Wrong Turn: Director Mike P. Nelson On Adding To The Legacy

Wrong Turn is now one of the longest-running franchises in horror history, and the latest entry is now available on digital, On Demand, DVD, and Blu-ray. It is a bold new direction for the franchise, featuring The Foundation, a new group of antagonists that you will love to meet. I had A lot of fun with the film and found it to be very worthy of taking its place in the Wrong Turn cannon. The franchise going forward is going to be in an interesting place. We recently got to chat with the director of the film, Mike P. Nelson, on adding to the legacy of the franchise while also making it feel unique and like something new.

Trailer And Poster For New Wrong Turn Film Debuts, Releasing Soon
Wrong Turn 2021 Poster

Wrong Turn Is Back In A Big Way

Wrong Turn is one of the longest-running horror franchises that we have. What was it like coming in and putting your own stamp on it?

You know, it was actually a lot of fun. I remember reading the script. I mean, I read the first draft of the script back in like late 2017. And I like the way that the script made me feel, and it is exactly the way that I feel right now watching it. I remember going in knowing full well what Wrong Turn was and, you know, its sequels. I haven't seen most of the sequels, but I knew what I was getting into. And you think, what's happening in those first like 40 or 50 pages, and then you just get this hard left. And I remember thinking to myself, "What is happening here?!?" And immediately, you know, I gravitated towards that. I grabbed on to that and thought, this is really cool. There's something really unique about this script. It, of course, needed a little bit of work. And, you know, there were some things that I wanted to tweak and do as a director, but ultimately the base, like if you were to look at what it was, it was really unique.

Wrong Turn: Director Mike P. Nelson On Adding To The Legacy
(L-R) Matthew Modine and Director Mike P. Nelson behind the scenes of the horror film WRONG TURN, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

That's kind of writer mentality that I want to work with is somebody that, you know what, we know that this has been the same for this long. And we know that it's what people are expecting. But we want to do something really, really different, something unique. Yeah, it was a blast to do it and also a blast to kind of hear and see people's reactions to it. Both the good and bad reactions, because we knew full well that we weren't going to win the hearts of everybody with this movie. I was very, very clear from the beginning. But we knew we wanted to make something unique and different. And sometimes, you know, that can get a lot of real surprise and praise. And it was fun going in, knowing we all kind of went into it as a team. This is what we're going to do. We're going to do it right. Let's go.

Yeah. It takes a lot of gumption and effort to put something like this out there, especially introducing something new to the franchise, like The Foundation. It was very cool to see you guys subvert those expectations and bring something so fresh and new to the concept. What went into the creation of them and their look?

Yes, The Foundation. You know, I remember from from from the very first time that I pitched it was about finding what that what made them, them. I had this feeling, and I had this thought about them. They've been living in the woods for close to two hundred years now. Their thought process, their way of thinking that they would have gone up to that mountain, started this community, and would have never, ever changed. Nothing that you see in that foundation has been…we go through the decades, and you have the 50s, and the 60s look very different, and the 70s are very different from the 60s and so forth. And the 80s, of course, were just insane. And if people haven't had those decade changes…they dress the same way, use the same things for over 200 years because there's no need to change because it works. That was something that was really important to me to showcase here that if you think back to though the years, just before the civil war and living up on a mountain, being a mountain man, how do you build your houses? What sort of materials are you using? You know, you're going to have some of those old things from back in the day still around because you haven't really collected anything new. So it was important to me that they are very firmly rooted in their beliefs. They are very firmly rooted in who they are as a community and what they use and how they portray themselves and how they build their structures, and how they dress. And that doesn't change just like they're right and wrong mentality. It doesn't change. It's solid. Rock-solid. 

Wrong Turn: Director Mike P. Nelson On Adding To The Legacy
(Left) Bill Sage as Venable in the horror film WRONG TURN, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

I found myself just wishing that we could get like a whole series of films on just The Foundation.

It would be so much fun to explore that. And, you know, obviously, if we get the opportunity to do another one of these, Allen and I have been talking about what we can do to sort of introduce a little bit more and get a little bit more backstory while keeping them mysterious. I love when an antagonist still has that mystery behind them. But you can gradually sort of feed them a little bit of information to kind of give you more clues as to who they are, why they do what they do. I think that's great. And I think it's such a huge and important part of filmmaking. Just being able to work with Rochelle Berliner, who is our structure designer, she also brought so much to the table. When you see that little community, we built the whole thing like we were literally still pounding in nails and roofing while we were shooting that sequence.

