Loosely based on the "backpack murders," a string of real-life serial killings that terrorized the Australian Outback during the late '80s and early '90s, director Greg McLean's feature debut is easily one of the most brutally realistic horror movies since the original TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974). Set in 1999 and fusing the details of separate incidents that took place along Australia's long and lonely Hume highway into a single, terrifying ordeal, the film follows the fates of two English women and the young Australian man they meet while enjoying two weeks of sun, surf and Smirnoff on Australia's West Coast. Driving back through the deserted stretches of outback emptiness, Liz (Cassandra Magrath), Kristy (Kestie Morassi) and Ben (Nathan Phillips) stop at desolate Wolf Creek National Park for a three-hour hike in the drizzling rain to see the area's main attraction: a gigantic meteor crater. When they return to the battered Ford wagon Ben bought for peanuts in Broome, it won't start; oddly enough, both Kristy's and Ben's watches have stopped at nearly the same time. In what first seems like a extraordinary stroke of good luck, garrulous good ol' boy Mitch Taylor (John Jarratt) happens to be passing by in his truck and stops to offer them a tow back to his place, where he claims to have the spare parts needed to fix their car. Understandably wary, but facing a real possibility of being left to die in the middle of nowhere, they reluctantly accept Mitch's offer and wind up enduring something far worse. Shot in a grimy, blood-spattered style that recalls CHAIN SAW's darkest moments, the entire film exudes a similarly savage sense of menace; here even the ordinarily beautiful Australian desert landscape is filled with jagged, threatening-looking flora and the skulls and spoor of whatever fauna once lived there. Gorehounds eager for a quick thrill may grow impatient with the gradual build-up — very little actually happens for the entire first half of the film — but the even pacing and attention to character detail is what makes that harrowing second half so effective. Having come to know these characters and even like them, you begin to worry about the something bad that will inevitably happen to them. When it does, you can't help but share their terror. Refusing to pull a single punch when it comes to the evil that men do, McLean even concocts a chilling ending in which our poor heroes meet an even crueler fate than their real-life counterparts.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: NR
- Review: Loosely based on the "backpack murders," a string of real-life serial killings that terrorized the Australian Outback during the late '80s and early '90s, director Greg McLean's feature debut is easily one of the most brutally realistic horror movies since… (more)