I've spent an inordinate amount of time on this blog extolling the inbred cannibal craziness of the original Wrong Turn movies, a long-running franchise of increasingly illogical and ill-considered sequels.
But now the writer of the very first movie, Alan McElroy, has given the franchise a soft reboot with this new outing: Wrong Turn (2021).
Gone are the mutant cannibals and in come a community of isolationists, living a Medieval life up in the Appalachian mountains, away from civilization.
The movie begins with Scott (Stranger Things' Matthew Modine) rolling into a small Virginia town, looking for his daughter, Jen (Charlotte Vega), and her friends - who he believes disappeared on a hiking trip in the area six weeks earlier.
Then we jump back in time to follow Jen and her hiking hipster friends, who include The Gifted's Emma Dumont, as they antagonise the locals, ignore the advice to "stay on the path", and fall foul of the traps laid by the Foundation (the isolationist families who moved to the mountains in the 19th Century fearing the collapse of American society).
What starts out as a tick box exercise in by-the-numbers survival horror movie clichés, somehow, slowly, morphs into a gritty thriller - with elements of classic folk horror - as the two storylines come together, we learn more about the Foundation, and Jen does what she has to to stay alive.
The narrative focus then flips back to Scott as he steels himself to venture into the mountains and - hopefully - rescue his daughter from The Foundation.
As the story shifts, so does Jen's character develop, from wishy-washy milquetoast to badass Katniss Everdeen-clone - aided by the realisation that Charlotte Vega shares a lot of dynamic physical similarities to both Jennifer Lawrence and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier's Emily VanCamp.
The original Wrong Turn movies always danced between Grand Guignol black comedy and proto-torture porn, but director Mike P Nelson doesn't really dwell on the blood and viscera, if he shows it at all, instead letting the atmosphere guide the horror.
The two converging narratives help explain the film's almost two-hour duration, but it also has this surprisingly engaging knack of never wanting to end.
Just when you think the plot's wrapping up, another twist comes along to hold your attention for a bit longer.
I went in expecting something a bit trashy, but fun, and that feeling carried me through almost to the halfway point when suddenly Wrong Turn came into its own.
It's not perfect, there are some plot holes and character inconsistencies along the way, but overall this turned out to be a surprisingly positive cinematic jaunt for me.
As long as your enjoyment doesn't hinge on this being yet another gorefest akin to the originals, then you might find this new iteration of Wrong Turn an interesting change of style and pace.
And they don't like intruders - unless the intruders very quickly (and, possibly, forcefully) make it clear that they have something to offer the mountain folk (this, almost always, includes the intruders themselves, as the mountain folk don't like the idea of others knowing where they are).
The mountain folk will have covered their territory with various traps (tripwires, pits, spiked boards etc), which any, but one of their own, will be at Disadvantage when making rolls to detect (ie. two rolls are made and the player must use the lowest).
Generally keeping to themselves, they will only interact with local communities out of necessity, existing by hunting and killing wild animals, and following strict - self-imposed - moral guidelines, including their own ideas of what constitutes "the law" and how to enact it.
At the heart of their territory will be a fortified village, with a network of subterranean tunnels.
#ENC: 1d3 (on patrol); 4d6 + 1d10 (in village), includes one tribal leader.
HD: 2 (tribal leader: 3+1 HD)
AC: 13 (Hide + bone mask)
MV: 12 (even over difficult terrain, while in home territory)
SV: 16 (leader: 14)
- Home Advantage: While operating within their home territory the mountain folk make all skill checks at Advantage (ie. roll 2d20 and use the highest score), be it for moving stealthily, hiding in shadows, blending into the terrain etc Conversely, any similar checks against them are made at Disadvantage.
CL: 3/ 60xp [Leader: 4/120 xp]