Film review: ‘WRONG TURN’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

Slasher film Wrong Turn is a little like a cinematic Frankenstein’s monster, stitched together from bits of other films.  There’s the backwoods inbred redneck menace of The Hills Have Eyes and Deliverance (minus the pig squealing), the ‘forest as a threatening alternate world’ horror of The Blair Witch Project and the kidnapping nightmare of Wolf Creek.  Derivative as it is, Wrong Turn does offer a twist that in itself evokes other films and TV shows but is at least a little surprising given the film’s trajectory up to that point.

Wrong Turn sees a group of confident, attractive, educated 20-somethings, ostensibly led by the good-nature Jen (Charlotte Vega) embark on what they think will be a fun and exciting trek along the Appalachian trail.  They needed to watch more slasher movies before embarking on this jaunt, though, as, despite all the ominous warnings from creepy  locals, they step off the trail and find themselves lost in the woods.  Soon they become prey to sinister figures lurking in the forest who start to pick them off one by one.  As the survivors come face to face with their tormentors they realise they’re dealing with something weirder than they could have imagined.  Facing a hideous death, their only hope is Jen’s silver-haired suburban dad (Matthew Modine) who’s determined to uncover what’s happened to his missing daughter.

The film begins well, establishing a palpable and enclosing sense of threat as this diverse group, who include socially conscious Jen, her African American boyfriend Darius (Adain Bradley), obligatory hothead Adam (Dylan McTee) his acerbic doctor girlfriend (Emma Dumont) and gay couple Luis (Adrian Favela) and Vardann (Gary Amaan) arrive in the classic unwelcoming hillbilly town before starting their trek. It’s here the film looks like it might explore cultural divisions currently tearing apart the US but the film soon steps off this path back into slasher movie territory where the focus is largely on gory deaths.  The procession of killings involves some intense action and a few grotesque scenes so the squeamish should be warned.

For what is largely an exploitation horror film, the standard of acting is better than usual with Charlotte Vega convincing as the compassionate but strong-willed heroine Jen and Bill Sage sinister as the surprisingly well-manicured fiend who terrorizes them.  The film unfortunately indulges genre cliches including the portly, uncooperative redneck sheriff and the victims’ infuriating tendency to do exactly what they shouldn’t at any given moment including yelling out when they’re trying to sneak away and not simply calling the FBI to roust the forest-dwelling crazies.

Occasionally tense and atmospheric with better than average production values for a slasher film including cinematography that eerily captures the imposing forest surrounds and Appalachian landscapes, Wrong Turn is a little more impressive than the average slasher flick but not alot.

Nick’s rating: ***

Genre: Horror.

Classification: MA15+.

Director(s): Mike P Nelson.

Release date: 4th Feb 2021.

Running time: 109 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.

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