It’s 2003. I’m sixteen years old and a junior in high school. My friends and I are standing outside in the parking lot of West Tower Cinemas and we want to see Texas Chainsaw Massacre – the remake, of course, with Jessica Biel. We’re under 18, so we can’t get into the R-rated showing. Alas! A bystander – no, a HORROR MENTOR – agreed to pretend to be one of our parents so that we could all get into the movie.
Jessica Biel in Chainsaw 2003 was a formative sexual experience for me. I’m heterosexual, which is admittedly boring, but I knew that Biel’s character, Erin, was ooooooooozing sex in her white wife beater and flared jeans. OKAY I GET THAT WIFE BEATER IS A SEXIST AN OUTDATED TERM BUT I’M 34 AND I DON’T KNOW A BETTER TERM FOR IT. I recognized that all the boyz thought she was a mega hottie. Thus, the early 2000s era of hotties wearing wife beaters in horror began: Elisha Cuthbert in House of Wax, Sophia Bush in The Hitcher, Jennifer Carpenter in Quarantine. But one cannot discuss hotties in horror wearing wife beaters without mentioning the Bring it On siren herself, Eliza Dushku in the original Wrong Turn.
Wrong Turn also came out in 2003 and it didn’t make quite the splash as TCM did that year. Sort of like the 98 Degrees in a world of Backstreet Boys and N’Sync. I remember watching it with my cousin, who had a huge crush on Eliza Dushku. I liked it a lot – I think growing up in Virginia I could definitely connect to the Appalachian hillbilly trope in horror. I didn’t think about it much, though. It was an entertaining scary movie that I honestly didn’t revisit for several years, maybe even a decade or more. Honestly, I think Alexandre Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes would be my go-to recommendation for inbred cannibal horror of the early 2000s. It doesn’t mean Wrong Turn was bad – it’s not – but it was just never top of mind.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered a few years ago that there were MULTIPLE sequels in the Wrong Turn franchise. I had seen part 2 with Henry Rollins, which I loved. That film should be placed into a 2007 time capsule. I had no idea there was a third movie, much less FOUR MORE. I felt almost a sense of pride in the first one – way to go, Wrong Turn! You inspired a whole franchise. I did not watch any of the sequels past part 2 at that time, though.
Flash forward to 2020 – I’m walking around WalMart in a masked up pandemic haze. Walking around grocery stores or a big box store was literally the only thing to do. I noticed there was a Wrong Turn box set for cheap – like $20 or something. Since we had nothing but time in 2020, I spent the money. My Wrong Turn Odyssey began – and what a journey it has been. SO MANY WRONG TURNS. I got really lost, y’all. All of that work prepared me for the 2021 reboot and I’m so glad I invested the time.
Okay, so now that I’ve written a ton of upfront filler about the meal, let’s jump to the recipe: a definitive ranking of all seven Wrong Turn films. I did the work for you. I sat through them all. There were highs and lots of lows. Like, a lot. Still, I have come to genuinely respect this franchise and particularly Declan O’Brien who I suppose kept the franchise going and might be responsible for the reboot – or at least contributed to the momentum for it. Let’s hope Declan O’Brien isn’t an actual creep… I should probably google that. ONWARD TO THE LIST!
#7: Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead
To be FAAIIIIRRRRRR, the third installment had a tall order. The first Wrong Turn was solid, and the sequel was even more fun. Left for Dead is Declan O’Brien’s first entry into the franchise as director. To be blunt, this one sucks. I had a really hard time sitting through this one. I actually had to start the film over three times and force myself to sit and pay attention. It was a really tough watch. The plot is creative – sort of. The story focuses on a group of tough-guy prisoners and guards. I’d like to think that maybe the goal was for the cannibals to face some true baddies. The prisoners are comically stereotypical – there’s a neo-nazi serial killer, a thief, and a former marine. It’s like Declan O’Brien got drunk and was like, what would it be like if these hillbilies had to face some seriously tough bros? Unfortunately the convoluted plot makes zero sense and is difficult to sit through. This is the first film where Three Fingers is really established as a central character. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD THOUGH WHY DID THEY CHOOSE TO MAKE HIM ACT LIKE AN IMPISH BANSHEE. It’s so, so silly. Poor Three Fingers is portrayed this way for movies 3, 4 and 5. This one came out in 2009, and is HEAVILY influenced by SAW. The subsequent sequels are, too. Torture porn was huge in the early aughts, y’all.
