Wrong Turn Original Film Series and Its Reboot How Can Horror Project Social Commentary

Wrong Turn Original Film Series and Its Reboot: How Can Horror Project Social Commentary

Horror is a genre that can reflect the fears, anxieties and conflicts of its time and place. By creating scenarios that challenge the norms, values and expectations of the society, horror can also project social commentary that critiques or questions the status quo. One example of a horror franchise that has attempted to do so is Wrong Turn, which started in 2003 and consists of seven films as of 2021. The main premise of the series involves a group of young people who encounter cannibalistic mutants or a cult-like society in the wilderness of West Virginia. In this article, I will examine how the original series and the reboot use horror to project social commentary, and compare and contrast their effectiveness, strengths and weaknesses.

The Original Series (2003-2014)

The original series was influenced by the slasher genre and the savage cinema of the 1970s, such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes. These films featured a group of urban or suburban characters who ventured into rural or remote areas, where they faced a family or community of deformed, violent and cannibalistic antagonists. The original series used the cannibalistic mutants as a metaphor for the consequences of environmental degradation, genetic engineering, social isolation and class conflict.

Wrong Turn (2003)

The first film introduced the main villains of the series: Three Finger, Saw-Tooth and One-Eye, three brothers who are the result of generations of inbreeding among a group of miners who were trapped in the mountains after a chemical spill. The film follows Chris Flynn (Desmond Harrington), who is forced to make a detour after a road accident, and runs into a group of campers who are also stranded in the woods. They soon discover that they are being hunted by the cannibal brothers, who have set up traps and snares around their cabin. The film implies that the chemical spill has caused mutations and deformities among the mountain dwellers, as well as a loss of civilization and morality. The film also contrasts the urban and rural lifestyles, as well as the rich and poor classes, as Chris is a medical student who comes from a wealthy family, while the campers are mostly working-class or lower-middle-class youths who are looking for adventure.

Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (2007)

The second film expanded the scope and scale of the series, introducing more cannibal mutants and more victims. The film follows a group of contestants who participate in a reality show called Ultimate Survivalist: The Apocalypse, which is set in a post-apocalyptic simulation in the woods. However, they soon realize that they are not alone, as they are attacked by a larger family of cannibals, led by Ma (Ashlea Earl) and Pa (Clint Carleton). The film satirizes the reality TV genre, as well as the consumerist and individualist culture of modern society. The film also explores the themes of genetic engineering and eugenics, as one of the contestants, Nina (Erica Leerhsen), is revealed to be a genetically modified human who was created by her father, a scientist. The film suggests that both the cannibals and Nina are products of human experimentation gone wrong, and that they represent different extremes of human evolution.

Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead (2009)

The third film reduced the number and variety of the cannibals, focusing on Three Finger as the sole survivor and main antagonist. The film follows a group of prisoners who are being transported by bus through the woods, when they are ambushed by Three Finger, who causes their bus to crash. They are joined by Alex (Janet Montgomery), a college student who was camping with her friends before they were killed by Three Finger. Together, they try to escape from the woods, while also dealing with their own conflicts and betrayals. The film explores the theme of justice and morality, as it questions whether there is any difference between the prisoners and Three Finger, who are both killers who prey on others for their own survival or pleasure. The film also depicts Three Finger as more intelligent and resourceful than before, as he uses various weapons and vehicles to hunt down his victims.

Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings (2011)

The fourth film served as a prequel to the original series, showing the origins and childhood of the cannibal brothers. The film follows a group of nine college students who take a wrong turn while snowmobiling and end up in the abandoned Glenville Sanatorium, where the brothers were locked up as children. The film reveals that the brothers were part of a group of miners who were trapped in the mountains after a chemical spill, and resorted to cannibalism and inbreeding to survive. They were eventually captured and sent to the sanatorium, where they escaped and massacred the staff and patients. The film also shows that the brothers have different personalities and abilities, such as Three Finger being able to regenerate his wounds, Saw-Tooth being the strongest and most aggressive, and One-Eye being the most cunning and stealthy. The film explores the theme of madness and violence, as it questions whether the brothers are truly evil or simply victims of their circumstances.

Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines (2012)

The fifth film was a sequel to the fourth film, showing the cannibal brothers as adults and introducing their grandfather Maynard Odets (Doug Bradley), a serial killer who has been on the run for over thirty years. The film follows a group of college students who are going to a remote town to attend the Mountain Man Music Festival on Halloween. However, they get into trouble with Maynard, who is arrested by Sheriff Angela Carter (Camilla Arfwedson) and taken to the police station. The brothers then attack the town and the police station, trying to free Maynard and kill anyone who gets in their way. The film depicts the cannibals as more sadistic and ruthless than before, as they torture and mutilate their victims in various ways. The film also explores the theme of loyalty and family, as it shows the bond between Maynard and his grandsons, as well as the conflict between Carter and her ex-boyfriend Mose (Kyle Redmond Jones), who is one of the prisoners in the station.

Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort (2014)

The sixth film was a reboot of the series, showing a different origin and backstory for the cannibal brothers. The film follows Danny (Anthony Ilott), who inherits a large mansion from an unknown relative, and his friends who accompany him to the Hobb Springs Hotel, where the mansion is located. There, they meet Sally (Sadie Katz) and Jackson (Chris Jarvis), who claim to be Danny's cousins and the caretakers of the hotel. However, they are actually part of a cannibalistic cult that worships the Hillicker brothers as their gods and ancestors. The film reveals that the brothers are the result of centuries of inbreeding among a wealthy family that owned the hotel and the surrounding land. The film also shows that Danny is a descendant of the family and is destined to join them and continue their bloodline. The film explores the theme of identity and belonging, as it shows Danny's struggle between his loyalty to his friends and his attraction to his family.

