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We’re All Gonna End Up Hillbilly Barbecue: Ranking The Wrong Turn Franchise

In the majority of horror franchises, there seems to be a trend of sacrificing quality to pad out runtimes with new and inventive kills. We’ve seen this time and time again with franchises like Saw, Friday the 13th, and Hellraiser , to name a few. Unfortunately, the Wrong Turn series inevitably took this same route. Wrong Turn started with a fairly strong film, and an even stronger second film, before going completely downhill. While the majority are still fun to watch, the later films in the series are bogged down with way too many issues. So how do they stack up? Let’s take a look. (Also, the use of “film” to refer to certain entries and “movie” for others is very much intentional; those that have merit will be referred to as “films”.)

7. Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines (Written and Directed by Declan O’Brien)

Three Fingers confronts a news anchor in the woods on her run, before Maynard chops her hand off.

A group of friends travels to a small mining town in West Virginia for some sex, drugs, and, presumably sh*tty music during the 10th annual Mountain Man Festival, which according to a reporter at the beginning of the movie, “rivals Coachella.” After a car crash, the friends start to beat the hell out of Maynard (Doug Bradley), which results in all of them being arrested. Maynard tells Sheriff Angela (Camilla Arfwedson) to let him go, or his “boys” will come after her. Once the town’s power gets cut, things escalate into a half-hearted attempt to finish the story as fast as possible.

There is so much wrong with this movie. Like, abhorrently wrong. This is our first introduction to Maynard in this form, as when we see him in Wrong Turn and Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, he is much older and has far fewer teeth. Honestly, it is completely unbelievable that in the five years between the second and fifth entries, Maynard goes from a nearly toothless, barely coherent Wayne Robson to a younger, relatively normal Doug Bradley.

Wrong Turn 5 also features the worst cold open kill of the entire franchise. As a result, it sets expectations very low from the start, and then fails to even live up to those by at least offering some entertainment value.

Looking like it was shot on a potato, and filmed on the most unrealistic-looking set to ever grace a film screen, Wrong Turn 5 is a complete waste of 90 minutes. You would think that if a small town was having a festival that “rivals Coachella,”  they would have, I don’t know, more than three police officers on duty? Don’t you think they would call in some extra help from neighboring counties? Or at least hire some security? Ugh, this movie is all-around frustrating.

6. Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort (Written by Frank H. Woodward, Directed by Valeri Milev)

Sawtooth and Three Fingers brutally take down a biker in the woods with barbed wire to the face!

In no way does putting this movie above Wrong Turn 5 mean it is any better. Wrong Turn 6 is a shallow movie with nothing to offer, so it fills its runtime with gratuitous sex and a few kills. There is nothing in the rule book that says a campy slasher movie cannot be a good movie. The one thing this movie has is its set design. One of the biggest downfalls of Wrong Turn 5 is how fake and hollow it all looks. At least in Wrong Turn 6 the set is absolutely stunning, looks lived in, and has immense depth to it.

The cold open barbed wire kill is a fantastic practical effect, and it looks absolutely gnarly. At the end of the day, this film is nothing more than a beat-for-beat rehash of Texas Chainsaw 3D. Not to mention this film is basically a soft reboot, though there was no discussion of it and it was billed as just another Wrong Turn movie. Oh, and also the initial release of DVDs and Blu-rays had to be recalled because they used actual missing person posters without getting the proper approval to use the images! What does this mean? Well, every single photo in this entire movie is blurred out in the subsequent release. Yeah. A good 10% of this movie is just blur.

5. Wrong Turn 3: Left For Dead (Written by Connor James Delaney, Directed by Declan O’Brien)

The crew of correctional officers and convicts makes its way through the woods, with hopes of finding a town...or a phone.

Wrong Turn 3 was the first movie in the franchise directed by Declan O’Brien, and immediately there was a huge shift in tone. The film feels cheap and doesn’t look as interesting as the first two. A corrections officer on his last day at work has to transport a group of violent criminals a week earlier than planned after a supposed breakout attempt. They take a backroad, where their vehicle promptly crashes thanks to the cannibals.

The majority of the kills are the convicts, whom we are made to dislike intensely. The only exceptions to this are the undercover U.S. Marshal posing as a convict and the one convict whose guilt is called into question. This leads me to the question of why are we supposed to care if they live or die? Obviously, we are watching a slasher movie and are expecting a body count, but there is little to no reason to care about people who have committed heinous crimes getting picked off one by one.

On top of all of that, this movie is the one where the quality of Three Fingers’ SFX makeup starts getting worse and worse. There are a couple of great and brutal practical kills in this one, but on the whole it just doesn’t really work as a movie. The characters are akin to cardboard cutouts of humans. Hell, a cardboard cutout has more charisma than any of these actors.

4. Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings (Written and Directed by Declan O’Brien)

The doctor in charge of the asylum gets brutally ripped apart after the cannibal brothers break out of their cells

The first movie in the franchise to be written and directed by Declan O’Brien and…oh, boy. While parts of Wrong Turn 3 still feel like a Wrong Turn movie, in Bloody Beginnings we leave the familiar setting of the woods and enter an abandoned asylum. I should add that this movie is only ranked as high as it is because of how crazy the kills are; otherwise, it is just as bad as Left For Dead.

