Wolf Creek Review
First time director, Greg McLean, takes us to the deserted outback of Western Australia in this sorrow thirsty, visceral piece. It seems that where once horror was a purely subjective experience, and of course still is, with features exploring the ghoulish, the haunted, the psychological and the blood thirsty, now after the hack and slash we're being subjected to something more sinister... the shock treatment for the sheer sake of it.
Two Brit backpackers Kirsty and Liz (Kestie Morassi and Cassandra Magrath respectively) get themselves entwined with young Ben (Nathan Phillips). All three decide to travel overland to Darwin; on route they'll be stopping at Wolf Creek the site of a giant meteor impact. All goes well, their final nights of partying are followed by Ben buying a rundown cheap car; their initial travels towards Wolf Creek are, pretty much, a mundane affair, each taking their own turns at driving, listening to music, smoking some weed... all the credentials of young, happy-go-lucky travellers.
After stopping off at a roadside diner only to be wholly insulted by the locals they continue onwards. Finally coming to rest at Wolf Creek they wander to the crater's circumference to take in the view. On returning to their car though, in the pitch black of night, they find it won't start. Intending to camp out overnight their fortunes change when Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) stumbles upon them; not only does he offer to tow their car back to his camp but he is also willing to repair it free of charge. Obviously if something sounds far too good to be true, then it usually is.
This story is essentially separated into two acts, the first introducing our characters and the journey they make together, the second the brutal abduction and humiliation of our three youngsters. Within the first act the direction's handled well, the cinematography at times is absolutely glorious (shot on hand-held HD Video, not only giving a perfect saturation but also a documentary type feel), and the acting by Philips, Morassi and Magrath comes across well enough presenting characters which are rounded, emotional and most of all likeable.
Then we get into the second act. Mick Taylor comes along as an angelic Crocodile Dundee offering his services. At this point the film's mood changes from an upbeat road movie to a downright nasty piece of work. In the commentary and accompanying documentary McLean states his purpose was to scare the audience. Now call me old fashioned if you will but there's a difference between scare stories and those which ultimately fall into the disgust category. I'm all up for scares, like many other people who watch horror we do so to be taken on an emotional journey without actually having to experience the stark reality of what's on screen. Alas Wolf Creek doesn't take you on that journey at all. OK, so a small, very small, part of the feature where Liz creeps around Mick's desolate camp site is moody, allowing the user to empathise with her emotional state at the time, but in the main the suspense just isn't there. What we are left with is a number of frankly disturbing scenes I wouldn't want to revisit (but had to for this review) and all the clichés which these girls find themselves falling foul of time and time again.
It's the ritual humiliation of the women on offer here that I took a deep dislike to, it seems as though McLean took too much pleasure from lingering on certain scenes for far too long. We know what is happening to Kirsty as she's tied up, do we really need to see it to that degree? Of course some of you out there will say..."Well why not?" and of course that's your own personal taste; it's just not mine! Besides these subjective issues, there are other reasons why really this feature, once it gets into the second act, fails miserably. Knowing the characters from the first act I just can't see them reacting in this way, they stumble from one clichéd scene or mishap to another. Would they have escaped as they did without perhaps putting the boot in a little more? Of course in such a case as this, given the opportunity which they have, you would make damn sure that the perpetrator in question was lacking small spherical objects; why our protagonists don't remains a complete mystery. Even after this facade it gets no better for them and at this point not only do our characters stumble around a little but so does the plot itself. It makes no sense what so ever that Mick should appear the way he does, when he does and how he does. But I guess all directors have to learn.
I enjoy a good scare and I'm not adverse to some shock, I mean let's face it it's a pretty shocking place this world at times. What I can't abide though is violence purely for violence's sake and unfortunately that's all really what's on offer here.