Based on a true story (or so says the internet and the DVD cover, I have no idea and wasn’t about to dive down that rabbit hole), this is a truly brutal slasher for fans of credibly cruel, mean-spirited things happening to good people who did nothing wrong and don’t deserve it. That said… loved it.
As we are introduced to our twentysomething protagonists awash with rum shots, bleary-eyed party montages, “who likes who” gossip, and haphazard vacation plans, I’m reminded of The Ruins (2008), Indigenous (2014) and so many other horror films with the same standard “meet the players” opening. Likable and relatable, Liz (Cassandra Magrath; Scare Campaign), Kristy (Kestie Morassi; Darkness Falls) and Ben (Nathan Phillips; Chernobyl Diaries) set out for Wolf Creek deep in the Australian Outback for a camping adventure only to find themselves stranded when their car won’t start.
As luck would have it, a rustic local stumbles across them and offers a tow back to his camp, where he’ll fix their car and put them up for the night. Mick Tayler (John Jarratt; Boar, Rogue, Next of Kin) seems friendly, but an awkwardly backwoods kind of rough. But, far from the nearest town… what choice do they have but to accept his kindness?
Mick is a surprisingly rich character. He explains the history of the outback’s abandoned towns, dust storms, and his work shooting varmints and water buffalo that encroached on farmlands… and all delivered with an off-puttingly Deliverance-ish (1972) sense of humor. Yet such alarming social cues receive no action from our wayward travelers because, once again, what would these three travelers do otherwise?
Never boring us with exposition along the way Wolf Creek takes its time, peppers scenes warning about remote landlocked locals and resource scarcity, and lets us patiently settle into our characters for an hour before any horrors transpire. But once it starts, it’s heavy. Mick is ruthlessly cruel and takes tremendous joy in the torment of his victims as he breaks them down as much psychologically as he does physically. Well beyond his actions, his irrefutable comfort in his own menace inform us that he’s quite seasoned in the pastimes of torturing, raping, flaying and hunting his victims.
With a dismembered torso hanging about, Mick’s décor may momentarily remind you of Wrong Turn (2003) or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre part II (1986). But he’s far more “human” than those inbred hillbilly cannibals—yet every bit as scary. Mick enjoys talking to his victims as he toys with them, lops of fingers with his big knife, and he gleefully severed one’s spinal cord to render her helpless. In retrospect, the “amount” of violence isn’t nearly as high as so many similar movies. But the violence within is sheer brutal soulnessness. And so it leaves a powerful impression. Mick Taylor is an excellent villain.
Written and directed by Greg McLean (Rogue, The Belko Experiment, Wolf Creek 2), this is a film in which the worst possible fate befalls our protagonists and they have done nothing to deserve it. They had no reasonable choice but to accept Mick’s offer to help… and for that, they suffered in this excellent Aussie slasher!