Instead of one or two opening kills in our cold open, we get the patients of the asylum breaking out and wreaking havoc. One of the most intense kills in this movie is when the doctor gets drawn and quartered, which looks absolutely fantastic.

Bloody Beginnings is just that—a beginning. We are taken back in time, making Bloody Beginnings the first prequel of the series. We get to see Sawtooth, One Eye, and Three Fingers through multiple stages of adolescence. Unfortunately, this movie continues the trend of absolutely horrid creature makeup.

The characters in this installment are empty blood sacks, existing solely to provide bloodshed. Sex scenes are sloppily thrown in to titillate viewers, rather than having them used as some sort of plot device. The big thing this movie is known for is the f*cked up fondue scene, which is just absolutely brutal. It’s the one moment in the movie where it feels like there was thought and care put into the production.

3. Wrong Turn: The Foundation (Written by Alan B. McElroy, Directed by Mike P. Nelson)

A member of the Foundation wearing a deer skull mask hunts the woods for the group of people trespassing on their property

Wrong Turn: The Foundation, also known as Wrong Turn 2021, is the first of the series that was actually shot in America! One of the more interesting things about this film is that Alan B. McElroy, who wrote the first film, is back as screenwriter. Since he created the original characters, I’m not exactly sure why he decided to take the reboot in this direction, but after Bloodlines and Last Resort, I’m not really complaining.

I knew very little about this film going into it, as I stayed away from all trailers and promotional materials. Needless to say, I was very surprised when this film took a completely different direction. As with Wrong Turn and Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, this film is coherent, looks fantastic, and has a wild story. A group of friends hiking the Appalachian Trail, despite being warned, stray off course and end up mistakenly killing a member of The Foundation.

Rather than the mutant cannibals of yore, the Foundation is a group of people who live in the woods, far from the modern amenities we take for granted. They stick to themselves, and the townsfolk let them live their lives. It is only after the accidental murder of one of their own that the Foundation captures our protagonists and puts them on trial.

The idea of taking us away from cannibals and giving us a story of two wildly different groups of people is captivating. This is a story about not judging a book by its cover; it’s about acceptance and unity.

While the kills, script, and acting in this are stellar, it doesn’t feel like a Wrong Turn movie. And that’s okay. The Foundation stands on its own, with beautiful cinematography and solid direction. If only the other sequels took this much care and effort in crafting a film. Oh, and the film has Damian Maffei in it, and I am always down to see what he can do with the roles he is given.

2. Wrong Turn (Written by Alan B. McElroy, Directed by Rob Schmidt)

Our protagonists go on the search for a phone to call a tow truck, after their unfortunate car accident

I think now is a good time to talk about this. The reason I wanted to cover this franchise is that I was completely obsessed with the first two entries for a very long time in college. I don’t even think I could count how many times I have watched the first two. While it is not a groundbreaking film by any means, Wrong Turn feels like one of the better early aughts slashers that saturated the market. The characters are smart, they are thrown into an unfortunate situation, and there is a fulfilling finale.

Wrong Turn stars a bunch of hardbodies, no sex, and a gratuitous amount of blood and gore. But seriously, the cast is super hot. You have Jeremy Sisto, Eliza Dushku, Emmanuelle Chriqui, and Desmond Harrington. After an accident in the middle of Bear Mountain Road, our protagonists go searching for a gas station or phone so they can get a tow truck. Unfortunately for them, they are also being hunted by a group of inbred cannibals!

One thing Wrong Turn does well is visual storytelling. Rather than shoving absurd, forced dialogue down our throats, we learn about the cannibals through visuals. Since this is the first film in the franchise, we are learning about these killer cannibals at the same time these hardbodies are. This film has what I consider the only true moment of tension in the entire franchise, which is when the four protagonists break into the cannibals’ decrepit, presumably terrible-smelling house in search of a phone. The cannibals soon come home, forcing the protagonists to hide while the cannibals eat one of their friends and then promptly fall asleep. Not a single other Wrong Turn film has ever had as much tension as this scene.

1. Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (Written by Turi Meyer and Alfredo Septién, Directed by Joe Lynch)

Three Fingers chases down a group of a survival reality show contestants, with brutal intentions

Joe motherf*cking Lynch!!! Joe Lynch is a criminally underrated director who has been screwed over by studio interference far too many times. He is a wonderful filmmaker who knows the genre inside and out. Wrong Turn 2 shows it. Having established himself as a director of music videos, Wrong Turn 2 was his feature film debut…and what a film to debut with!

Wrong Turn 2: Dead End takes the early aughts slasher feeling from the first film and creates a full-fledged 80s homage. It is raw, dirty, bloody, and crazily fun. Dead End follows a group of people making a survival reality TV show in the woods. The show is hosted by none other than Henry Rollins! So let’s see, so far we have Joe Lynch directing and Henry Rollins starring; you literally can’t go wrong with that combination.

Whereas every other movie after this one, except for The Foundation, feels like cheap, cookie-cutter crap, Joe Lynch made a film that not only stands out in the franchise, but in the genre as well. If you have not seen a Wrong Turn movie, and are only going to watch one of them, this is the one to watch. Also, having the film take place during the shooting of a reality show makes it feel meta and interesting. You cannot go wrong with this one.

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Written by Brendan Jesus

I am an award-winning horror screenwriter, rotting away in New Jersey.

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