This year’s reboot of the Wrong Turn franchise featured a number of inventive and highly unpleasant demises, but one particularly gruesome death almost resulted in the film being slapped with the dreaded NC-17 rating.
The film sees a sextet of twentysomethings hiking the Appalachian Trail, only to ignore the warning they are given and stray from the beaten path. After one of them is caught in a trap, he is seen being carried by two masked strangers, and after getting loose proceeds to beat one of them to death with a tree branch. The group are captured and put on trial for murder by isolated community the Foundation, and Adam, the one who killed the settlement member, is sentenced to death and bludgeoned with the same makeshift club he used.
We see the rest of the group helplessly watch the killing, their terrified reactions and faces spattered with his blood giving us all the indication we need of just how brutal is the act they’re witnessing. However, the original intent was to not cut away from Adam’s head, but show it gradually caving in as it’s repeatedly smashed into a bloody pulp.
Director Mike P. Nelson explained his thinking for the scene.
“Originally, my intention for that moment was that we really haven’t seen that much violence on screen up into that point. A lot of it’s off-screen or hidden, and that was sort of the moment where you are supposed to be confronted with the most brutal form of violence in the movie yet. It’s probably still the most brutal piece of violence in the film, but the idea was to not cut away and to show it in its full glory.”
It’s simultaneously a longstanding but poorly understood piece of horror wisdom that what you can’t see is often scarier than what you’re shown directly. In cutting away from the viciousness of Adam’s departure from the mortal coil it allows our imagination to conjure the necessary intensity, which may well be even greater than what was intended to be portrayed. It also sidesteps the issue of many jaded horror fans being inured to overt gore, some proudly so, and allows the viscera to be whatever they need it to be.
It may have been a reluctant decision to edit out Wrong Turn’s most explicit piece of violence, but it ended up making the film slightly better.