So once again we have survived.

Wolf Creek 2

tn_wolfcreek2Man, I waited so long for WOLF CREEK 2 that I gave up on it happening like three different times. Back in 2005 director Greg Mclean said “You call that a debut? This is a debut!” with his deeply Australian outback slasher. It was kinda controversial at the time. I remember a Seattle Times critic walked out. Ebert was really offended by it. All my buddies except the two I saw it with said it sucked. It was labelled a new low in “torture porn” by non-horror fans who still review every new horror movie or worse, “nu-horror” by horror fans who hate most new horror movies. But I thought it was really well done, masterful tension and outstanding (sometimes darkly humorous) villain performance by John Jarrat (DARK AGE), very effective use of wide open nature as a source of terror, plus a little bit of precious George Miller blood pumping through the veins of the chase scenes. One over-explanatory scene and an abrupt ending couldn’t kill it for me.

Mclean’s followup was ROGUE, a really good giant croc movie somewhat buried in the U.S. when it came straight to video from Dimension Extreme. But then financing problems, the death of a close collaborator and who knows what else kept slowing down the return to the giant crater where a guy stalks people. So I’m happy to report that even with all that anticipation this is a very good sequel. It’s a smart escalation, more action packed, faster paced, cleverly structured. The only big repeated error is another “That’s it, huh?” ending.

mp_wolfcreek2At the beginning I had some worries. For one thing, John Jarratt did not want to return, so he is replaced by Jason Bateman as Mick Taylor’s cousin Rick Taylor. Ha ha, just kidding, that is a comedy joke in reference to a different wolfquel. Email me I will explain it. Anyway the movie opens with a little story about what happens when Mick (yes, it’s still John Jarratt) gets pulled over on the highway. These asshole cops know he wasn’t even really speeding but they’re bored and they want to fuck with some dumb redneck. And we, the audience get to laugh and say “You dumb bastards, you’re gonna not live to regret this.” Great scene, it’s satisfying to watch them kick a hornet’s nest and find out there’s like six more hornet’s nests inside, but here’s the problem I’m having: do I really want to be satisfied by a WOLF CREEK movie?

I worried Mclean was making a little too good on his vow to turn Mick into the Australian Freddy Krueger. And then when some backpackers seem to run into Mick real fast – surely in response to complaints that the first one took too long to get to that point – there seems to be a danger of it just being a guy going around doing funny “kills” on lightly sketched characters.

Never fear. It quickly becomes another tense series of chase sequences. Not only on foot at night in the outback, but also in vehicles, on the sun-drenched highways. There was a little of that in the first one and alot in the second one. He still has his pickup, he also has a semi now. By the third one I bet he’ll have a double decker tour bus. It keeps getting crazier. In one beautifully executed sequence the chase collides with (small spoiler) a very real looking herd of kangaroos.

Mclean is pretty funny about making an Australian movie to terrify the foreigners. Mick’s victims are backpackers, not just for the convenience of the authorities assuming they’re lost when they go missing, but because Mick fucking hates tourists. They tend to be hippie-ish world travelers who know how to be self reliant, but they’re still intimidated by his Australian manliness, his lifestyle of guns, trucks, hard drinking and not getting lost in the wild. In one great sequence he actually quizzes a victim about Australian history. So bone up if you plant to visit the area. And what better way for an Australian serial killer to taunt a foreigner than to make a BABE reference while attacking him?

The scariest line is when he tells a woman they’re going to spend “a few months” together. (spoiler) When her escape attempt goes horribly sour it’s almost a relief. You gotta look on the bright side of that one.

Mick’s sadistic sense of humor makes it more fun and more scary. He’s like those asshole aliens in MARS ATTACKS!, he just loves fucking with people. This one is cleverly structured to involve a series of characters who become loose ends he has to tie off. If somebody tries to help the person he’s chasing then he has to kill that person too. But there’s no desperation to handle them efficiently. I think he likes letting it get a little out of hand, to give himself a challenge. He’ll let people get ahead of him just so he gets to chase them. I love the moment where he lets the guy run off and then (small spoiler) sees that there’s a horse tied up nearby. He looks at it and just starts laughing. I’m gonna enjoy this.

I can’t really overstate how good Jarratt is in this role. He’s just so convincingly despicable. I like that he’s not necessarily a monstrous specimen of supreme manhood, he doesn’t look very built or Tyler Mane tall or anything. But he’s very self assured, and kinda slobby but with his messy pompadour-ish hair, like he thinks he’s real cool. He has such an air of superiority, and most people are very aware of not being as handy and outdoorsy as he is, so it’s a good take on that urban/rural class tension theme I love from TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. I can see myself like his victim here trying to pretend to be his buddy to try to get away. It’s like a tense undercover job.

