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Is Wrong Turn Based On A True Story?

Oh "Wrong Turn," you beautifully depraved piece of horror cinema, you. The series follows a group of cannibals lurking in the forests of West Virginia who stalk unsuspecting hikers, rock-climbers, and campers before slaughtering them in various different grisly ways. Although the franchise started out strong in 2003, it took something of a nosedive after the second installment as various filmmakers attempted to expand the lore and history of the various cannibal families. Unsurprisingly, it didn't win any Academy awards, but there's still plenty to enjoy for horror fans and gorehounds.

The series got a new lease of life in 2021 with a reboot from Saban Pictures, starring the likes of "Stranger Things" baddie Matthew Modine and "The Gifted" star Emma Dumont. It reimagined "Wrong Turn" into a folk horror as well as being part of the slasher genre, with the infamous cannibals gruesomely hunting those who trespass on their sacred land. However, the basis for "Wrong Turn" clearly comes from a surprisingly real story.

While there's never been a specific discussion about where scriptwriter Alan McElroy got the idea for the original 2003 film, there are too many similarities with the legend of Sawney Bean for it to be coincidental.

Alexander Bean

Alexander Bean, aka Sawney Bean, is one of Scotland's most infamous grisly tales. Born in the 16th century, Sawney fled his comfortable life in East Lothian, having no interest in working for the family business. As per the BBC, he eventually partnered with an accused witch named Black Agnes Douglas ... which doesn't sound suspicious at all. Together, they spawned a huge family, which only grew bigger through incestuous relationships between the children. Yikes. They had made their home in a large cave, venturing out and attacking travelers on the roads, killing them for their possessions before dismembering their corpses.

When they were eventually tracked down by a mob sent by King James I — or King James IV depending on the version of the tale — body parts were found preserved in jars and also hung up on the walls. There are a few different versions of how the story plays out, though, as conflicting reports claim the entire clan were publicly executed — with the men dismembered while the women and children were burned at the stake. Another version suggests the family was forced to suffocate to death in their cave when gunpowder was placed at the entrance. Either way, they had a pretty grim fate.

The BBC also noted that Wes Craven read about the Sawney Bean legend in the '70s, which inspired him to write "The Hills Have Eyes," so there's some shared tissue between that and "Wrong Turn," too. But it's hard not to draw the comparisons between Sawney and the cannibals in "Wrong Turn" franchise.