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Wolf Creek

THIS REVIEW IS BASED ON ACTUAL EVENTS.

First off, I gotta address a couple points. Number one, regarding the reputation of this movie. I think it’s getting a bad rap. One Seattle critic wrote about walking out instead of reviewing it. Another one (“shout out” to Andrew Wright as the kids would say) mentioned the other critic walking out and said he didn’t blame her (his review was “a recommendation, I guess”). Roger Ebert gave WOLF CREEK zero stars and pretty much condemned it as a failure for the human race. Even some of the horror fans who liked it are talking about it like it peeled off their skin and made them eat it and despite the unpleasantness of the whole ordeal they begrudgingly had to admit that it did a good job of forcing them to eat it.

Wolf CreekSo I was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s a little more of a fun slasher movie than people are saying. Yes it’s more brutal and more realistic than many. You take the killer seriously because he’s just a guy, not Jason. Not some supernatural mutated retard with a scary mask. And yes he’s a rapist. But the audience gets off easy on that count. He doesn’t molest a woman with a gun like in THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (3 stars –Roger Ebert) or force young girls to piss their pants like in LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (3 1/2 stars). I was expecting one of those unpleasant movies that makes you stare at humanity’s filthy ass and you feel kind of guilty and unhealthy for liking it, like a HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (3 1/2 stars). I was expecting to have to endure a bunch of horrible shit that I probaly didn’t want to see, but it’s really not that kind of movie. I haven’t seen IRREVERSIBLE (3 stars) but if it’s how they said it was, with a long rape scene to torture the audience, it’s not like this one. The violence is more sparing here, it’s just that the execution makes it hurt.

I’m not trying to call Ebert a hypocrite or nothing. I think he was right about all those movies. Maybe his tastes are changing and now he would be the guy who is offended by HENRY. It seems to me he’s punishing the movie for being well made. HIGH TENSION, for example, he hated that too but at least it got a star and he had fun joking around in the review, despite it having a higher body count, way more gore, a dead kid and even a homophobic subtext if you want to get political. This one, he acted like it ate his dog. He is punishing it for being realistic, for not having a silly twist ending, for having a genuinely scary villain. If the guy was dressed up as an evil clown or had supernatural powers or something, I bet it would’ve gotten that one star.

On his show, Ebert tried to explain the difference between WOLF CREEK and DEVIL’S REJECTS. He said something like “a reasonable person can see that DEVIL’S REJECTS is a film, with performances.” As if somebody tricked him into thinking WOLF CREEK was a live broadcast of an actual event.

I guess I just don’t understand why he thinks this is the one that “crossed the line” when to me it seems tame compared to some of those that he liked as recently as last summer. But I’m not saying it’s a rollicking day at the park with the kids buying some balloons and eating hot dogs, and to be frankly honest I sort of wondered why some of the sick fucks around me were laughing at certain parts. But this is not a portrait of a serial killer, this is an australian chainsawless massacre. Two roadtripping girls and a guy get stranded out in the Australian booneys and a maniac bushman chases them and does things to them that I personally would consider to be morally inappropriate. There’s some gruesome torment and what not, because “you must taste blood in order to be a man” says Sam Raimi of his EVIL DEAD pictures (3 stars for part 2, I don’t think Ebert reviewed the first one). But the emphasis of this picture is not on sitting there watching somebody get tortured, like the reviews made me think. The movie is energetic. It’s all about the running, the being chased, the trying to fight back, the thinking you might get away, the suddenly realizing you’re fucked after all. Hell, there’s even a car chase. Made me think of MAD MAX.

It helps that the movie is Australian so you don’t get the genetically engineered Hollywood kids we usually get. There’s one cutesy scene that I got to admit I thought was pretty amazing, where two characters who have unspoken crushes on each other awkwardly kiss and then start laughing. It’s hard to explain but it was such a real moment it went a long way toward making these poor bastards seem like actual people.

A brief side note about characters doing stupid things in slasher movies. I’m not necessarily against it. Alot of people complain about that shit, but I think the filmatists have to find the right balance. When people endanger themselves in movies, that causes tension. That in fact is what horror is is that moment when you’re horrified of what’s gonna happen to the character. There’s a scene here where people were yelling at the screen telling the characters what to do. The characters totally blew it, but I thought it was a realistic blowing it. I believe that these people would not have the werewithal to take care of business in this type of situation. There are other scenes where the mistakes are maybe too stupid to be believed, but not too many. And there’s only one scene I wish they would’ve cut out, where she stops to watch home videos she finds of the victims. This part is ridiculous. She even pauses a tape that shows the killer’s truck parked near them when they stopped to get gas. That would’ve been a great detail for some freak to notice when he watches it again on DVD, but don’t rub my face in it. Come on. The reason this scene sticks out though is because the rest of the movie seems so different from your standard bad horror that you don’t expect it to ever stoop to that kind of nonsense.

