4/14/09

Terrifying Tuesday: Wolf Creek (2005)

G'day, mates! After yesterdays brief stopover in Thailand, we’re off to the land down under for today’s Tuesday Terror. Tonight we’re looking at an epic film about a road trip across the outback, and I’m not talking about Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (but someday I‘ll get around to it). Instead it’s a horrific tale designed to fashion a distantly Australian boogieman. So get your Shrimps on the Barbie, make a few vegemite sandwiches, and let’s take a trip to place called….

Wolf Creek (2005) starring John Jarrett, Cassandra Margrath, Kestie Morassi, and Nathan Phillips. Directed by Greg Mclean. 

A trio of backpackers (Margrath, Morassi, and Phillips) head out for a cross country trip. Leaving from Broome, Australia, the travelers take in the wonder and beauty of the outback. After stopping for gas, they take a detour to tour the Wolf Creek crater, a massive hole left from the impact of a meteor. Returning to their car, they find it unable to start, and with night falling, they find themselves stranded. 

Thankfully a helpful mechanic, Mick Taylor (Jarrett) stops to take a look at their engine. Taylor seems the very model of the rugged Aussie individualist, all charming and quaint, so the trio trusts him when he offers a tow back to his place so he can fix their car. After a night of drinking around the fireside, they wake to find themselves Mick’s captives, and now at his mercy, in the middle of nowhere, with no one knowing they are missing, they must fight to survive. 

The Bugg Picture

This is a film I had heard a lot about from people who both loved and hated it, and I think this is one of those divisive films. I can see how it could be. While the film captures many of the flavors horror films will love, it also has a distinct style all its own which may turn off some viewers. However, if you allow the film to move at its own pace and build the narrative, then I feel it is a very rewarding experience though not without minor flaws. 

Director Mclean has stated he was intending to make a movie which would create an iconic killer for the Great Southern Land which could stand toe to toe with Myers, Voorhees, and Kruger. While I’m not sure that he hit that mark, Mick Taylor (the movie’s killer and not the one time Rolling Stone) is a truly frightening fellow, and each scene John Jarrett appears in if full of menace which at first bubbles just below the surface. By the time Mick’s true nature is shown, Jarrett’s psycho may well make you forget all about how genial Paul Hogan, Olivia Newton John, and even a gaggle of Koalas may seem. It is an astounding performance, and while Jarrett may not have been on my radar before, I will surely be looking into his previous performances now. 

The rest of the cast are also quite good, though their performances are a bit shakier. Nathan Phillips gets a fair amount of character development at the beginning of the film, and his laid back sufer-ish Aussie is enjoyable to watch. Phillips’ performance is also enhances by a nice piece of misdirection which pays off well later on in the film. Both Cassandra Margrath and Kestie Morassi have perhaps the hardest roles in the film. As the main targets of Mick’s vicious torture, the young women draw empathy from the audience without ever crossing that line into helpless female victims. Morassi does and especially good job, and I would love to see her do more genre film work. The big drawback to both of these ladies performances is that they are Australian actresses who for some reason (which still puzzles me) were cast as Brits. While both of their accents start out passable, by the last act of the film, even an untrained ear such as mine could detect the subtle nuances of their real accents shining though. Still apart from this minor complaint, I really commend both of these fine actresses. 

I want to take a moment to talk about one of the major selling points of the film, the tag “Based on True Events”. It’s kind of true, true like Texas Chainsaw of Amityville were based on true events. In 2001, British tourists Peter Falconio and Joanne Lees were attacked by a mechanic named Bradley John Murdoch. Lees managed to escape from Murdoch after he murdered Falconio, and the killer was brought to justice. (She also wrote a book about her ordeal, and there is an excellent interview with her HERE.) Mick Taylor is reportedly based on another Aussie killer, Ivan Milat, who picked up backpackers and hitch hikers and tortured them in the woods. Like Murdoch, he was also caught and sent to jail. So just as Tobe Hooper took his inspiration from Ed Gein to fashion the family in Texas Chainsaw, Mclean found his inspiration in these madmen of Oz. 

Speaking of Mclean, who’s only previous credit as the 2001 short film ICQ, seems the very model of a promising director. Well, that is until one discovers he followed Wolf Creek up with the dreadful 2007 killer Crocodile film Rogue. For the time being I will try and not hold that feature against him. Working with cinematographer Will Gibson, they portray the Outback as both a spacious, beautiful, pristine wilderness and a claustrophobic, secluded land filled with nightmarish shadows. This dichotomy gives the film an incredible visual impact which will leave the dedicated and observant viewer enriched and satisfied. 

There are a couple of complaint I’ve seen about Wolf Creek. First is the pacing. While the horrific elements in the film don’t really kick off until after the halfway point, I really didn’t have a problem with that. Instead this gives up plenty of time to get to know the characters so when the scares start you give a crap about who it’s happening to. Secondly, this may not be a complaint, but I’ve seen some people lump this film into the torture porn category. While there is certainly torture, it plays a minor role in the film and does not have the gratuitous, exploitative feeling one gets from Hostel or the various Saws

Wolf Creek may not have achieved the iconic points that Mclean was striving for, but what it did deliver on is an engaging script punctuated by realized characters and some scenes of truly horrific violence. For anyone who is interested in a thrilling slasher unafraid to stray from the preconceived norms of the genre, check this one out. Not only will you find an engaging film, you’ll also learn important lessons. Lessons like never ,ever, make a Crocodile Dundee joke around an Aussie, and that is fair dinkum, mate.

Bugg Rating
 



6 comments:

  1. I agree. I really dug this one. Not sure why it has been given such a bad rap--maybe it is the pacing, but I don't have cinematic-A.D.D. like a lot of horror fans, especially the younger ones, seem to have, so I had no problem with that.

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  2. I hated this one. Maybe I was too stoned that day, but I watched it for what seemed like two hours, then scanned forward for a while, and nothing ever happened!When people tell me how great it was, I'm like "Where?" I guess there is a bit at the end where something actually happened, but I missed it.

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  3. I too hated this movie. I saw it in the theater and I was really looking forward to loving it. But no, I was so aggravated by the "character development". It seemed to take so long and didn't do much developing for me and I didn't care about the characters at all. Although the knife to the spine scene was pretty effective. I'll have to give it another look, it's been a long time. Great review though!

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  4. I hated it too... That dude playing the bad guy is fucking awesome, though. Shame the movie sucked so bad. And the pacing was not a problem for me - I was enjoying it until those pesky kids starting doing shit that no one in their right mind would do in real life (I know it says it was based on a true story - I wonder how accurate it is - from the sounds of it, not very). I just got increasingly frustrated, and then angry. But again - Jarrett was great.

    And yes, Rogue was the pits.

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  5. I'm glad this one got such a response from all you folks, and as I expected this one really divides the crowd which kinda kicks ass. So thanks for droppin by GGG, dylan, fran, and rev. The comments are appreciated.

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  6. I thought it was terrible. The female has a gun at one point and doesn't use it to kill her tormentor. Instead she very lamely swings it at him. Just lame.

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