(director:Mike P. Nelson; screenwriter:Alan B. McElroy/characters by McElroy; cinematographer: Nick Junkersfeld; editor: Tom Elkins; music: Stephen Lukach; cast: Matthew Modine (Scott), Emma Dumont (Milla D’Angelo), Charlotte Vega (Jen Shaw), Adain Bradley (Darian Clemens),  Dylan McTee (Adam Lucas), Vardaan Arora (Gary Amaan), Adrian Favela (Luis Ortiz), Bill Sage (John Venable), Daisy Head (Edith), Damian Maffei (Morgan), Rhyan Elizabeth Hanavan (Ruthie), Tim DeZarn (Nate Roades); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: R; producers: James Harris, Robert Kulzer; Saban Films; 2021)

“Comes with a new look (no cannibal mutant hillbillies) but it keeps the kills bloody violent and innovative.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A reboot for the franchise after 6-horror films starting in 2003, that comes with a new look (no cannibal mutant hillbillies) but it keeps the kills bloody violent and innovative. The new director is Mike P. Nelson (“The Domestics”/”Summer School”), but the original writer Alan B. McElroy returns.

Taking a hike on the Appalachian Trail is the aimless coffee barista server Jen Shaw (Charlotte Vega) and her sketchily drawn African-American boyfriend (Adain Bradley), and some of her obnoxious New Age twenty somethings friends. They are a couple of hand-holding gay guys of color (Vardaan Arora and Adrian Favela), an irritating, privileged, loud-mouth (Dylan McTee) and his smart hippie doctor girlfriend (Emma Dumont). Things are fine until they fail to heed the local warnings of the bar townies and go off the trail. There they take a wrong turn to run into the Foundation, a secretive mountain community from 1859 still fighting the Civil War. They will harm strangers to protect their unconventional way of life.

The film opens with Jen’s father (Matthew Modine), a city person, searching for his missing daughter on the trail, in rural Virginia, from the last spot she texted him. There are flashbacks to six weeks earlier so we can follow what happened to the missing kids.
The Foundation leader of the inbred cult is the menacing John Venable (Bill Sage), and along with his tough daughter (Daisy Head) spot the intruders on their grounds and plan to eliminate them.

The hiking group gets picked off one by one. The first in a logging accident, the others get theirs in the following ways: one by being impaled and another with a hot poker-in-the-eye. If such horror scares makes you wet your pants, this is the kind of nature film that should make you feel at home in the woods. For me, the film grew tedious as it tried to explain things rather than show them and the film’s star–the only capable actor, Modine, is ignored for most of the film to show instead these inexperienced young thesps. Though Vega starts out awful she grows on you by the film’s end.

I must add that in such a gruesome film, the makeup effects (like the smashing heads) by Ryan Schaddelee, were solid and give it a good horror film look.

REVIEWED ON 1/31/2021  GRADE:  C+