The Wrong Turn franchise has returned with this seventh entry that wipes the slate clean. After a lengthy hiatus, the West Virginia mountains appear to have changed, but the danger has remained. Originally titled Wrong Turn: The Foundation, Wrong Turn separates itself from prior entries by eliminating previous plot elements. This latest installment may not be what fans of the franchise are familiar with, but it’s leaps and bounds better than the abysmal sequels that have come before it.
After the botched sixth entry, it seemed like the franchise was dead, but only part of it seems to have died. The series is known for its group of backwoods cannibals stalking stranded individuals in West Virginia. Launched in 2003, the film went on to spawn five sequels that went straight to video. Directed by Mike P. Nelson and written by Alan B. McElroy, who penned the original film. Wrong Turn stars Charlotte Vega, Matthew Modine, Emma Dumont, Adain Bradley, Dylan McTee, Bill Sage, and Adrian Favela. Similar to past entries, this film follows a group of friends who go hiking the Appalachian Trail only to find themselves trapped by a group of mountain dwellers known as The Foundation.
Jen (Vega) and her friends were warned to not stray off the trail, but an unfortunate series of traps lead them into dangerous territory. Her friends include Milla (Dumont), Luis (Favela), Adam (McTee), and Darius (Clemons). McElroy’s return isn’t wasted, but the question many might have by the end is why is the Wrong Turn title associated with this project. As mentioned above, Wrong Turn: The Foundation was the original title, but it feels like the wrong title was kept. He has penned a film that has no connection to previous entries, and The Foundation are not backwoods cannibals at all. Still, looking past the fact that Wrong Turn is not itself anymore, there is decent film underneath those hiccups.
The film delivers a sufficient group of entertaining, and slightly likable characters, but we don’t learn too much about them outside of a few minor details. The Foundation has a specific way of life that they do not want to be disturbed, and anyone who comes in contact with them learns this. McElroy has written up an interesting group of offbeat individuals that do not seem pleased with life outside of those mountains. Lead by Venable (Sage), these mountain dwellers have their own sick style of justice, punishment, and much more that will keep audiences engaged. There are plenty of intense sequences throughout this screenplay, which was missing from the past couple of sequels. The script must have included several moments of shouting because the group we follow does nothing but yell to deliver their lines. Shouting aside, the acting is solid across the board, and the film’s biggest issue comes from its underdevelopment of certain characters despite the film being nearly two hours.
Vega and Sage deliver in every scene they are in, especially when they share the screen. With material that doesn’t resemble previous entries at its core, it is nice to have performances that make this transition acceptable. Nelson keeps the film interesting by raising the tension with each passing scene. Wrong Turn’s pacing is adequate, but it slows down a bit towards the middle and it begins to grow dull at times. This feels like a return to form, but it’s incomplete because it really has no reason to be titled Wrong Turn. Also, the score featured throughout is one of the best in this franchise. It will keep viewers on the edge and may spark a few chills as well. It heightens the sense of urgency presented at times and makes it apparent that the serious tone has returned to this series.
Wrong Turn probably won’t lead to further entries, but it’s another average entry in this series with a few issues in its narrative. It will most likely be ridiculed for erasing the cannibals, but given how poor previous entries have been, this film deserves some applause. It revives the serious tone that has been missing and offers a decent narrative about what could be lurking in the West Virginia mountains besides deformed cannibals.