Movie Review: “Wrong Turn” leads to terror and torture porn on the Appalachian Trail

As far as “fears” go, I typically prefer mysterious and unknown peril to frights shoved in my face, explained, back-storied and underlined.

But that’s not how the “Wrong Turn” movies work. For twenty years these films have gotten good looking actresses and actors lost in America and the world’s fast-disappearing wild places, menaced by whatever primitives live there and the “rules” of this perilous hidden world.

While there might be a half-decent thriller buried under the point-by-point details-and-endless explanations of this reboot of the franchise, it’s as lost as the “yuppies” who take a detour off the Appalachian Trail in “Bum-F-Virginia” in its story.

Matthew Modine plays a concerned father whose pretty, over-educated barista daughter has gone missing.

Visiting backwater Wrenwood, Va., “the last place she texted from,” gets a “probably sunning herself down in Key West” from the sheriff, a few words of caution from one local and the “We don’t like strangers asking questions” treatment from some others.

Rather than have this concerned, out-of-his-depth city Dad pick up hints, clues and injuries as he unravels, in growing panic, his way to learning The Awful Truth, screenwriter Alan P. McElroy does what he usually does. He shows us their fate in a long, detailed flashback.

Why build the movie around the best actor you cast when there are six hotties heading into the woods, joshing about “Bum-f— Virginia,” insulting the locals, drawing the wrong kind of “Deliverance” attention, starting their hike and taking that “quick side trip” to see something special, just off the trail?

Charlotte Vega plays Jen, the missing daughter with the degrees in art and dance and a life “serving coffee,” Adain Bradley plays her boyfriend, Emma Dumont the doctor in their group, Dylan McTee resident douche-bro and Vardaan Arora and Adrian Favela as the Gay Couple of Color holding hands as they trek through Appalachia.

What could go wrong? Aside from threats in the honky tonk, the stalker eyeballing their SUV, the woodland snares and traps, pitching their tents at night and waking up in a graveyard, losing all their phones and then getting picked off one by one?

These movies live or die by their creative killings, but most of the ones here are of the routine murderous booby-trap variety. Think “Vietnam” and “bear pits.”

There’s panic and torture, friends letting friends down and awful choices. And eventually, Dad shows up again and commences to hunt for answers.

As with far too many thrillers, the more explaining of every mysterious thing there is, the less interesting the story becomes. The actors are expected to freak out at their growing peril, and kind of manage that, although their characters are awfully quick to “forget” the fallen and focus on self-preservation and as they repeat their mantra — “We need to get the F off this mountain!”

The script’s sops to political correctness, to not stereotyping or judging strangers, makes for some maddening moments of the “We started this, but you hurt one of our’n, so it’s YOUR fault” reasoning. Mitch McConnell’s people?

I didn’t hate it, but didn’t get much out of it and found it boring. Still, fans of kidnapping, impaling, hot-poker-in-the-eye cinema may take to it as their cinematic happy place.

MPA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, grisly images and pervasive language 

Cast: Charlotte Vega, Adain Bradley, Emma Dumont, Dylan McTee, Vardaan Arora, Adrian Favela and Matthew Modine.

Credits: Directed by Mike P. Nelson, script by Alan P. McElroy, based on his seven-film franchise. Saban Films release.

Running time: 1:49

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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