I think the best scene in the movie is the scene halfway through where it officially turns from road trip to horror movie: (spoiler spoily spoiling) a girl wakes up bound and gagged in a shed, manages to get out and hears her other friend screaming in pain. The apparent perpetrator has just spent several hours towing their broken down car out to the middle of nowhere. You have to picture yourself in her shoes (or bare feet at first, but luckily she does find her shoes). The only way she can survive is if she turns around and runs like hell for about two weeks and hopefully finds somebody to help her. (And hopefully not the gas station attendant/cook from TEXAS CHAIN SAW or Captain Spaulding from HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES. You know, there are alot of Bad Samaritans out there.)

But you can’t run, because that’s your friend in there, you can’t just leave her. The movie plays off these kinds of hopeless situations and off the fears and weaknesses of city slickers. If these people knew anything about buying a good used car or fixing a car engine, if they knew how to load guns or how to use knives, maybe they wouldn’t be in this mess. (There’s also a humiliating run-in with some tough guys in a roadhouse, but I don’t think that has as much bearing on their predicament.) Also it would help if the knucklehead boyfriend didn’t make fun of a stranger by quoting Crocodile Dundee. Australian rednecks take that shit personally. At least he didn’t bring up part 2 or 3, I guess.

I like it when they use class tensions to jack up the discomfort in horror movies. Hopefully the characters are likable, but you still convince the audience that they are poking their nose where it doesn’t belong. Or at least they are being annoying tourists. The scene where the bushman gets offended is great because you feel like our hapless protagonists are asking for it. But they’re really not, because this guy didn’t tow them all the way out there to fix their car. But still, throw some guilt in there to make us squirm.

Okay, so that was my first point, it’s a well made slasher movie, not some horrible rape and torture festival. The second thing I gotta bring up is this bullshit about “BASED ON ACTUAL EVENTS.” Yes, this movie is based on actual events, because people actually have been murdered in Australia before. Also, the whole STAR TREK series is based on actually events, because there really is outer space.

I got a pet peeve lately with the way they’re marketing horror movies. It could be fucking ANYTHING they’re gonna claim it’s based on actual events. It doesn’t even matter if it’s supernatural, they’re still gonna tell you it’s real. There was the WHITE NOISE trailer with its “actual recordings” of ghosts. And I think it was the same narrator trying to convince us that THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE really happened. And that “what happened in Amityville has never been fully explained” (unless you count the time when that lawyer admitted that he and the new owners of the house made the whole thing up). I even saw an infomercial interviewing “real” “voodoo” “experts” explaining how you use a lock of hair to do a certain spell and also Kate Hudson stars in SKELETON KEY. I guess I’m a paranoid dude because I almost want to tie this in with the current anti-science stance in our government, where instead of actually doing tests you just make up numbers that fit what big business wants to do, and instead of teaching just science in science class they want to throw in some religion. (“Intelligent design” should be called “Cool Ranch Creationism” if you ask me.) I bet spoonbending will make a big comeback pretty soon.

Before the movie they showed 4 trailers for upcoming horror movies. Three were remakes (THE HILLS HAVE EYES, WHEN A STRANGER CALLS, PULSE) and the other (HOSTEL) claimed to be “based on actual events.” (They also threw in a CURIOUS GEORGE ad for good measure.) Okay, so I know that “misleading advertising” is one of those oxymorons, but this shit pisses me off because everyone in the audience is either being tricked or having their intelligence insulted.

Another thing that’s misleading, there are no wolves in this movie. That’s the name of a place. Sorry, wolf fans. Also there’s not a creek. I guess some people might be bummed out about that if they are really into creeks, but I’m not so I didn’t have a problem with it.

Well, now that I have made my two points that I wanted to start out with, it turns out I’m almost done with my review. This is a really well made movie that I would recommend to all serious horror fans. If you are an amateur you can stay home and jerk off to HOUSE OF WAX but all pros, come with me to the WC. Still, there is one thing that keeps dub-C from being a classic and it involves the end, so read on with caution motherfucker. The movie has a clever structure where the three victims get separated. One of them seems to be the dominant surviving girl that you get in most slasher movies, but after a while she, uh… fails. We’ll put it that way. Then we switch to the other girl and follow her as she puts up a fight, but she doesn’t make it. Then finally we follow the dude, who is not in too good of shape. It feels weird already because almost all slasher movies have a female as the last survivor. Oh well, change is good. But after we’ve seen the other two put up valiant efforts but not make it, we are ready for the big climax. It could be a showdown where the hero manages to kill or maim the Crocodile Dundee guy. Or there could be a long thrilling chase where he just barely escapes by the skin of his teeth, or where he almost escapes, or of course there could be the Bad Samaritan ending like HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES. I was personally kind of hoping for a Reverse Bad Samaritan where the eight foot tall motherfucker who sexually harassed them in the roadhouse shows up seemingly as a co-conspirator but then he fucks up the killer. That would be some good old fashioned male bonding right there.

