Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Greg McLean
Stars: John Jarratt, Ryan Corr, Shannon Ashlyn, Phillipe Klaus, Gerard Kennedy.
Australian filmmakers do not often get to make sequels to their films, as very few actually prove successful at the box office. But when they do make a sequel they are clearly aimed at an international audience – take Mad Max 2: Road Warrior and Crocodile Dundee 2 for example. And so it is with this sequel to Greg McLean’s 2005 hit Wolf Creek, which was Australia’s highest grossing R-rated film.
Wolf Creek 2 owes a debt towards those slick Hollywood horror films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Wrong Turn and their ilk. McLean apparently resisted many early offers to produce a sequel, which is why it has taken eight years to produce this follow up to the gritty horror film about Mick Taylor, the psychopathic, xenophobic serial killer murdering backpackers and foreign vermin. And while it may not be as good as the first film, it does have some strong moments and boasts some assured filmmaking from McLean.
But like most sequels, Wolf Creek 2 also changes the dynamic of the central character. Much as the Halloween and the Friday The 13th sequels changed the nature of their central character, turning Freddy Krueger or Mike Myers into more of an indestructible cartoonish-like character, and parodying their iconic status. So too does Wolf Creek 2 transform the frightening Mick Taylor into something more grotesque and less believable. He dispatches his victims with unnecessarily sadistic glee.
Co-written with horror novelist and part time actor Aaron Sterns (who also worked as a script editor on McLean’s Rogue), Wolf Creek 2 features a particularly strong streak of bogan, redneck humour and lots of Saw-like gore and graphic violence which is not for the faint hearted. But somehow the suspense and tension and terrifying sense of isolation that pervaded the first film are missing in this generic and cliched film.
Wolf Creek 2 opens strongly with two highway patrol officers tangling with Mick Taylor to relieve the boredom of their routine. Big mistake! And then it is on to Katrina and Rutger (Shannon Ashlyn and Phillipe Klaus), two German backpackers hitchhiking their way across the outback. Enter Paul Hammersmith (Ryan Corr, from Not Suitable For Children, etc), a British tourist travelling through Australia during his gap year, who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. He tries to help the fleeing Katrina, and thus runs afoul of Taylor and his pathological hatred of all things British.
An extended cat and mouse like chase through the outback sees Paul eventually captured and subjected to Taylor’s monstrous perversion of a popular tv quiz game with dire consequences for wrong answers. Paul’s knowledge of Australian history and obvious education prove more than a match for Mick’s rat cunning and come in useful as he tries to escape Taylor’s booby-trapped subterranean chamber of horrors.
McLean’s direction is suitably robust, and he suffuses the material with a strong streak of black humour. There is a descent into torture porn territory, and at one stage the film even veers into Duel territory.
And character development here is virtually non-existent and we don’t really empathise with any of Mick’s victims apart from Paul. Corr is well cast as Paul, and makes the most of his biggest role to date. He brings strength and charm to his character, and he provides a strong intelligent foil for Jarratt. Having spent years playing nice characters on both Play School and as a DIY guru on home renovation television series Better Homes And Gardens, Jarratt obviously relished the opportunity to play against type as the laconic and unrepentantly racist Mick Taylor. And here he has a strong malevolent presence and larrikin sense of humour, and is again the pulsating bloody centre piece of the grand piece of nasty horror and gore.
McLean has obviously made good use of a larger budget this time, and production values are generally first class, with the exception of some obviously CGI created kangaroos that are mowed down by a semi-trailer. Toby Oliver’s widescreen cinematography makes the most of the sundrenched, harsh South Australia outback locations, and he even suffuses the remote setting with a sinister undercurrent and palpable air of menace.
But there is an unmistakable air of formula about Wolf Creek 2, and even as it hints at a third film in a possibly lucrative franchise one wonders exactly where McLean will take the character, and indeed audiences, next.