#6: Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort
CUT MY LIFE INTO PIECES, IT’S WRONG TURN LAST RESORT. Coming in at second-to-last place is the most recent sequel to come out before the 2021 reboot. The only redeeming quality about this movie is that the acting is so bad that it’s bonkers. I *LIKE* the premise – a 20-something man named Danny inherits a GIGANTIC hotel/estate. It looks like the Biltmore. It starts out feeling a little like 2001 Maniacs in that there’s a weird congregation of the Daughters of the Revolution or Confederacy or whatever white supremacy war. Saw Tooth and One Eye join their brother, Three Fingers, as the hotel’s dirty little secret. Well, that and the fact that all of the employees are both related and banging each other. The incest jokes are a little more than tired at this point and I’m grateful that the 2021 reboot took a different path. Family is the central theme in this sequel, though. It is revealed that Danny is related to the cannibalistic staff of the hotel, as well as Three Fingers, One Eye and Saw Tooth. While tripping, he drinks the blood of his murdered friend at a weird hillbilly ceremony and decides that HEY OKAY COOL I CAN ALSO BE A CANNIBAL NO PROBLEM. It’s… an effort. I could tell this one was influenced a little bit by Hostel.
#5: Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings
This sequel existed. It happened. It was there. Declan O’Brien brings us to the beginning of the hillbilly cannibal saga and we learn that our inbred villains escaped from a sanitorium. Fast forward, a group of NINE college students take a WRONG TURN on their snowmobiles and take refuge in the ol’ sanitorium. A good ol’ fashioned Appalachian ass whoopin’ ensues. I can’t in good faith recommend Wrong Turn 3, 4, or 6 unless you absolutely must complete the Wrong Turn road trip. Which I understand.
#4: Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines
Honestly there are some redeeming qualities with Bloodlines. The first being that Doug Bradley plays the psycho, murderous patriarch of the inbred Hillicker brothers. There is some decent gore in this one and it at least held my attention. I also appreciated that the film is set around a Halloween music festival in the mountains which just seems like a lot of fun.
#3: Wrong Turn
The OG that started it all! As I mentioned above, this one was outshined in my memory bank by the Texas Chainsaw reboot. But re-watching it was a lot of fun and a nice reminder as to why so many sequels were spawned. The murderous inbred hillbilly formula can’t be beat! Go see Joe Bob Brigg’s “How Rednecks Saved Hollywood” to learn more. I appreciate the grittiness of the original Wrong Turn. I like to believe that the style of Wrong Turn and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake influenced Alexandre Aja’s stellar remake of The Hills Have Eyes. Mad respect to the original Wrong Turn, I just had much more fun watching the sequel and the reboot.
#2: Wrong Turn 2
What a 2007 time capsule. Freaking KIMBERLY CALDWELL makes a cameo as herself. That is some height of American Idol fame right there. The plot of the sequel is too much fun. It pokes fun at the reality tv craze and in some ways this makes the movie ahead of its time. Henry Rollins plays the host of the mock reality tv show and the contestants soon learn that the woods have far more sinister obstacles than whatever Rollins is throwing at them. Oh my gosh- is this what inspired Tropic Thunder? Totally kidding. BUT Wrong Turn 2 is a definite must watch and a solid sequel. The guy who plays the director of the reality show portrayed in the film even wears a Battle Royale shirt – so you know the filmmakers are true horror fans.
#1: Wrong Turn 2021
The Wrong Turn reboot remains my favorite horror film of 2021 as of the time this post is published. I LOVED it. It has a perfect balance of paying homage to the original franchise while going in a completely different direction, which the films really needed to revive and re-energize the franchise. This film is somber, tragic, scary and poignant for 2021. Some of the plot doesn’t make a lick of sense, but when has that ever impacted our love of a horror film? The gore is great, the writing and acting is solid, and the set design keeps you afraid of Appalachia. As a Virginian myself, I was thrilled to see that this entry was set in the Virginia side of the Appalachian Trail. Definitely watch it. It’s REALLY good and I can’t wait to watch it again!