And it doesn’t hurt that Jarratt leading performances are a precious commodity, at least in movies that make it over to the U.S. If he lived in L.A. he’d have started going to horror conventions, hooking up with people and making ten DTV movies a year like Sid Haig, Bill Moseley and Danny Trejo after HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES and MACHETE. I guess Jarratt’s done quite a few things since WOLF CREEK, but I’ve only seen him in ROGUE and in that scene near the end of DJANGO UNCHAINED where he had the real Australian accent and Tarantino had the fake one.

At one point Mick says that “the first law of the outback” is “never stop.” That sounds like “keep moving, it’s too dangerous around here,” but in practice in the movie it’s also a Randian philosophy of selfishness. The protagonists all believe in stopping to help people. There’s a pair of German hitchhikers who can’t understand why so many cars will roar past them and not stop. There’s the Brit in his car who does stop to try to help someone who’s been attacked. Later he’s appalled when he’s in her position and no one will do the same for him. There’s another set of characters who aren’t in a vehicle so they don’t technically stop, but offering their help doesn’t end up being rewarding for them in my opinion. The outback is a harsh place. You do the right thing, you get punished. Even if you escape back to civilization your life will be ruined.

I’d still stop for somebody though, if I had a car. I would not survive one of these movies.

I guess the WOLF CREEKs will always be kinda disreputable, but who gives a shit? Reputability is overrated. This is a highly skilled director working in a classic genre, with a unique horror setting and a great actor playing an unusually good villain. If this is the ROAD WARRIOR of the series I sure hope he gets to make the BEYOND THUNDERDOME.

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.
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24 Responses to “Wolf Creek 2”

  1. I’m going thumbs down on this one, and I’m someone who liked the first one more than a bit. Maybe I misremember the first movie, but I don’t remember our villain being such a Freddy-like quip machine. I found the whole movie a bit off-putting in a way the first one wasn’t. (Granted, it’s been several years since I saw the first one, and maybe my memories are rose-colored.) There seemed to be a lot more scenes outside the realm of ordinary slasher stuff in the first movie. This one was overly familiar, only reaching beyond it in (SPOILER ALERT) the lengthy scene where Mick quizzes his victim about Australian history. That was really good stuff, and I had hopes that the entire movie would be redeemed by a kick ass last half hour, but then it just devolves into the same old crap again. I guess if I had to sum it up in one sentence, I found the villain to be an annoying quip machine in the second movie, and that’s just straight from the school of ordinary horror sequels.

  2. I forgot to mention I also enjoyed the opening sequence with the police officers. It was the parts between that and the (SPOILER) Australian history quiz that lost me. I didn’t even mind the ending, which Vern didn’t particularly care for.

    Also (AGAIN SPOILER), it wasn’t just me who found the scene at the end where Mick is chasing Paul, and then Paul clobbers the woman who suddenly appears from nowhere and then falls to her death on the spikes, to be badly staged and, well, idiotic. Where the f____ did she come from?!!! Was this supposed to be the woman from moments before, begging Paul not to leave her? C’mon. And while I guess I can buy that Paul didn’t see it was her until it was too late, I don’t understand why we the viewer couldn’t see her either? Well, actually, the answer to that is obvious — camera tricks to maintain the suspense for an additional three seconds — but it was still a cheat. She was right there on the camera, but we couldn’t tell it was her due to sudden blurriness or camera tricks. Also, she appears to be a good six feet tall (amazingly, the same height as Mick!!!) when Paul whacks her, but when he looks down on her in the pit she’s obviously just an ordinary woman, maybe even just a young girl.

    I feel like what I’ve written suggests I strongly disliked this movie, which really isn’t so, but it was pretty disappointing compared to the first one.

  3. If by getting his THUNDERDOME you mean completely changing the movie’s nature to match the misconceptions of a north american audience and adding some pop rock for soundtrack sales then no, I disagree.

  4. As far as real-life serial killers go, Australia has (thankfully) had very few over the last two centuries. In the last twenty years I can only think of two major mass-murderers. The Snowtown killers in Adelaide (SNOWTOWN is a very good film also) and Ivan Milat, who killed a whole lot of back-packers and locals and buried most of them in the Belanglo State Forest in New South Wales. Milat was a gun-loving, schizophrenic, survivalist type who dressed like a cowboy and influenced Jarrats Mick Taylor character to some extent.

    Another very good Australian film is Rowan Woods THE BOYS, with David Wenham as the eldest of three brothers who live in poverty in Western Sydney. It follows them over a couple of weeks as Wenham returns home from prison, and leads up to an horrific crime that in real life took place in 1986, the rape and murder of 26 year old nurse Anita Cobby, who was abducted on her way home from work by five men, three of them brothers. She was found dead in a field near Blacktown, raped, tortured, her head almost decapitated.