There are many exciting directions the movie could go at this point but instead, the dude just limps away and the killer isn’t around. The end. Oh-shit-it’s-on-interuptus. Maybe it’s true to life but it’s not true to the thrill ride of the rest of the movie. And this part of the movie has no relation to the “actual events” it is very loosely based on, so you can’t pull that real life shit. Anyway, realistic schmealistic. This movie brilliantly builds to a climax that never happens and I couldn’t help but be disappointed. It’s like if in HALLOWEEN, Laurie gets out of the closet and says, “Huh, looks like he must’ve left” and then safely leaves the house and the movie ends.

Still, the abrupt ending doesn’t erase what came before it. I checked, it’s still there. And before I go I got to mention John Jarratt is the name of the guy who plays the killer, and this guy is spectacular. Before he shows his true colors, he’s not menacing. He seems like a cool guy. Then he just takes so much delight and pride in what he’s doing. There’s a whole lot of horrible movies with killers cracking jokes, but this guy’s sense of humor made me genuinely uncomfortable. He reminded me that this movie comes from the same country that gave us CHOPPER.

Maybe that’s what the ads should say:

Sorry, I know I always suggest quotes for movie posters, I don’t know what my problem is. Maybe I was some marketing asshole in a former life. Because there really are former lives, I saw a movie about it. Anyway, if you’re into slasher movies, don’t miss WOLF CREEK.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Saturday, December 31st, 2005 at 4:21 am and is filed under Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

13 Responses to “Wolf Creek”

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  2. Chopper Sullivan

    May 11th, 2013 at 12:57 am

    I’m still confused by some of the angry reactions to this movie. This was the third time I’ve seen it, and I still almost expect something unforgivable to happen that I missed that would justify why some critics found it so despicable. But all I see is just a very well crafted slasher with a few stupid moments that almost derail it. The critics must have seen a super unrated version upon initial release or something. Maybe it’s old hat to complain about, but watching WOLF CREEK and reading a lot of the reviews is a healthy reminder how fucking stupid the torture porn label is.

  3. Knox Harrington

    May 11th, 2013 at 5:02 am

    Yeah, I agree. It’s a good slasher movie, made great by the setting and a truly terrifying John Jarratt. I think most mainstream critics just don’t like gore and unpleasant horror situations, and it affects their entire opinion of a film.

    That abrupt ending probably didn’t help either, but for better or worse, it made the movie more memorable.

  4. Okay, just saw WOLF CREEK 2. Pretty good, I liked it. It’s bigger in scope and hence a bit less realistic and grounded, and they lean much heavier on the villain this time, so much so that he threatens to become a Freddy Krueger like slasher anti-hero and totally overshadow his victims. Jarratt’s performance is so great that it’s hard to argue with their decision, but the construction of the film makes it that much harder to engage with the victims this time. There’s also a long scene at the end with an underground torture dungeon that I found depressingly cliche and not really “fun” in the way most of the film is.

    Still, there are some great cat-and-mouse chase sequences in this film. McLean remains an expert of dangling hope in front of the audience and then snatching it away at the last second. There’s one scene in particular that has the critics dusting off their old “torture porn” essays, but it’s the sense of suspense that makes the scene worthwhile (that and the use of “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport”). There’s also a truck chase with an inspired use of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” that was a real hit with the audience. If George Miller gets tired of bashing his head against a wall trying to get MAD MAX: FURY ROAD off the ground, I think Greg McLean would be a worthy home-grown successor. There’s also some amazing cinematography of that makes the beautiful wide open landscapes look dangerous and menacing a la WAKE IN FRIGHT.

    The ending is even more of a half-hearted shrug this time, and I really wish they’d had the balls to tie a bow in the series and give the audience a bit of resolution and catharsis rather than leave things open for further sequels. Hilariously, they also persist with the “Based on True Events” title card, I guess in the sense that yes, sometimes people do go missing in the Australian outback.

    It’s also interesting to look at this film in the context of Australian politics. The current right-wing Prime Minister was elected largely on the basis of a hardline anti-(illegal)-immigration policy, so it’s hard not to view certain scenes in that light, like where Jarratt proudly announces his mission to rid Australia of “foreign vermin” and gives a victim an impromptu citizenship quiz. Maybe WOLF CREEK 3 will be about Mick Taylor’s one-man mission to “Stop the Boats”.

