Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Mike P Nelson
Stars: Matthew Modine, Charlotte Vega, Bill Sage, Dylan McTee, Adain Bradley, Adrian Favela, Emma Dumont, Vardaan Arora, Daisy Head.
This is an attempt to reboot the horror franchise that began in 2003 with Alan McElroy’s gory film about a group of hapless victims who were stalked by monstrous mountain men. The film yielded five sequels of diminishing quality as it delved into more grotesque territory such as cannibalism and inbred rednecks and other depravities. Now McElroy himself helms this reboot of the franchise, with the seventh film in the series, although this one stands alone from its predecessors and takes the concept in a new direction.
Six young friends head off for a weekend hiking the Appalachian Trail, but this will be no walk in the woods for them. The six are Jen (Charlotte Vega, from The Lodgers, etc), her social worker boyfriend Darius (Adain Bradley, from The Bold And The Beautiful, etc), the arrogant Adam (Dylan McTee, from Roswell, New Mexico, etc), Milla (Emma Dumont, from Aquarius, etc), the gay couple Luis (Adrian Favela) and Gary (Vardaan Arora, making his feature film debut here). The six first encounter some rednecks in a local bar who issue some ominous warnings about people wandering into the woods never to be seen again. They are also told that something bad befalls people who wander off the main trails. Of course, they do leave the main trail when they set off to investigate an old Confederate fort and then fall foul of several nasty booby traps.
Thus begins a desperate fight for survival as they encounter a bizarre cult like group known as The Foundation, a hidden mountain community who live well off the grid. Founded in 1859, the Foundation has broken away from society, which they feel is corrupt. They live off the land and are self-sufficient, and everybody contributes. They wear animal skins and animal skulls when out hunting, which gives them a frightening appearance. They have their own set of values and rules and laws, and don’t particularly welcome strangers. The Foundation is led by the sinister John Venable (Bill Sage, from tv series Power, etc). and his tough daughter Edith (Daisy Head, from Underworld: Blood Wars, etc).
When the film opens, we follow Jen’s father Scott (Matthew Modine, from Full Metal Jacket, etc) who becomes worried when he hasn’t heard from her in six weeks. He sets off to try and learn what has happened. The townsfolk initially seem to ignore his pleas for help or information. But the woman who runs the boarding house where the group stayed introduces him to a pair of local trackers, which leads to his own frightening encounter with the Foundation.
The script has been written by McElroy, his first film since directing the original in 2003, and it gives us a nasty clash of cultures story that is quite gory. I have sat through hundreds of horror films , b ut there are even a couple of scenes here that I had to look away from the screen. There are some great makeup effects and prosthetics from Ryan Schaddelee. The film is directed by Mike P Nelson (the post-apocalyptic horror The Domestics, etc) who has often worked in the horror genre and he brings a gritty approach to the material. He makes the woods seems claustrophobic, and cinematographer Nick Junkersfeld’s desaturated palette adds to the aesthetic.
Modine is the best-known member of the cast and he brings a sense of gravitas to his performance in his first ever horror film. Vega makes for a feisty heroine here and she is reminiscent of The Hunger Games‘ Katniss Everedeen. Sage brings both a touch of the urbane and malevolence to his role as the soft-spoken patriarch of this strange subculture as he dispenses his own crude form of justice that includes bashing in heads and poking out eyes with a hot poker.
There have been many similar films of hapless victims falling foul of freakish communities, cannibals, zombies etc, (films like The Hills Have Eyes, and the like), and Wrong Turn certainly falls into that wheelhouse.
This gory horror film will appeal to those who thought that the recent Midsommar was a bit too slow and lacking genuinely scary stuff. Whereas that film was a bit more intellectual and subtle in its approach to the horror, Wrong Turn packs a lot into its running time. And the action even continues during the final credits sequence, which seems to point to direction that the sequel may take.
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