    THE BOYS is not about the crime, and doesn’t re-enact it, rather it shows a microcosm of poverty, domestic violence, despair and hopelessness that bred killers. Similar to the cycle of pain in SNOWTOWN.

    Haven’t seen WOLF CREEK 2 yet, but I loved WOLF CREEK too. I thought Mick Taylor was the right balance between sinister and cartoonish so I can see how easily McLean could tip it over into Freddy territory with part 2. Which isn’t a bad thing. We can have our own horror icon in Mick. I think the landscapes and the isolation of The Outback provide enough atmosphere to keep it frightening.

  5. If we are to believe the interwebs, Australia doesn’t need serial killers, because everything else there will kill you.

  6. Yeah that perception of us is quite amusing. Australia is a large country with a small population (around 22 million). The Outback is called The Outback because it’s out the back of nowhere, from the centre of Australia heading north to crocodile country where it’s as equally wild, dangerous and isolated as it is beautiful.

    Most of the dangers associated with us (crocs, snakes, funnel-web spiders, Rolf Harris) are mostly contained in the wild, far away from the cities.

  7. Darryll – No, I mean completely confusing and alienating North American audiences for decades to come by doing something different and unexpected.

  8. After the challenge of getting through the first 25ish minutes of this one
    (that dismemberment/autopsy scene was rough, and the ease & quickness with which Mick resorts to straight-up stabbing & brutality has always limited his appeal as an interesting psychopath),
    I ended up liking it more than WOLF CREEK UNO: MOUTH IS A POMMY CUNT FOR INSERTING A FOREIGNERS’ WORD IN AN AUSSIE MOVIE TITLE.

    Contrived yet well-done chase sequences, a sense of humor (goes without saying that it’s “sick humor”) during the kangaroo-musical bit, a real sense of dread mixed with a real sense of hope mixed with a sense of ‘what the fuck would I do if I were being chased by some outback dude in the outback and then what would I do if I were tied up by that wacko & offered 3 fingers of cheap rum as a way of loosening me up to the fact that I’m about to lose 2 actual fingers,’ some Australian history, etc..

    I also smiled at (and felt sick at myself for smiling at) the Patsy Cline ‘I Fall To Pieces’ bit and the ending credits’ Verdi piece recall.

    In conclusion WOLF CREEK 2 was [again] based on real events so I consider this one of the better documentaries of the decade.

  9. Darren, you forgot to mention razorbacks, motorcycle gangs in hockey masks and Paul Hogan.

  10. Max Rockatansky ‘s got the gangs sorted out. Nothing to fear here pegsman.

  11. The bit where they sing the Rolf Harris song just got a WHOLE lot creepier

  12. I would pay good money to see Rolf Harris strapped to Humungus’ car, anuru.

  13. WOLF CREEK 3 : MICK MEETS ROLF

  14. flyingguillotine

    July 2nd, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Spoilers galore.

    In the opening scene with the cops I was thinking of HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, in the sense that the first time we see the guy kill somebody, we’re on his side. “Yeah, fuck those cops!” But as the movie progresses, he gets worse and worse, leaving our feelings about that first sequences kind of queasy.

    The other interesting thing about that scene is it establishes that maybe – MAYBE – Mick has a moral code, like he hates tourists and assholes enough to kill them, but if they act all right he will leave them alone. Maybe…?

    So when he’s hassling the German hikers about their campfire, you think maybe – MAYBE – he’s actually earnest about giving them a ride back to town, like he is giving them a fair chance to correct their mistake. But then he tips his hand when he tells the girl, “I didn’t want to do you HERE.” It’s all an act.

    Still, though, when he runs into the elderly couple living in the Outback you think maybe – MAYBE – he’ll certainly give a bye for a couple of top Ozzies, right? Errr… maybe not.

    And when the English dude reveals he’s actually a history professor, and has a deep knowledge of Australian history, Mick immediately starts to cheat, because for all of his horse shit about keeping Australia beautiful, national pride and all of that, he’s really just a psycho who likes to taunt his victims. The fingers are getting sawn off either way.

    And yet… and yet… he lets the British guy go at the end. So maybe? MAYBE?

    I didn’t love the movie, but it was an entertaining watch in the moment.

  15. TexanFromFrance

    July 2nd, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    Wolf Creek came out at the same time as HOSTEL which I thought was a disappointing piece of dung on par with a post Final Chapter Friday the 13th sequel. Wolf Creek wasn’t being championed by Tarantino, though, so it came and went quietly. Except that for me, the “head on a stick” scene shook me so damn hard that I had to buy the damn DVD just to confront and figure out why I’d been so shocked. All credit goes to the actors, especially the lovely Cassandra Magrath whose suffering felt real to me.