    Anyway, like I said, this film is copping a bit of a hammering from most critical circles. Stratton and Pomeranz, probably Australia’s most popular TV movie critics, have quite publicly refused to review it at all and they both liked the first one. Doesn’t seem to be keeping people away; I was surprised how packed the theater was when I went to see it and how varied the audience was. I always forget how fun it is to see a horror movie with a big crowd.

    Anyway, WOLF CREEK 2 is a white-knuckle thrill ride, you’ll be “howling” for more etc.

  5. CrustaceanLove – Due to the fact that this was censored to achieve a lower rating I’m going to give it a miss theatrically and catch it on the (hopefully) uncut home video release. I was just wondering if you felt that the seemingly quite substantial cuts were noticeable at all??

  6. 1-900-MIXALOT: I can probably guess where the cuts were made but they didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the film. It’s still quite brutal and more of an action/thriller type movie anyway. I’ll probably catch the video release out of curiosity.

  7. Why do those two refuse to review it? I would assume it was some moral outrage bullshit, but you say they liked the first one?

  8. Vern: Even though they both gave it a good score, their review of the first one was pretty conflicted. A “well-made but not for us” kind of thing. They liked the slow pacing and that the victims were really well written and likable, which is less the case in the sequel. The second one has way more humour too. They are different enough that I can see someone liking the first one and not liking the second.

    Stratton already gave a brief, somewhat scathing review in The Australian which you can read here if you are so inclined. I like Stratton and agree with him on a lot of things, but he’s really precious about gore and on-screen violence. I think he gave both HOSTEL and DEVIL’S REJECTS zero stars.

    They haven’t really said why they aren’t reviewing it but it’s clear that it’s some sort of moral outrage type thing, which is silly. They had a short featurette on their TV show but no follow-up film review, which is extremely unusal. Both Jarratt and McLean have called them out on it. The film is currently #1 at the box office, so it’s sparked the same old debates about intellectual snobbery in film criticism etc.

  9. Vern, guys, I need some backup. If you would like to read the purest and most asinine and yet alarmingly articulate expression of The Stupid Torture Porn Argument That Will Not Die Even Though It’s 2014, go to this review of WOLF CREEK 2 http://www.avclub.com/review/wolf-creek-2-more-extreme-less-terrifying-original-204099 and scroll through the comments until you find one David Conrad. He begins with that idiotic Ebert quote from his review of WOLF CREEK 1 where he advocates cutting someone out of your life if they like the movie and then it just gets worse from there. His argument is actually, without hyperbole, that you and I and everyone you know who watches movies where fake people get fake stabbed and fake blood comes out are bad people who cannot be trusted. You will see me doing battle with him and attempting to remain civil (The worst I did is call him a ninny, which I think is fair) but I can’t do it anymore. So I’m gonna sic you magnificent sonsofbitches on him. Avengers assemble.

  10. I just read it Majestyk, and it’s seriously not even worth responding to. If the guys gonna quote Ebert blind and then just expand on why he’s a judgemental prick the best response is no response. Answer a fool according to his folly and he still wont get it. Cause he’s a fool.

    I did like your observation on Ebert losing credibility once he started “reviewing the viewer” instead of the movie. It was probably Ebert’s Achilles heel that he sometimes took the upper moral ground and came off like a toff. Like with the whole Rob Schneider bashing from Deuce Bigalow 2. I really give Schneider credit for being a better man and letting it go. Also, when Ebert got sick, Schneider sent him flowers and best wishes. Actions sometimes speak louder than words, especially foolish words.

  11. I avoid commenting unless its a site with people I feel comfortable with (here), because it easily becomes a snowball effect, where people just can´t let go and keep trolling or worse. It´s hard to resist, especially when you come across a real asinine comment and the urge to respond is overwhelming. The best thing is not to read comments at all. Which is terrible, I know. But the Internet-Land is a harsh wasteland where personal responsibilities of what you say means nothing.

  12. oh no did you get banned from the AV Club Mr M? generally the AV Club comments are awesome but everywhere has it’s bad apples (save for here of course)

    and there were two really lame things about Ebert, one was when he would get on his moral soapbox and the second was when he derided video games as being “not art”, because an old guy who has never played and probably knows nothing about video games really stands to make that call…

    but hey, nobody’s perfect

  13. Nah, Griff, I didn’t say anything remotely bannable. I stayed civil, but worried that I wouldn’t be able to continue to. What bothered me was that, on a horror movie review, no one else took him to task for his blatantly erroneous views on the genre and its fans. His comments even had more likes than mine. That’s why I called in the big guns. I’m still hoping Mr. S and Mouth will answer the call. They’re always up for an impossible battle.

    The worst thing about it is that it’s not like the it comes off like an idiot. This is a well spoken, intelligent person who seriously thinks violent media makes you a bad person. I just want to see him taken down a notch, and I think an outside party needs to be the one to do it.

    I mean, I called the guy a ninny. I’ve already lost the high ground.

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