” In short, writer/producer/director McLean’s film will have Wes Craven bowing his head in shame. It’s that good” – Clint Morris
John Jarratt, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi, Nathan Phillips
A few exuberant youngsters, embarking on a cross-country auto sidetrack, break down in the middle of nowhere. They’re greeted by an outwardly affable local yob that’s more than happy to fix their car. As is usually the case, he’s got a far more baleful plan than fixing their ignition switch. Seen that a million times before right?
Whilst that’s true, you most certainly haven’t seen it like this – and have most likely never left the theatre with your Y-fronts so soaked. Prepare to have 98 minutes.
Loosely based on actual events (a bit of the legendary “Backpacker Murders” case committed by Ivan Milat between 1989 and 1992, and also a smidge of the NT’s Falconio case), first-timer Greg McLean’s film tells of two British backpackers (Aussies Cassandra Magrath and Kestie Morassi), who with their new Aussie pal (Nathan Phillips), find themselves stuck in the middle of nowhere – they’re visiting the site of a meteor crash in a barren area known as ‘Wolf Creek’ – when their car mysteriously gives up.
Out of the dark, appears Mick (John Jarratt), a seemingly risk-free country-hick who offers to tow their broken-down car back to his place. They reluctantly agree. He seems a little wacky, but that’s all.
After a camp-fire chat with the generous fix-it man, the threesome fall asleep – but when they wake up, one’s tied up, another’s nailed to a wall and one’s being used as a target for the demented hick’s shooting.
A low-budget – it reportedly cost about a million bucks – entwine of story and scares, “Wolf Creek” isn’t only one of the most well-written Australian films in years, it’s one of the most entertaining. Most surprisingly, it’s also a horror film – something the local industry’s not exactly renowned for (anyone remember, “Cut” (2000) or “Houseboat Horror” (1989)?), unless it’s a B-offering made wholly to keep the bottom shelves at Blockbuster warm.
Yes, it is the template of every other youngsters run into a psycho in the middle of nowhere movie (think “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Wrong Turn”, “House of 1000 Corpses” or the recent “House of Wax”) but, unlike it’s lineage, it’s done well: it’s got memorable characters (we spend half the movie getting to know them before the scares kick in), a compelling storyline, a petrifying villain and an inexorable amount of nail-biting tension and jumps. There’s a few spine-chilling moments in here that may well be responsible for a future bout of wakefulness. In short, writer/producer/director McLean’s film will have Wes Craven bowing his head in shame. It’s that good.
John Jarratt, best known as the happy-go-lucky tool man from TV’s “Better Homes and Gardens”, gives a very unsettling performance as the truly terrifying nut-job. With his disquieting stares, kooky sense of humour, whopping hat, shotgun and discernible pick-up, he’s a character you’ll never forget. Jarratt deserves an award for such an against-type performance – he’s remarkable.
As the youngsters, Morassi (“Strange Bedfellows”), Magrath (“SeaChange”) and Phillips (“You and Your Stupid Mate”) are all at the top of their game – the two females especially with their flawless put-on Brit accents. You really get to know these guys, and when the monsters on their tail – you are truly rooting for them.
Frank Tetaz’s music adds a lot to the film too, helping cracking up the tension, and the film’s cinematography is simply dazzling – making full use of the lavish South Australian locations.
What McLean’s done here is take a tired storyline and spruce it up by injecting indisputably impulsive scares, grand performances and a healthy dose of character.
“Wolf Creek” – come for the sights, stay for the scares. 2 star Accommodation available in crackpot’s tin shed. Free beverage on arrival. You’ll sleep like a Baby under the stars, and run like a gazelle from a croc in the daylight. Cash, Credit Card and Spleen accepted.
Roadshow has slapped together a pretty sweet 2-disc set here.
On the first disc, there’s an enlightening commentary from director McLean, producer Matt Hearn and actors Cassandra Magrath and Kestie Morassi. The girls don’t have a lot to say – except that they improvised a lot of their roles – instead leaving the men to keep us interested and clued up.
On Disc 2, there’s a 50-minute documentary that chronicles the making of the movie (covering nearly every aspect, including : casting, locations, some behind-the-scenes junk, troubles they faced on the shoot, how they milked every cent of the budget, interviews with behind-the-scenes folk and more), a poignant 20-minute interview with Jarratt (who you’ll discover is nothing like Mick Taylor, or ‘Mike’ Taylor as the DVD sleeve incorrectly labelled the feature), and a couple of cut scenes.
Reviewer : Clint Morris