    Vern, it’s good to see you champion this filmmaker and now I’m not so apprehensive about the sequel anymore.

  16. Texan – actually, Tarantino DID champion WOLF CREEK. The cover of the DVD says:

    “John Jarratt delivers a performance that’s destined to go down as one of the great horror film heavies of the last 25 years.” —
    Quentin Tarantino

    Then he talked about putting Jarratt in DEATH PROOF but apparently was kinda wishy-washy with him until the cameo in DJANGO UNCHAINED. I hope they do something more substantial together.

  17. Surprised you like the first so much with all the shakycam but I get it, it’s down and dirty, Texas chainsaw style. It worked for that but I really liked the more polished style. The sequel was really next level. I’ll see Mick Taylor’s sick SAW version of Thunderdome.

  18. I think I built up the idea of Wolf Creek 2 in my head for so long that the whole experience of watching it psyched me out. With so much time having elapsed, I felt like the second one should have been really big and like have a substantial reason to exist beyond just doing more of the same old shit (I have no idea why I thought that because I rarely if ever hold other slasher sequels to that standard, really). So when it sort of just felt like Wolf Creek Chapter Two, I felt a tad bit let down even though I really liked it. Looking back on it a couple of months later, I dunno, I probably underestimated it a little bit because that middle act where it’s like every Ozploitation movie rolled into 30 minutes really rules. Plus, the structure is pretty intriguing for this sort of thing, so I ultimately approve. Mick Taylor’s Thunderdome would be a nightmare, though, maybe even scarier than the real Thunderdome. Aunty Entity doesn’t have shit on Mick.

  19. Dug the first one and really enjoyed this, too – mostly for Jarratt, who is just fantastic.

    It does feel occasionally like a parody of the first film, and I half expected Mick to break the fourth wall at times, but overall it’s a solid follow up.

    PART remix of the first film, part fan service, part parody. The film knows what we’re there for: more Mick; and it delivers.

    Basically, it’s the A BETTER TOMORROW II of aussie serial killer flicks.

    Hope there’s more to come: for the third film want Mick to get out of the outback and hit a major city – I can see it now:

    WOLF CREEK 3: PIG (KILLER) IN THE CITY.

  20. Karlos: your proposed part three is what I thought part two might be, an urban sequel that took Mick out of the Outback (the Texas Chainsaw 2 to the original’s Texas Chain Saw), especially since the beginning of the movie is set in a city. I think that would be pretty cool for part three: Mick Takes Perth. Just don’t have him on a fuckin’ cruise ship most of the time, eh?

  21. Emu Creek Pictures, Kangaroo Billabong Films, Platypus Venom, The South Australian Film Corporation and Bazza from down the pub present – WOLF CREEK FUCKIN’ 2 MATE! With John Jarratt, the greatest thing to ever come out of Wollongong (and I’m not gunna speak Illawarra). Mick Taylor, the fictional serial killer that once again exposes Hannibal Lechter as the pompous pommy poofter he is. Mate that was bonza. I really liked this film, it was just so well done. The quiz show bit was just amazing, the truck chase up the hill, like Duel with kangaroos. Maybe in part 5 Ryan Corr can come back and dig Mick’s coprse up and Mick can be struck by lightning and start rampaging around like Jason. I enjoyed the ending, it was sudden and out of left field, I think it is also to reference one of Ivan Milat’s victims who escaped an no one believed him.

  22. TexanFromFrance

    July 7th, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    Vern, I’m happy to read that Tarantino threw some attention towards the competition. I’m not mad about HOSTEL but boy was I disappointed. I thought for sure it would be a disturbing film. WOLF CREEK turned out to be the one that deliver on that front for me.

    It took me a long while to recognize Jarratt in ROGUE. That man in one of those unsung character actors and, like Christoph Waltz, Tarantino could do great things with him for sure.

  23. What I like about these films is that they take the cowboy hero archetype and twists him into a horror movie villain so they are in a way slasher/westerns. I like WOLF CREEK 2 better because it doesn´t fold itself just as neatly into the slasher genre in its structure. It´s also gorier and funnier and amplifies the western motifs more. The badass Mysterious Stranger-silhouette of Mick reoccurs throughout the film, in both films he walks off into the sunset and some of the compositions in the framing fells clearly Western in them. Also, we get more of Joh Jarrett, which is great. I think you could say, I love WOLF CREEK 2.

  24. Did y’all see they’re working on a Wolf Creek miniseries?

    http://www.horror-movies.ca/2015/10/wolf-creek-mini-series-starts-production-full-cast-announced/

    not sure if this is old news or not.

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