Written by Guillermo Troncoso.
Writer-director Greg McLean stabbed and sliced his way onto the international horror-circuit with Wolf Creek, an independently produced horror-film set in Australia’s Outback. Dubiously marketed as being “based on true events”, since the plot bore elements of the 2001 murder of Peter Falconio, the 2005 film was a commercial success, albeit with mixed critical results. While the last third of the film did drive home some hard-hitting slasher-horror, the film didn’t really capitalise on the freedom given by its concept. Ultimately, Wolf Creek was a dull exercise in shock, without the scares and thrills associated with the successful entries of the genre. Now, here’s something that doesn’t happen everyday: a horror-sequel that sets its sights higher than the first, hitting nearly every target it aims for.
John Jarratt reprises his memorable role as Mick Taylor, a proud Australian who enjoys wiping out “foreign vermin” from his beautiful country. In saying that, the film opens with Taylor slaughtering two Australian police officers, demonstrating his ability to take care of everyone equally. Jarratt’s performance is what ultimately drives forward this horror-entry, which is key, considering how important “villains” are in delivering the scares to an audience. He’s a demented individual, gleefully inflicting suffering on others while delivering hate-filled speeches regarding race, sex, and…basically anything that isn’t him. For all the malice that makes up Taylor, Jarratt’s performance contains a twisted sense of humour that feels creepily natural, colliding your emotions as you giggle at his comments while watching someone get attacked.
The plot, while completely serviceable, doesn’t offer anything new. We begin with two German tourists, a loving couple making their way across the Outback. It’s a frustrating beginning to the film, as we follow this oh-so-nice couple trying to hitchhike, just awaiting the inevitable. While the film is filled with the cliches associated with the genre, they’re irritatingly used with this particular couple. Luckily, it’s not long before good ol’ Mick is introducing himself to these tourists. It is at this point that the film really gets into gear, introducing a new character that will set in motion a prolonged chase-sequence that makes up a good part of the film.
The sequel benefits greatly from a riveting sense of momentum that unfolds, as Taylor chases a British tourist, played by an impressive Ryan Corr, throughout the Outback. A highlight has to be a slick Duel-like chase down an Outback highway. McLean’s confident direction floors this vehicular pursuit to great speeds, culminating in a great example of this sequel’s bigger budget. There’s also a word of caution that should be delivered to those sensitive to sequences of animal road-kill, as Wolf Creek 2 has a doozy of a moment.
The film’s last third is a fantastic mash-up of comedy, thrills and torture, as we sit down with Taylor in a riveting one-on-one game of wits. Those unaware of Australia’s historical background, or who is considered to be Australia’s best cricket player of all time, may want to do some research after witnessing this intense finger-driven spin on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
The film’s bigger budget is noticeable throughout and McLean is able to show off a strong sense of direction. Toby Oliver’s great cinematography deserves a mention too, capturing the eeriness that can accompany the Outback’s desolate stretches.
For all the positive factors, there are a few issues inherit in the screenplay that detract from the overall experience. McLean’s script, co-written by Aaron Sterns, is unfortunately dependent on horror-film tropes. The previously mentioned couple aside, the film is filled with victims executing eye-rollingly stupid decisions. Others may feel at home with tropes like these, but having characters embarrassingly unable to simply run left or right, à la Prometheus, puts a damper on how much we want them to live. Also, in a similar issue that this reviewer had with McLean’s first film, Wolf Creek 2 takes a frustratingly easy way out, wrapping up on a flat note that comes across as more lazy than inspired. There’s no sense of a real finale, just a final attempt to drive home the film’s “true story” elements.
Wolf Creek 2 doesn’t break any new ground and we’ve seen most of this done before, but what it does, it does well. The film’s intense tone is set early and doesn’t let up for most of its running time. McLean’s decision to focus on the character of the deranged Mick Taylor is a good one, adding dimensions that make this Outback killer all the more threatening. The film works better as a thriller than as an exercise in “horror”, because it isn’t particularly what one would call scary. For the most part, this is an edge-of-your-seat chase-film with a nail-biting pace, and the slasher-tropes should add to the experience for undemanding gore-hounds. Wolf Creek 2 aims, shoots, and smacks an amusing, blood-soaked bullet right between our collective eyes.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10