Written and Directed by: Greg McLean
A dream vacation turns into a nightmare in this taut thriller from Australia. Ben (Nathan Phillips), Lizzie (Cassandra Magrath), and Kristy (Kestie Morassi) are three friends who, after a night of celebratory drinking, hit the road for a trip to Wolf Creek National Park, where they plan to spend a week hiking and surfing. The three friends are happy to be spending time together, especially after Ben makes the happy discovery that Lizzie is as infatuated with him as he is with her. However, after a long day on foot, Ben, Lizzie, and Kristy make the unpleasant discovery that their car’s battery is dead, leaving them stuck in the middle of nowhere. Help arrives in the form of Mick (John Jarratt), a burly but good-natured outdoorsman who happens upon them; Mick tells them that he can fix their car, and offers to give them a ride to his place down the road. Grateful but a bit nervous around the gregarious stranger, Ben, Lizzie, and Kristy offer Mick a wealth of thanks for his help, and give him some money for his troubles before they fall asleep around the campfire. The next morning, the travelers find themselves bound, gagged, drugged, and separated from one another, and they realize Mick is not the good Samaritan they imagined. Wolf Creek was the first feature film from writer and director Greg McLean.
“Wolf Creek” is another one of those typical horror movies that’ll have you screaming at the screen. Not out of fright, but out of the desire to make the characters hear you yelling at them to STOP doing stupid things! “Stay in the car dumbass!” Any casual horror fan is well aware that the characters in these sorts of movies always do the dumbest things, and that holds true for the threesome of victims in “Wolf Creek.”
At the core of the plot, McLean’s story isn’t anything new, as it pulls out the fears lurking inside us all. I would compare this similarly to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, as both films are based on actual events. In this case the story is based on serial killings of one Ivan Milat who used to pick up hitchhikers on lonely stretches of Australian highway and have his way with them in the woods and the more recent murderous actions of one Bradley Murdoch, who seemed to follow Milat’s footsteps. Movies based on true events are the best kind for a horror fanatic like myself. True events? Yes please! This movie is just a good old-fashioned slasher type film, just for the sake of torture and blood. If you’re into that sort of thing, you should probably look into seeing this one.
The three friends take off on a vacation to Wolf Creek National Park to check out the place where a meteor left a huge crater in the Australian Outback. Why they want to go to such a desolate place when they seem to be club-hopping party animals isn’t really explained, but to each his own form of amusement I guess. The threesome is pretty tight-knit and a fun group to get to know as they make the long drive out to Wolf Creek. Once they arrive and celebrate a little while out exploring the crater, they head back to car to try and find somewhere to stay for the evening. Uh oh! “What do you mean the car won’t start?” They are stuck in the middle of nowhere at night with no means at all of contacting help. So, at this point I am channeling my psychic abilities because I’m totally predicting the plot of this entire movie.
After deciding it’s best to just bed down in the car for the night, their sleep is interrupted by what appears to be a helpful stranger who is more than willing to tow their car to and fix it for them. Why not, right? Sounds like the logical thing to do. No quicker than you can say, “there’s something fishy going on here,” the strange man drugs the group and they each wake up bound and gagged separated from each other. The next portion of the movie contains very graphic and violent, methodically planned torture scenes. There are very graphic displays of mutilations and killings that are so horrific you start to wonder what’s wrong with you as a viewer for even watching this craziness. But if your me, you continue watching. For a horror fan that grew up on classic American horror films from the 80’s, there is a sense of déjà vu that hangs over the movie that lessens the shock value a bit.
Despite the obvious influences of the original “Chainsaw Massacre,” “Hills Have Eyes,” “Last House,” and other kidnap-terror films, it’s easy to predict what is going to happen with this film. The immediate reaction after watching “Wolf Creek” is to never make plans to visit Australia. Seriously, this film will make any reasonable traveler think twice about planning any kind of cross-country adventure through Australia’s Outback region, let alone a visit to the natural wonders of the Wolf Creek crater itself. I hope a reference to this movie isn’t included on a brochure anywhere that encourages people to come visit the bush lands of Australia. Um, thanks but no thanks!
Although this movie contains scenes that are genuinely creepy and horribly thrilling, overall this low-budget film feels a lot like it’s grabbing from familiar territory. We’ve seen it all before except for the fact that it’s set in Australia instead of somewhere in the United States. Basically it retells the same ‘crazed killer slashes up pretty young things in a sadistic manner’ story. This may be a thrill for a horror newbie who hasn’t experienced this type of movie before. It seems that after building up a seemingly intelligent group of people in the beginning of the movie, they lose brain cells at an alarmingly rapid rate when placed in jeopardy. It would be nice to just once in a while see a crazed killer movie where the female victims get free, run away – and keep running. Maybe a one time see but overall, “Wolf Creek” is content to just run with the pack.