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Wolf Creek 2 – film review

February 26, 2014

WOLF CREEK 2

Welcome to Australia.

Reviewed on Friday 21st February 2014

john jarratt - wolf creek 2

Directed by Greg McLean. Written by Greg McLean & Aaron Sterns. Starring: John Jarratt, Ryan Corr, Shannon Ashlyn and Philipe Klaus. Running time: 106 mins.

Struth! – ‘Ol Mutton Chops is back! It’s been eight long years since we last saw     self-proclaimed Outback legend and serial killer Mick Taylor doing his thing, and it appears the intervening years have done nothing to slow him down. Wolf Creek 2 follows closely the trend set by previous down-and-dirty, low budget horror flicks (such as Evil Dead 2 and Phantasm II) in that the sequels to these films are almost always more polished and less nasty than their progenitors. A parallel can also be drawn with the divergence in tone between the original The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Tobe Hooper’s follow-up Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Much like Hooper’s sequel, McLean forgoes the grim aura of the original Wolf Creek and     injects a hefty dose of action and dark humor into the proceedings – along with an undercurrent of Aussie-centric satire (satire which may be lost on international auds, but not at the expense of the ghoulish fun to be had).

John Jarratt fully inhabits the role of the psychopathic, foreigner-hating Mick Taylor – the iconic role which (ironically) made him an international cult darling (a long way from hosting Better Homes & Gardens – the 90s ‘mom & pop’ television lifestyle show which Jarratt; a popular actor, was best known for) – and he is truly frightening; a character about as far away from Paul Hogan as one can imagine.

Co-star Ryan Corr also gives an oustanding performance as the put-upon British tourist who stumbles by chance into the horror – coming between ‘a man and his meal’. The relationship between Taylor and Paul is very similar to that of Halsey and Ryder in Robert Harmon’s 1987 horror road movie The Hitcher. In that film, Ryder was essentially a force of nature with no discernable reason for terrorizing Halsey – other than to seriously fuck with his head. Likewise here in Wolf Creek 2, Taylor is simply toying with Paul for his own amusement. And there’s a wildly kinetic chase sequence – beautifully edited by Sean Lahiff (involving Taylor pursuing Paul from behind the wheel of a stolen semi-trailer) – which is very similar to certain scenes in Harmon’s movie. Another movie fondly referenced during this sequence is Spielberg’s Duel – especially that film’s climactic cliff-top finale.

wolf creek 2 - jarrat and corr

Of course it wouldn’t be Wolf Creek without scenes of bloodshed and shocking violence and this new film won’t disappoint on that score (there’s a higher body count for starters). And Mick Taylor is far more talkative here than in the previous film – which does much to provide added depth to his character. In one truly terrifying and excrutiatingly tense scene, Taylor subjects Paul to a pop quiz on Australian history and trivia; a series of ten questions which Paul must answer correctly or lose a finger for each question he gets wrong (if he answers five questions correctly, Taylor assures him – he will be set free). Feigning ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ while tied to a chair; Paul attempts to engage his captor in a sing-a-long featuring iconic Aussie anthems – with the final verse from the novelty song ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport’ taking on a cleverly ironic and chilling significance it never had before. There is also some terrific acting here from Corr during this scene – where Paul drops his facade of jocularity momentarily and trembles uncontrollably when Taylor steps out of the room. During the sequence which follows (echoing a dropped scene from the original) we are given a guided tour of Taylor’s newest lair; a grotesque charnel house of fairy lights and shackled corpses – as lurid and bizarre as anything found in Hooper’s original Chain Saw (and its sequel).

To be perfectly honest – I wasn’t particularly taken with the original Wolf Creek as much as some people. Despite the lengthy time devoted to fleshing out the three leads (virtually half the movie) – I never felt any of them were particularly well-drawn and I certainly didn’t feel there was any palpable chemistry between the two who     were meant to share a mutual attraction for one another. With this new film, however, McLean shows an assured hand at eliciting fully-rounded performances from his cast (again – relative unknowns). The chemistry between Shannon Ashlyn and Philipe Klaus (as doomed German back-packers) is right up there on the screen; which makes their distressing fates all the more affecting.

wolf creek 2 - truck

Visually speaking; McLean has eschewed the hand-held, documentary style of the original, in favor of a more classical aesthetic seen in genre films from the eighties. Toby Oliver’s lensing lends the film an expensive sheen and shows off the beauty     of the Australian landscape (the South Australian locations; particularly the Flinders Ranges, are spectacular). The atmospherically dread-laden score by Johnny Klimek (Run Lola Run, One Hour Photo, Cloud Atlas) is a major contributor to generating tension in the movie. And there is a highly amusing use of the song ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ – played over a scene with a mob of Roos bounding across the landscape only to be … no, actually, you’ll have to see the movie to see what happens next.

The only real issue I have with the film is the fact that it claims to be based on real events. While this claim was tenuously legit the first time around (although ‘inspired by’ might have been more exact) – to go ahead and make the same claim here may well put people off seeing it for fear that it might be another oppressively depressing and bleak ‘real crime drama’ like Snowtown – which it clearly isn’t. From a purely creative standpoint, it’s interesting to contemplate whether this pretense of reality     will have any effect on the direction the filmmakers choose to take the franchise in the future. Wolf Creek is a terrific opportunity for Australia to finally have an ongoing horror icon like Norman Bates or Freddy or Jason to embrace as our own, and I for one would love to see McLean drop the ‘based on a true story’ pretense altogether – and just go full-blown retro 80s grindhouse in the next installment. For this is clearly where the series is just itching to go.

Wolf Creek 2 is energetic, darkly-humorous, exciting and tense – a worthy addition     to the burgeoning genre of Australian Gothic. And more so than the previous one; this film undoubtedly belongs to Jarratt. He is disturbingly believable as a sadistic, wise-cracking, psychopathic cannibal. And just like a shark; Mick Taylor remains out there, perpetually on the prowl; taking out those unwelcome interlopers who dare to intrude on his natural environment. It seems this country has a world-wide reputation for accomodating some of the most lethal predators on the planet. But we’re not all like that … no, really.

4 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4  – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed at the Event Cinemas Megaplex Marion, Adelaide, February 21st 2014.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

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2 Comments
  1. Fantastic review Greg, saying the same as me just with a couple more words lol. Your writing always makes me to write better…..damn you.

    Loved this film, just really upped the ante in every way. I hear you guys have access to some prequel novels too, explaining more about how Mick came to be the way he is. I’d love to see more films, hopefully we dont have to wait 8 years till part 3.

    • gregory moss permalink

      Cheers TC! I’m not aware of the prequel novels. I’ll have to see if I can track them down. 🙂

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