Wolf Creek (2005)

Director Greg Mclean
Writers Greg Mclean
Starring John Jarratt, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi, Nathan Phillips
Genre Psycho
Tagline How can you be found when no one knows you're missing

Talk us through it

Two English tourists, Liz and Kristy, along with their Aussie mate Ben decide to take a road trip to Wolf Creek, site of the largest meteorite impact on the planet. They eventually hike to the crater, this movie takes a while to grind through the gears, said hike taking two hours. When they get back to their car the trio find the engine wont start and things are looking bleak. Only Ben I think realizes they could be in real trouble if no one else comes along.

Thankfully a savior appears in the night in the form of Mick, a bushman who seems to be a jack of all trades, some of which only become apparent later in the movie. Mick checks the donk, that would be the engine, and his diagnoses is the coil is rooted, that would be the coil has gone to the great mechanic's work shop in the sky. Luckily he can give the kids a tow back to his camp where he can fix the donk and get them on their way. After some internal discussion our group of victims, do people not watch horror flicks? - agree to the plan.

Later around a camp fire at Mick's abandoned quarry camp the bushman starts to give Ben the evil eye, none of the three notice the gathering storm behind Mick's easy going manner. Next day Liz awakes in a shack with her feet and hands bound. The three adventurers are about to discover the Aussie bush has some real deadly denizens.

Ready to check out Mick's knife?


"Nothing like rain water from the top end." - Mick

Greg McLean's debut feature certainly generated a storm of controversy back in 2005 as he served up a helping of horror simply dripping in blood. One SBS Critic termed the movie "unnecessary" in a review that was less about the actual movie and more about writing a personal diatribe. Sorry I don't like gorenography either, but if your job is to review movies then you review them on their own merit not from a personal agenda. Famed seppo Critic Roger Ebert gave Wolf Creek zero stars out of five as he went on the rampage about how misogynist Mclean's film was. Sorry Roger, what was the name of the movie you scripted again? You know the one that present women in a very bad light in an atrociously bad flick. Bit of pot kettle going down there and Ebert needs to extract the carrot, the Southern land don't need him around anyhow. In the wash up Wolf Creek is a brutal, confronting movie, however the question remains is it any good? Lets get down to where the metal meets the flesh.

Mclean starts his movie with a few title cards informing us that Wolf Creek is based on a true story, yeah and monkeys might fly out of my butt, 30,000 people disappear in Australia each year, with 90% being found within a week, and a partridge in a pear tree was seen on the Hume highway. Being a veteran horror observer I'm no longer fooled by these sort of claims, though judging from the online reaction you can still fool a lot of the people a lot of the time. Especially if they are na´ve teens who lap up this "based on a true story" tripe. Wolf Creek is based around a couple of murder cases that rocked the nation. Firstly Ivan Milat was waylaying hitch hikers in a state forest and making the Australian tourist board work even harder to convince people to come on down; we'll throw a shrimp on the barbie if you can avoid the serial killers. The second case involved a young couple running into trouble up in the Northern Territory, the woman survived, and like Milat the perpetrator is now safely behind bars. The case was dubbed the "Falconio" case and was widely reported both in Australia and overseas. It should be noted that neither case took place in South Australia, where Wolf Creek is set as opposed to Mick's claim of being in the "top end", and neither case involved mythical Bushman or camp sites in the never never. Mclean's movie is arguably very loose with it's facts and the whole "based on a true story" can be flagged away.

After fooling some of his audience with some pretty audacious claims Mclean moves on to present a pretty slow moving hour long block that is meant to serve to introduce the main characters, get some group dynamic happening, and give a logical reason as to how Mick knew the tourists would have parked their car at Wolf Creek. I'm all for a slow moving start to a horror flick and getting the audience behind the protagonists, but these three were simply unlikable. I really didn't care what happened to them, though Liz got me on side in the final block, and wish never again to suffer through Ben's appallingly bad guitar playing and singing. Not really sure what Mclean could have done with this block, but it's pretty disjointed and throws in a number of scenes that are not pertinent to the movie the audience is sitting through. We didn't need the sleazy used car salesman and the party for example. Mclean would have lost a lot of his audience with this clumsy attempt at getting some involvement going down.

Mclean's first block, that seeems to drag on for hours, sets the audience up for the full on violence in the final third of the movie.

In the final block of the movie things heat up and the sauce pan gets burnt as Mclean lets loose with some confrontational scenes that will have a lot of people switching off. It's mean spirited, Mclean doesn't hold back on the juice, and the final block will knock you on your arse. Intense came to mind, and the other word I jotted down was "unexpected" as the Director simply throws horror conventions out the window. There's one iconic horror scene that's coming at you that is simply chilling. Batten down the hatches folks, the final act of Wolf Creek is a gale force wind that will leave nothing standing in it's wake.

