The rebooted Wrong Turn is a horror film with some ideas

Wrong Turn (MA, 109 minutes)

Three stars

I haven't seen any of the films in the Wrong Turn horror series that began in 2003. But the new Wrong Turn is a reboot, written by the original film's screenwriter Alan B. McElroy, so it can be judged on its own merits.

What we have here is another in the long line of movies in which there's a very real chance that the inhabitants of rural America will visit that unspeakable horrors on any outsider who dares venture there. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Deliverance and I Spit On Your Grave are just three of the better-known titles, all from the 1970s.

The new Wrong Turn sets up its situation in classic fashion with a few new wrinkles to keep things interesting.

Charlotte Vega, left and Matthew Modine in Wrong Turn. Picture: Rialto

Charlotte Vega, left and Matthew Modine in Wrong Turn. Picture: Rialto

A group of young friends are embarking on a walk along the Appalachian trail, including a gay couple and an interracial couple, white Jen (Charlotte Vega) and her African-American boyfriend Darius (Adain Bradley), an idealist who works for a non-profit organisation. These smugly woke youngsters look down their noses at the "white trash" living in the town, symbolising the tensions between blue and red America that seems all too real.

Apparently, despite their education and sense of superiority, these kids haven't seen many horror movies.

Ignoring the sound advice of a friendly townswoman, they soon leave the marked trail, in search of a Civil War fort reputed to be nearby.

Big mistake.

VERY big mistake.

The beautiful scenery provides an ironic backdrop for the horrors to come. There are nasty booby traps that kill or wound some of them - providing some blood and gross-outs for the gorehounds - and their camaraderie is threatened rather than strengthened.

The survivors' mobile phones are stolen while they sleep, preventing them from summoning help, and they are soon captured by the members of a hidden community that's been hinted at earlier.

It's here the film takes an interesting turn. This society, The Foundation, is not an inbred family of cannibalistic savages. It was started in 1859 by a group of families who wanted to avoid the upcoming destruction and has endured (the members have even developed their own language).

Since one of their members has been killed by one of the hikers, members of The Foundation, led by John (Bill Sage) put the kid on trial. The punishments meted out here include death or darkness (we eventually find out just what this entails, and it's nightmare fuel).

John makes a case for the The Foundation as an alternative to the outside civilisation: it's self-sufficent, comfortably multiracial, everyone contributes, and its members are healthy, death coming from either accident or old age (the improbability that nobody suffers from illnesses that modern medicine could treat is one of the holes in his argument).

A subplot has Scott (Matthew Modine), Jen's father, get concerned after she hasn't phoned him as promised for quite some time. He goes in search of her, and it's not much of a spoiler to say he eventually encounters the same people his daughter and her friends did.

While there's enough in here for people who simply want to enjoy a story of suspense and horror, those looking for some intelligence might find Wrong Turn rewarding too.

While the US undoubtedly has deep divisions, one of the ideas that is put, none too subtly, that what people have in common is more important than their differences. It might be a familiar idea, but it's often forgotten.

The final scene - and it's a crucial one - takes place during the opening credits, so don't bolt for the door. Perhaps inevitably, it leaves the possibility of a sequel open.

There's a lot to criticise about Wrong Turn - its many thin characters, its cliches, its implausibilities - but the film is well made and acted and, importantly, is making an attempt to deal with some ideas and issues that have contemporary relevance. If it isn't as successful a horror movie as, say, Get Out in realising its loftier ambitions, they're still there, and provide some food for thought.

This story This fright flick has some brains first appeared on The Canberra Times.