One of the hallmarks of the Wrong Turn franchise is the setting of the woods. You did a fantastic job of making the woods feel like their own character, bringing that whole world to life. Was it important for you to focus more about The Foundation in their society? Or was it important to you to keep the feeling in the woods and the franchise alive?

It was 100 percent. There are going to be a lot of people who disagree with me on this because I know that everybody thinks that the main character is the Wrong Turn franchise is the Three Finger. I actually disagree with that. I feel like the main character for the Appalachians is Appalachia. I feel like, for me, being able to not only shoot very close since we shot in southeastern Ohio, around the foothills of the Appalachians,  Yeah. And it was really important to be able to shoot with the people from that area, the woods, and use the landscape. You know, we had these park rangers showing us all around to all these places that are very much Appalachian landscape. Yes, it was really important to me to like to make the woods come alive, make the woods that claustrophobic place. We shot it, keeping the field very shallow, so you can't really see what's behind you, and anywhere you get, it could be a misstep. Obviously, we wanted to give it kind of our own flavor, but it was important, especially in that first half of the movie.

Wrong Turn: Director Mike P. Nelson On Adding To The Legacy
Adain Bradley as Darius in the horror film WRONG TURN, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

You guys subverted the expectations of the slasher genre as I know them. Was that a big thing to do on your checklist to do?

Yes. And that's for better or for worse. We knew going into this that not everybody was going to like that. And that's fine. But you know, we also really wanted to make a bold decision with the new direction. And I feel like we really did that. I feel like we did a pretty good job of that. And to be honest with you, I think it's now my favorite in the franchise that it really does take some big risks, especially when you slap the Wrong Turn title onto the front of it. If you come in with all these expectations and about a third of the way through the movie, you realize you're watching something completely different.  And that's what we were hoping for. 

I also liked the tone of the movie. You touch on a lot of the societal ills that we're seeing around the play out in the country the last couple of years. They come into play but's not like it's not like you were beating us over the head with it. Was it important to you to show how different areas of the country might differ experience-wise for different groups of people and how some of these interactions play out from different perspectives?

Yes, 100 percent. That was important. You know, when I read the script back in 2017, we were in somewhat tumultuous times, not anywhere near what we saw in 2020, though. But, the script even then echoed stuff that was really to come, if you will. Little did we know that we would have a very, very explosive year like we just had. It's interesting when you look at all sides. I think in the movie, you do have a pretty clear view of The Foundation. But they also have some point of views that aren't so hard to agree with either. And I think you can look at them, you can even look at the townsfolk who are probably a little bit more red state, Bible Belt people, and when we see all these points of view, it might seem cluttered. It might seem a little gray, wishy-washy. Like, "Wait, what are you trying to say here? I don't understand; he's not taking a stance on anything." Honestly, I feel like that's why it works. That's why it's so interesting because I feel like, especially due to media, we get to see a point of view that is told to us.

Wrong Turn: Director Mike P. Nelson On Adding To The Legacy
Charlotte Vega as Jen in the horror film WRONG TURN, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.

And I feel like when we're given what we're given in the film, sort of the underbelly of the underneath of all these people, we want to understand why they believe or why they do what they do. Nobody in this film does only completely the right thing, yet nobody just does bad things. Everybody has both sides to them. I feel like I haven't seen movies where we actually get to explore that all that much, you know what I mean? I think that there's some fun to be had there, where you feel that bit of confusion. "I don't like these kinds of people, but you've got a point." I know that it makes people feel uncomfortable. I know some people don't like that. They love something that's more black and white. Yes, that's right. That's wrong, and it gives them something to grab onto. We all grew up with those kinds of movies. The hero that goes after the bad guy, he gets the girl, and the day is saved. Good versus evil. And that's great. And I think that there is an important tale there that we need to continue to explore in our society. But this is not that movie. This is a movie where it's more complicated than that; you know what I mean? And I think that that's going to be challenging for people when they're watching it. Not everybody's going to like that. But I think that it is something to ponder and explore. I think that's really exciting.

About Jeremy Konrad

Jeremy Konrad has written about collectibles and film for almost ten years. He has a deep and vast knowledge of both. He resides in Ohio with his family.