It’s rare these days, but sometimes a reboot outdoes the original. That’s the case with 2021’s Wrong Turn from director Mike P. Nelson, which is a little more sophisticated than its predecessors, but just as bloody. I sat down with the director to talk about the film.
HorrorFuel: “I must say, I was impressed by Wrong Turn, it’s rare that I say I love a reboot, so take it as a serious compliment.”
Mike P. Nelson: “Awesome! It’s a little different.”
HorrorFuel: “It feels a little more sophisticated, I guess that’s a good way to explain it. I was a little worried when it was first announced. I always am when I hear the word “reboot.” I wondered just how different it would be.
Mike P. Nelson: “Oh, well thank you. Oh my gosh, well I mean, that was a gamble we took with this one. We were like, ‘We either do it all the way or we don’t do it all.”
HorrorFuel: “The original has its own particular brand of charm, but I really like your version. I like that it has more depth than just a bunch of inbred hillbilly rednecks running around killing folks.”
Mike P. Nelson: “As you said, the original can be a lot of fun.”
HorrorFuel: “Your version is a big step up.”
Mike P. Nelson: “I appreciate that.”
Horror Fuel: “How did it come to be?”
Mike P. Nelson: “So, late 2017, my manager Noah Rosen, gave me a script. And told that they were thinking about remaking Wrong Turn. And I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh! You’re giving me this?’ And Allen [Alan B. McElroy] is also repped by Noah. Noah hasn’t done me wrong yet so I decided to read it. I sat down and read it and it felt like a Wrong Turn movie. Then I got to that midway point and everything changes. I was like, ‘What the heck is going on here?’ This isn’t your average Wrong Turn movie. This is something else, something unique. There’s something being said here even with all the killing and brutality. There was also something grounded in the real world about this that I feel like the other ones, at least the latest sequels, lacked. It was interesting. I didn’t know how I felt about it right away which I completely understand people when they watch this is going to feel that way. I felt that way reading the script for the first time. I was thinking, ‘What is this? What is happening?’ But when I thought about it for a while, I knew we could do something cool, really gnarly stuff with this. We could really subvert the expectations and make something new and unique. The fact that our producers and the studio really wanted to do and try something bold says a lot right now.
I think there’s a lot of independent films – and I consider this one – coming out that are very new and fresh and have a really strong point of view than a lot of big studio films that play it safe. They’re crowd-pleasers and make money and that’s it. When I started talking with these guys, they were saying ‘We want to do this and make it and really go for it.’ I was like, ‘If you guys want to go all the way in for it, I’m in.’ I thought it could be really really cool and unique. We were all on the same page. We all wanted to do something that was bold and unexpected and all the way through post-production, We were trying to find a way to twist things and how to cut things where it felt different and not like every single horror film that you’ve seen, something different from the other Wrong Turn movies. We wanted to do and say something else.”
HorrorFuel: “You definitely accomplished it. It’s fantastic. I think it is unique. You’ve got traps like the original, but…”
Mike P. Nelson: “That was part of the fun, being able to give a shout out to Wrong Turns, like the first one. That’s what you get in the first 30 minutes of the movie. You get a taste of that original Wrong Turn. We shot it in our own way, had our own look and vibe. But you’ve got the traps, the young adults running for their lives, all that stuff, but when everything changes, at that point you don’t know what you are going to get so everything feels fresh, everything feels new. That’s challenging I think, especially going into a movie where that’s the case.”
HorrorFuel: “It also has a great story and it was more than just people getting killed. There was real thought behind it. The characters are great, especially Jen played by Charlotte Vega. She’s not your average final girl. She’s kind and doesn’t act first and think last.”
Mike P. Nelson: “Yes. And that’s very much Adam, the guy who goes off the rails a little bit. He’s the opposite of Jen.”
HorrorFuel: “You want to cheer for Jen. The others, well, not so much.”
Mike P. Nelson: “Exactly. She was a treat to work with for sure. Every single time we had to roll camera on her, she knew exactly what to do.”
HorrorFuel: “I love that it isn’t just a couple of shacks, that it’s a real community with their own traditions and way of life. Can you explain their language? It feels like it has a realistic aspect to it.”
