When I was a stupid teenager, with absolutely zero taste, I had a rather innocent soft spot for the Wrong Turn series… well, for the first two anyway. Part 3 went on to establish some unfortunate trademarks that would plague the following instalments more aggressively than herpes: impressive lack of any real direction, derivative stories, porno acting, and gore effects that either made too little sense anatomically (if you can believe that that’s actually a problem in films like this) or simply failed to convince. But, at the time, I remember really enjoying those first two, the original is a legitimately decent effort with scary villains, a well executed atmosphere – a few too many false jump scares, for sure, but the characters were far better than they had any right to be and the premise is pretty good for a slasher. Part 2 suffered from cliched characterisation, bad dialogue and a cheap aesthetic, BUT, the atmosphere was brutal, the cannibals remained effective, the darkness and bloody carnage stayed at 11 for the whole third act, and I just can’t bring myself to call it a “bad watch”.
And now, after straining the cannibal hillbilly calling card to limits that would make Stretch Armstrong think twice, we have ourselves a cute little reboot from the original writer, lucky us. Actually no, not lucky us, because this new film put me in mind of a job interviewee who can talk at length about what they *don’t* do, but can’t say much about what they *do* do. Gone are the cannibal hillbilly freaks that championed the series, replaced here by regular human cultists who happen to live in the woods… I’m sorry, I know this is a lazy criticism to use, but: BORING! The deformed inbred abominations were something to be feared, something that was human yet with nothing human about them, their twisted faces could haunt your dreams, their designs could be creative and personalised, and the insane cackle of fan-favourite “Three-Finger” is downright iconic! Replacing them with ordinary humans who dress like weirdos and live like pretentious hippie extremists is just wank!
The story is more or less a standard procedure: dumb young people go down to the woods today and get a big surprise, that’s pretty much the extent of a non-spoiler breakdown which disappoints me all over again even as I write it. I guess you could say it kinda tries to do the unexpected from time to time, but it just ends up meandering more than anything else; like a scene in which the hot head character appears to have been kidnapped by the cultists and full-throttle bludgeons one of them to death and then some – but oh no, turns out they found him unconscious and were trying to help him. Oops-a-daisy! I get it, you want to change up the formula a little and not have the same tired old “cannibals kill everyone just because” motif, but stuff like this was just annoying; it’s like the script had suddenly found itself giving a business presentation without any prep and has no choice but to flounder and badly improvise.
Does this movie try? Yes, on the surface it does appear to be making a sincere effort – the cinematography is decent enough (there’s a frequent use of the under-cranking effect, which I think is always a handy tool for helping the tension along), the gore is a helluva lot more convincing than it has been for quite some time in this decomposing corpse of a series, and I suppose the production design is a bit alright. The camouflage and skull masks the cultists wear is cool-looking and would do the job a whole lot better if only they were as effective as Three-Finger, Saw-Tooth and One-Eye, you know, the originals! But they’re not, they’re dull; I don’t know if that’s just because they’re so obviously not as good as the hillbillies – or if their role in the story as the villains is simply underwhelming on its own. And speaking of underwhelming, holy shit, the protagonists in this thing have got to be some of the most underdeveloped characters I think I have ever seen in a movie ever! I’m not trying to be funny, I mean it, the thought crossed my mind when the film was over and hasn’t moved on since.
So it looks OK I guess, I appreciate that they wanted to move away from what they felt was tired material, and I really don’t hate the picture, not at all! It didn’t do anything offensive on a deep intellectual level and rile me up to the god-damn stars; but in the end: it’s just boring. I usually hate it when “boring” is used so often by critics, I mean, if criticism itself is as much an art form as cinema is, then why isn’t it held to the same near-impossible standards? “Boring”?: took you all night to come up with that one, did it? But in the case of the Wrong Turn reboot, I’d say boring is a pretty apt description, everything about it is just so unimaginative and plain as dish water that I wonder why they even bothered. Maybe the director could have made a better movie if he was working with a better script, kinda like how Ridley Scott performs; but we’ll never know – which leaves me with the words: oh well.