The Reboot (2021)

The reboot was a departure from the original series in terms of plot, characters, setting and villains. The film follows a group of six friends who go hiking on the Appalachian Trail, only to encounter a hidden community called the Foundation, which has been living in isolation from modern society since the 19th century. The Foundation is a Druidic tribe that follows a strict code of laws and rituals, and uses deadly means to protect their way of life. The film uses the Foundation as a metaphor for the clash between urban and rural cultures, progressive and conservative values, and individual and collective rights.

Wrong Turn (2021)

The film begins with Scott (Matthew Modine), a father who is looking for his missing daughter Jen (Charlotte Vega), who went hiking with her boyfriend Darius (Adain Bradley) and their friends Adam (Dylan McTee), Milla (Emma Dumont), Gary (Vardaan Arora) and Luis (Adrian Favela) six weeks ago. He arrives at a small town in Virginia, where he meets a motel owner who tells him about the Foundation, a group of people who live in the mountains and are rumored to be dangerous. Scott hires a tracker to take him to the trail where his daughter and her friends went. The film then flashes back to six weeks ago, showing what happened to Jen and her friends.

Wrong Turn 2021 reveals the group went looking for an old Civil War fort, only for a rolling tree log to suddenly appear and crush Gary. The survivors become lost in the woods and suspect they're being stalked; soon Milla goes missing and Adam is caught in a trap. They are confronted by two men wearing animal skulls as masks, who are members of the Foundation. Adam manages to free himself and kills one of the men with his own knife. The group tries to escape, but Milla falls into a pit of spikes and is killed by an arrow shot by another masked man. Jen, Adam, Darius and Luis are captured and taken to the Foundation's settlement deep in the forest.

There, they meet Venable (Bill Sage), the leader of the Foundation, who wears a ram skull as his mask. He accuses them of murdering one of his people and violating their land. He sentences Adam to death by bludgeoning him with a large wooden mallet, while blinding Luis with a hot knife for lying. Jen begs Venable for mercy, claiming that she and Darius can be useful to them. Venable agrees to spare them, but only if they join the Foundation and follow their rules. Jen reluctantly agrees, while Darius is hesitant but follows her lead.

Jen and Darius are welcomed into the community, where they meet Edith (Daisy Head), Venable's daughter, who befriends Jen. They also learn that Ruthie (Valerie Jane Parker), a young mute girl who helped them earlier, is Venable's other daughter. Jen tries to seduce Venable in order to gain his trust, while Darius works as a blacksmith. They plan to escape when they get a chance, but they soon realize that the Foundation has eyes everywhere.

Meanwhile, Scott arrives at the trail with his tracker and his son. They find Jen's phone near the pit where Milla died, but they are attacked by some masked men. The tracker and his son are killed by traps, while Scott manages to reach the settlement but is surrounded by armed guards. Jen sees him and shoots him with an arrow in order to avoid suspicion. Venable sentences Scott to death for trespassing and locks him up in a cage.

That night, Jen sneaks out and frees her father, revealing that she only shot him in the shoulder to save his life. She tells him that she has to leave Darius behind because he is too loyal to the Foundation now. They try to escape, but they encounter Darius on their way out. He tells them that he loves Jen and wants to stay with her in the Foundation. He also reveals that he has killed Edith because she found out about their plan. Jen is shocked and disgusted by his actions, and decides to leave him behind.

Jen and Scott manage to reach the town, where they get help from the motel owner and some locals. However, they are ambushed by Venable and some of his men, who have followed them. A shootout ensues, resulting in several deaths on both sides. Venable confronts Jen and tries to kill her with his knife, but she stabs him in the throat with a pen. She then shoots him in the head, killing him. Jen and Scott embrace, relieved to have survived.

The film ends with a twist, revealing that Darius has become the new leader of the Foundation, wearing Venable's ram skull as his mask. He vows to avenge his father and his people, and to protect their land from any outsiders. He also reveals that Jen is pregnant with his child, and that he will find her and bring her back to the Foundation.


In conclusion, the Wrong Turn film series has shown how horror can project social commentary by reflecting the fears, anxieties and conflicts of its time and place. The original series used the cannibalistic mutants as a metaphor for the consequences of environmental degradation, genetic engineering, social isolation and class conflict, while the reboot used the Foundation as a metaphor for the clash between urban and rural cultures, progressive and conservative values, and individual and collective rights. The series has also challenged or reinforced stereotypes, norms and ideologies regarding the representation of minorities, such as women, people of color, LGBTQ+ people and people with disabilities.

The series has received mixed to negative reviews from critics, who have criticized its lack of originality, creativity, logic and coherence, as well as its excessive reliance on gore, violence and shock value. However, the series has also gained a cult following among horror fans, who have praised its entertainment value, suspense, atmosphere and practical effects. The series has also been commercially successful, grossing over $50 million worldwide from a combined budget of less than $10 million.

The Wrong Turn film series has thus demonstrated that horror can be more than just a genre of cheap thrills and scares. It can also be a genre of social commentary and critique that can provoke thought and discussion among its viewers.

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Sherif M. Awad
Sherif M. Awad
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