By Simon Miraudo
February 17, 2014
Greg Mclean‘s original Wolf Creek holds a dubious distinction. It’s one of eight films to have ever received an ‘F’ Cinemascore from disgruntled viewers. That means people walked out of the cinema and, when asked by the fine folk at American market research firm Cinemascore how they wanted to rate it, were so repulsed they almost unanimously gave it the lowest grade possible. Other flicks to have earned this dishonour include Richard Kelly‘s maddening mystery The Box, Brad Pitt’s very talky mobster mash Killing Them Softly, and Steven Soderbergh‘s contemplative remake of Solaris. Sadly, Ridley Scott‘s recent drama The Counselor scraped by with a ‘D’. (That’s a relative rave. Still, it seems not even Cameron Diaz‘s gynaecological gymnastics atop a convertible could muster a measly C minus).
Here’s the difference. Those films – presumably – weren’t made with the intention of being reviled. Wolf Creek lived for it. I’m pleased to report Wolf Creek 2 is even more loathsome; detestable and disgusting in all the right ways. It’ll also earn a dubious distinction of its own: this is the first picture in a genuinely long time to make me audibly howl. “Jesus Christ!” were the two (blasphemous) words that reflexively shot out from my lips during one particularly scary sequence. Mclean, you’ve done it again. He’s concocted a truly upsetting viewing ordeal: emotionally, physically, and verbally. That I somehow managed to still find it – against my best moral judgements – pretty hilarious is a testament to his skills as an expert audience manipulator.
John Jarratt returns as Mick Taylor, a warped, fun-house mirror version of every ocker Australian drover stereotype we’ve been force-fed over the years. This sequel begins with him receiving an undeserved speeding ticket from two bored police officers; a decision they come to regret when they find their persons mangled and eventually incinerated at his hands. Yet, these are not the torture subjects Mick will torment for the rest of the feature. In the first instalment, a couple of English backpackers and a Sydneysider found themselves locked up in his West Australian lair. He continues his extermination of “foreign vermin” this time around, beginning with German expats Katarina (Shannon Ashlyn) and Rutger (Phillipe Klaus) before eventually setting his sights on British bystander Paul (Ryan Corr).
Mclean, who co-wrote the script with Aaron Sterns, keeps us guessing as to where Mick, and the movie itself, might be going. Perhaps taking their cues from Psycho, they dispatch protagonists at an alarming rate, and each climactic-seeming moment is followed by an even bigger and more brutal set piece. I’m not going to outline the path of the plot here. Brave viewers will just have to venture in knowing they know nothing at all.
Don’t be fooled: Wolf Creek 2 sits squarely inside the squalid torture porn genre; a genre that was booming back in 2005, when the first Wolf Creek became an international sensation, but dated pretty quickly. Consider this: it’s been three years since the last Saw flick hit cinemas, and about six years since anyone cared about them. This follow-up has its fair share of jump scares – as I said, one of which incited my breaking of the third commandment – however, most of its horror comes from the bloody dismemberment of bodies, both dead and alive. It would all feel somewhat unnecessary and exploitative if there wasn’t a darkly funny and unrelentingly bitter undercurrent to give all that violence meaning.
It’s, shockingly, a damning satire of Australian values, particularly as we enter a renewed age of “other” fearing. The boats are being stopped, and Mick Taylor is doing his part by eradicating any so-called “legal” immigrants who might be invading our shores. An extreme metaphor? Certainly. Hey, Night of the Living Dead wasn’t subtle either. Mclean’s work is so brazenly anti-Australiana, it goes all the way around the bend to becoming patriotic again. Only someone this passionate about our nation, and so angry about its current direction, could make something so potent.
Wolf Creek 2 succeeds on other, more traditionally frightening levels too. There’s a fantastically staged – and, as far as I could tell – practical special effect involving a flying truck, the kind of which you just don’t see on celluloid these days. Jarratt goes for broke and is, well, I don’t want to say ‘a delight‘, but certainly continues to make Mick one of the great movie monsters (despite this sequel not really offering him further levels of character depth). Corr is quite good too as the “damsel-in-distress,” and it’s worth noting one of the better and most nail-biting set-pieces involves the two of them in an Aussie-trivia themed version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Wolf Creek 2 betters its predecessor by doing everything the first one did right, only more so. It’ll probably get a Cinemascore ‘F’ too, and it should wear it as a badge of honour.
Wolf Creek 2 arrives in Australian cinemas February 20, 2014.