Back in 2005, director Greg McLean burst onto the horror scene with Wolf Creek, a sadistic Aussie slasher flick that critic Roger Ebert condemned as ìa despicable exercise in the torture and mutilation of helpless women.î At the time, mainstream horror was still feeling the self-conscious aftershocks of Wes Cravenís Scream (1996). By abandoning that attitude in favor of an approach that effectively bridged the gap between slasher films and so-called ìtorture pornî (a term frequently associated with Eli Rothís Hostel, which bloodied screens the same year), McLean reminded us that murder is an ugly, deeply intimate act, rather than something to joke about. The result was a polarizing film that struck a nerve with moviegoers and left many, like Ebert, with feelings of intense sadness.
Nine years later, after delivering the sturdy but forgettable creature feature Rogue and producing the cult hit Red Hill, McLean is back with Wolf Creek 2. Also back is Aussie screen veteran John Jarratt as the terrifying Mick Taylor, a xenophobic psycho who would hang every tourist from a meat hook if he had his way.
The film opens with two cops pulling over a jovial Taylor on a lonesome, sun-scorched desert road -- the last mistake they will ever make. Soon thereafter, we meet a pair of hitchhiking German tourists named Rutger (Philippe Klaus) and Katarina (Shannon Ashlyn). Deeply in love as they cross the continent while relying on the kindness of others, the duo eventually arrive at Wolf Creek Crater. After taking in the sights, however, their failure to thumb a ride back to civilization leaves them with no other choice but to pitch a tent on the edge of the crater -- a decision that yields deadly repercussions when Taylor turns up in the middle of the night and quickly reveals his murderous intentions. Miraculously, Katarina manages a daring escape and flags down British surfer Paul (Ryan Corr), who will soon learn exactly why she is covered in blood and running scared. Now, the nightmare is bearing down on them in Paulís rearview mirror, and deep in the outback, there is no place to hide.
One of the factors that made Wolf Creek so effective was that McLeanís script allowed us to spend time with the protagonists before subjecting them to Mickís unrelenting cruelty. Mean-spirited as the film was, it managed to be effective because the characters were likable people, and McLean spent a fair amount of screen time letting us get to know them. McLean and co-writer Aaron Sterns (who appeared onscreen in the previous installment) take an altogether different approach in Wolf Creek 2, and though itís initially impressive to see the scope expanded a bit (after all, Mickís first victims here are a pair of tough-talking cops), their efforts ultimately prove to be something of a double-edged sword: Yes, the mayhem comes earlier and more often this time around, but in aiming for unpredictability, the scribes serve up precious little more than a series of bloody vignettes that fail to establish any overarching tension.
Of course, if all youíre hungering for are the kills, thereís a fair chance you may like Wolf Creek 2 even better than its predecessor: It has more Mick Taylor, more bloodletting, and some pretty extreme gore. To be fair, Jarratt does make the most of his abundant screen time here, especially in an extended sequence that finds the educated Paul strapped to a chair in his tormentorís dungeon (which is eerily reminiscent of the Sawyersí subterranean lair in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) and forced to prove his knowledge of Australian history. In that respect, at least, this is almost an inversion of the first film -- allowing us time to get to know the antagonist and how he ticks, rather than his victims. Even then, however, the abrupt, unconventional ending (once again leaving the door open for a sequel) works better in theory than in execution, making this one belated follow-up that can be damned with faint praise -- but that still doesnít alter the fact that itís damned nonetheless.
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- Released: 2014
- Rating: NR
- Review: Back in 2005, director Greg McLean burst onto the horror scene with Wolf Creek, a sadistic Aussie slasher flick that critic Roger Ebert condemned as ìa despicable exercise in the torture and mutilation of helpless women.î At the time, mainstream horror was… (more)