Mike P. Nelson: “So, their language, is actually based on a real language that exists right now called Faroese that comes from the Faroe Islands. What we were trying to do is we were trying to look for a unique language that not many people had heard of, but that there are people that know how to speak it. We had a language expert, and she helped us try to locate languages that she could actually translate and help our actors with so that they could learn in a short amount of time not only how to speak the language but how they could express themselves with it. Faroese felt kind of Scandinavian, kind of Norse which we really wanted. I think in the original draft of the script, it said it was Old Norse which is an old, ancient language that’s very Viking-like. We really didn’t have much information on that language. It’s a rare language, so we didn’t a ton of experts on it. Faroese, is similar but had this sort of roughness and people could say it forcefully or if they had to say it gently, it felt cohesive. So, yeah it’s an actual language that we tried our damnedest to speak it as best as we could.”
HorrorFuel: “That’s amazing. I love that you went so far as to add such detail and realism. That’s major. And you’re right. It does sound great. Details like that make movies stand out, you know? A lot of filmmakers wouldn’t have taken it so seriously. I’m impressed!”
Mike P. Nelson: “That’s exactly what we were hoping to hear.”
HorrorFuel: “Another thing that stands out is the traps. How were those designed?”
Mike P. Nelson: “Some of them were scripted and some of them we had to figure out. For the most part, Alan had them written in the script, and then I sat down with Steve Tolin of Tolin Special Effects out of Ohio where we shot the film. We just talked about designs and he drew some sketches and I gave him some drawings and went back and forth until we finally landed it. Some of the drawings of the traps were really fantastic. Then he and his crew would build these things and make great molds and they made them all safe for everybody. It was really just a couple of artists and a production designer talking, giving real actual objects that we could use and put together like railroad spikes, spindles. For the one that crushes the two hunters, that was something that we changed in the script and used a different trap. We asked, ‘What is something that could fall and smash somebody?’ That was one that we had a lot of fun with. We had to find the right tree in the woods that we could actually make this thing work with. There was a pulley system. It’s a smartly done trap by this group of people. And it worked, it really worked, which was a lot of fun. It was really exciting for me to see all these things come to life and actually work. We actually dropped this thing on a guy. Man, the stuff we were able to do. It’s super exciting. Sorry, I get very passionate about it.”
HorrorFuel: “There’s nothing wrong with getting passionate. I love it when filmmakers get excited about their films. It makes me excited about watching the movies.”
Mike P. Nelson: “It was a lot of fun.”
HorrorFuel: “Here’s a hard question, if you had to pick one, which would be your favorite trap?”
Mike P. Nelson: “I would say…I really like the tree smash one or the one with the railroad spikes that drop on the two hunters. The reason I like that one is that it’s a double whammy. You get a guy into a hole so that his friend comes to rescue him and then they step on a trap and then that thing takes both of them out. That’s a psychopathic mind [laughter] and I love that”.
HorrorFuel: “When you work in the horror genre you’re allowed to be a little bit twisted.”
Mike P. Nelson: “We get to play. It’s a benefit of being in the world of movies. We get to explore those kinds of things. It’s a lot of fun.”
HorrorFuel: “It’s always great when you can love your job. And oh, my god! That hot poker is twisted as hell [laughter]!”
Mike P. Nelson: “What’s interesting about that – there are two sides to this hot poker thing. People are going to be like, ‘Oh, I wish I could have seen it go into his eyeball.” Yet, there’s something to me that I find it all depends on what you show and what you don’t. I love riding that line. I like being able to play with getting to that point where you can cut away and people can feel it like with the character that goes through this and you see the steam that rushes out of his head. I think there are more effective ways to showing violence than just showing it. In my own style, I like to play with that because when you do show the violence, then it’s very powerful.”
HorroFuel: “You end up with a scene where the mind creates something a lot more horrific than what you could put on the screen. And I think it was a great choice not to show that moment.”
Mike P. Nelson: “Thank you. I agree.”
To witness all of the great traps that the franchise is famous for, fantastic characters, the language, and the clever story, you’re going to have to see Mike P. Nelson’s Wrong Turn for yourself. Luckily, you don’t have to wait. Wrong Turn, which we call “a bloody good movie” in our review, is out on VOD, Blu-ray, and Digital on Tuesday, February 23, 2021.