There are however a few irritations involved as Mick lets out the inner beast. How exactly did he know Liz would pick that car? One of the characters disappears for a huge slab of the final act, not a good development Mr Mclean, and various victims simply do stupid things because the script required them to. For gorehounds, things are more of the suggested variety of slaughter house antics than being in your face. Not entirely sure that was a weakness to be honest, but thought I should throw it on the table.

Behind the camera Mclean has a firm hand and gives us an almost poetic visual experience in places. When Kristy tries to flee, for example, the morning mist was simply eerie and otherworldly, Mclean nails it. The Director has his location shots down pat, uses the good looking scenery to it's fullest, and presents a visual treat that will have foreign viewers booking flights to come on down, naturally avoiding Wolf Creek of course. When Mclean goes for suspense shots he tightens up the angles, adds up the claustrophobic elements, and comes at the viewer with a raw power that simply drips venom. The Director isn't shooting in sanitized Boredwood fashion, he's serving things up with a healthy garnish of reality.

Script wise Mclean pulls a few rabbits out of his hat while keeping things on the straight and narrow. Some mysticism and UFO developments actually work when Mick's headlights appear out of the dark, Ben is hyped on his own UFO stories and shows great relief when he hears the truck engine, clearly that's going to be pretty ironic. Mclean skillfully inserts a scene that indicates how Mick knew about the trip to Wolf Creek, and devastatingly in impact, that he has been preying on tourists for quite sometime. One wonders what the local State police force had been up to while assorted tourists simply vanished while visiting Wolf Creek. Mclean has an ear for dialogue, things are pretty believable, and besides the odd "it happened because the script required it to happen" moments, pretty much nails things. If I had to criticize the writing it would be the watch issue and solar eclipse scenes that simply go nowhere and get dropped after making brief appearances.

John Jarratt (Mick Taylor) was simply awesome and delivered the best performance I have ever seen from the actor. Mick was deranged, menacing, and an instant local icon. Jarratt, who I guess could be termed an Aussie horror veteran, simply nails the role. Cassandra Magrath (Liz Hunter) surprisingly turns out to be the center of the final act, and Magrath is up to the challenge, presenting a tough character who only really motors when the chips are down. Magrath matches Jarratt in the scenes they share together, which speaks volumes about her ability. Kestie Morassi (Kristy Earl) started okay but lost it in an avalanche of hysterical overreaction late in the movie as she gave new meaning to the term "scream queen". Didn't dig her performance at all to be honest. Nathan Phillips (Ben Mitchell) is turning out to be one of the more over rated Actors from Down Under and simply went bogan. He didn't sell me in this role.

T&A is a non starter for ten though at one stage Cassandra Magrath jogs into the surf in just her knickers. Surprisingly it's not a Kodak moment, Mclean is to busy wowing us with the visuals.

Frank Tetaz turned in a score that is instantly recognizable as Australian even though it's pretty schizophrenic. Moves range from dramatic orchestral through to almost Balinese traditional, Tetaz has Mclean's visuals covered like a blanket. We also get a number of pop/rock numbers, with my pick being "Eagle Rock" by Daddy Cool.

Summary Execution

It's taken me a while to get around to Wolf Creek as I was waiting on the dust to settle from various angles and gorenography isn't my thing. Mclean's debut feature is confronting, in your face, and not taking any prisoners. Besides one scene that shocked the hell out of, the head on a stick, I don't think the movie deserves to be lumped into the extreme horror pile as some people have been doing. I can't say I enjoyed the movie, it's certainly an unpleasant feeling sitting through it, but I can see the merit of the movie and the craftsmanship put into it.

Wolf Creek, fueled by more controversy than a Mungo mad Monday, smashed through the $5 million mark Down Under and set the pace for modern Aussie horror at the box office. It did okay in North America without setting the house on fire, sorry no figures to hand, and gained a cinema release in most other markets. On the DVD front it would appear it didn't do so well, I'm judging this on the number of copies of the movie appearing in sales bins and a couple of local charts of the time. For this review I watched the R4 two disc release, though if the movie really works for you there's rumoured to be a four disc version floating around.

Wolf Creek is recommended to readers who don't mind their horror on the more brutal side of the knife. It's not taking any prisoners and doesn't attempt to make a comment on the human condition. If torture isn't your thing then give this movie a miss and try one of the milder offerings from Down Under. Greg Mclean certainly makes an impact with his first movie, Wolf Creek is worth a visit, I wouldn't stay overnight however.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

The movie has some flaws bit Mclean makes up for that with his visuals. Not my cup of tea but I can certainly see the merit of Wolf Creek.