Wolf Creek (2004)


This summer, kids, just stay home.

Three college graduates are finally ready to embark on their summer and all of the fun times that they could have. So, they decide that what better way to get started than to go back-packing in the mountains of Australia? Better yet, how about the infamous Wolf Creek, where the hike itself is apparently three-hours long and is practically in the middle of a desert! Yep, that sounds pretty great! And for awhile, it is – the three drink, party, kiss, sleep, camp, sit by a fire, play guitar, tell goofy stories, and look forward to what’s next lying ahead of them – however, things go a bit South once their car breaks down in the middle of this said desert. But, thankfully, there’s a local outback man by the name of Mick (John Jarratt) that assists them in their time of need. And for the longest time, that’s what it seems like is actually happening, despite the culture-clash between these young rascals and this older, stranger redneck-like man. Something weird happens though when the three wake up the next day, only to find themselves tied-up, trapped, and kidnapped by Mick, who isn’t exactly as kind and as helpful as he once seemed. Instead, he’s more of a murderer that loves himself a bit of torture. You know, for the fun of it.

Anytime a horror movie opens with “based on true events.”, you know you’re in trouble. Not because the movie is just making that up to give it some sort of significance (which it sort of is), but because you know that the real facts of whatever true story it’s talking about, will be lost in the shuffle of crazy, loose ideas that some director wants to throw onto the screen. Which is fine and all, if you’re doing a movie that isn’t based on some real, grisly killings that “allegedly” happened, despite their being little-to-no evidence found, or even witnesses, then you have to realize that your juggling fire.

Not a piece of obvious symbolism at all.
Not at all obvious symbolism.

By that, I mean that you can do what you want with a story, but once you throw that subtitle up there, you have a certain image to protect. You can get dirty and dark with the details of the story, but to mess around with it so much to the point of where it seems like a director is just using it to shock more and more people, feels wrong. And worst of all, almost reprehensible.

For instance, there’s a scene somewhere by the end that I won’t spoil too much, except only to say that it involves a knife and a spine. Maybe you’ve already heard of/seen it before, but either way, it’s a pretty graphic scene that shocked the hell out of me when I saw it originally. That’s the way most horror movies should be: Dark, disturbing, and as bloody as you want it to be, where you can get the viewer actually cringing. However, the more and more that I thought about this display of graphic violence, I began to feel like it was totally unnecessary, especially given, once again, the fact that this is “based on true events.”.

Sure, if that scene happened in a Eli Roth or Saw movie, people would have easily been going nutso for the rest of time (I guess they still are), but since this is supposed to be based on real-life, actual murders of young people, it seems gratuitous and takes on an even darker meaning than ever before. Which, I guess for a horror movie, is a good thing. But here, I didn’t see it that way. I saw a director, Greg McLean to be exact, using a “supposed” real-life tragedy to frame all of the bloody, gory images he’s had in his head for quite some time and was only waiting for that moment to shine and show everybody in the world what he has.

For the most part too, I can’t really get on McLean’s case too much, because it really does seem like he has the look of this movie down. Like with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (an obvious comparison, I know, but it’s all I got to work with right now), a lot of the action in this happens during the day, which somehow, gives it a creepier feeling. When it’s dark, you have no idea what to expect next, which is totally scary. However, with the day-time, you totally know what to expect next, and for some shocking reason, that works even more. McLean clearly has an eye for the long and moody outbacks of Australia, and paints them as how they should look: Lifeless, mean and unforgiving.

With that McLean definitely redeems himself as a horror director that knows what it is that he’s doing with the style of this movie, it’s just a shame that his material didn’t quite pop-off like it should have.

"Scope's are for wimps."
“Scope’s are for wimps.”

And while I’m talking about it, I think I should mention that while most of this movie was a little too much, it still worked when it needed to. It was a clever little game of cat-and-mouse that had some surprising twists here and there, even if the characters still made the same old, dumb mistakes like they usually do in these types of movies. For instance, at one point during the movie, a baddie is knocked-down, on the ground and clearly unconscious, so one of the victims decides to end him right then and there, you’d think, right? Well, yeah, you would definitely think it, but rather than finishing the baddie off, the person just runs away and hopes to god that the villain doesn’t wake up. Felt dumb to me and made it seem like this movie needed a story, just to justify its run-time and the ending it would eventually get to.

And when it does, needless to say, it’s what you’d expect – a whole lot more of that “true story” bullshit that doesn’t make much sense and almost makes this whole thing seem like a waste of time. It isn’t, but it sure as hell does come close.

Consensus: The fact that Wolf Creek takes most of its story away from what are supposed to be “real events”, makes all of its brutal, grisly scenes of torture and murder seem almost gratuitous, although it may still provide to be thrilling for some other viewers more-attuned to that type of stuff.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Crocodile Dundee, who?
Tourists better think twice now.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

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19 comments

  1. I also thought this was a horrible movie. It bored me to tears for what seemed like hours and then suddenly changed into Hostel. I’d rather just watch Hostel as that was a little less terrible.

  2. Good review Dan. I hate when people abuse the phrase “Based on true events,” and to use it here with the gruesome violence really is b.s. considering they’re only speculating on events. That said, you’re right that the director has the look and feel of the film down. It’s intensely creepy and down right effed up at points, but the main characters are so stupid. This was one of the few horror films where I actually rooted for the bad guy, since the kids are so dumb. They have multiple chances to end their torture, yet they don’t and suffer a grisly fate as a result.

  3. I liked Wolf Creek better than you did, but then again, there is a slasher afficionado segment buried in some deep corner of my soul…. A general certain affection for this genre helps. Once that is there, Wolf Creek is actually very well done in that it avoid the schematics of the genre to a certain degree while still sticking with the rules of that very genre. It takes its time, it allows the lead characters to be utterly boring, and it allows the drama to unfold in a very arbitrary way – which suited the film’s feeling of confusion and terror perfectly well, I found (confusion and terror on part of the tourists, that is…). But of course every word of criticism you write is true, no point denying it 🙂
    See my notes on that film here (http://thomas4cinema.com/2006/12/13/wolf-creek/) and on the forgettable sequel here (http://thomas4cinema.com/2014/05/02/wolf-creek-ii-greg-mclean-2014/)

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