnant with the leader's child. And then, as the credits roll, she kills them and escapes. I know that seemed like a lot to take in... because it was. It was so much to take in.
The problem I had––which I think would have been easily solved if this was a limited series––is that we don't see any of the six weeks that the main characters lived in the community. We don't see them learn new skills. We don't see them make friends. We don't see any of it. How am I supposed to buy into 1) the fact that the female lead has this insane set of newfound skills that she gained over six weeks, or 2) the fact that the main male lead just seems to love it there? Because I didn't buy into it at all. That is what I wanted to see, and a limited series could have shown me that. Instead, I'm left not understanding the main characters' deeper connection to the Foundation at all. The female lead kept mentioning how she had to make "choices" in order to survive–– choices we never see her make. It baffles me how the filmmakers thought that was a good idea. Showcasing a journey through survival at this very primitive camp could have lead to some awesome character development, but instead, I'm left not really caring about the characters at all.
The potential is there. They just wanted to do so much in a fairly short runtime and decided to sacrifice quality in order to fit all of it in.
But let's talk about those credits again. As the credits roll, we see the RV that the Foundation had picked the female lead up in crash. Then the door opens, and a guy falls out, who the female lead brutally stabs to death in the middle of the street. What's my issue? We don't even get to see her kill the guy who impregnated her and who had just threatened to kill her family if she didn't comply. Moments prior we think we see her kill him, but it was just a stupid daydream "what if" scenario, which I hated. It's just like... this dude came to her house and threatened to kill her family––this dude put a baby in her––and he is killed offscreen. A bold yet bad decision, in my opinion.
What About Positives?
I will say that the kills were interesting. The camera did cut away from deaths a lot, but we are shown the aftermath, which for the most part looked pretty good.
I think the idea behind the Foundation is interesting. I preferred them over the incestuous mutant cannibal family, and I thought their giant skull masks looked pretty dope. They are not innately evil people––they just don't like trespassers.
I'm very glad the franchise went away from the mutant cannibals we saw in previous films. I don't need to see those guys again.
And again, I can see pieces of good ideas scattered throughout this entire movie. I just don't think they were handled correctly.
I wish I had more words to talk about this movie, but I fear that this is going to come off as a rant rather than a review, and I didn't even bring up the fact that the characters make very, very stupid decisions. I just saw so much potential in this film that it disappoints me to say it wasn't very good. However, it is much better than 5 out of the 6 other Wrong Turn movies.
Maybe someday I will return to this film so I can express more of my thoughts on it, but until then, I'm gonna give Wrong Turn (2021) a 5/10.
© 2021 Benjamin Wollmuth