Best friends Marie and Alexia decide to spend a quiet weekend at Alexia's parents' secluded farmhouse. But on the night of their arrival, the girls' idyllic getaway turns into an endless night of horror.
Desperate to repay his debt to his ex-wife, an ex-con plots a heist at his new employer's country home, unaware that a second criminal has also targeted the property, and rigged it with a series of deadly traps.
After kidnapping and brutally assaulting two young women, a gang unknowingly finds refuge at a vacation home belonging to the parents of one of the victims: a mother and father who devise an increasingly gruesome series of revenge tactics.
Three backpackers travel into the Australian Outback only to find themselves stranded at Wolf Creek crater. Once there, they are encountered by a bushman, Mick Taylor, who offers them a ride back to his place. Little do the three know that their adventure into the Outback would be a complete nightmare after the backpackers find a way to escape.
I was thrilled to see a movie like "Wolf Creek" come out in theatres: a straightforward horror film not relying on clever twists (except one, small one) or gimmicks. It was the kind of film "High Tension" started off as before that last act mindf*ck. And while I ended up appreciating what that movie did, I would have loved it more without the twist.
"Wolf Creek" picks up where films like "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Last House on the Left" left off, without feeling the need to necessarily "pay homage" to them. I wonder if the fact that it's not American-made has anything to do with that. I also wonder if the non-American influence kept this from becoming predictable or familiar in any way. What you think is going to happen in this film never quite happens. One of the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" taglines was, "Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them?" I think this film asks the same question, but doesn't provide so simple an answer.
I think it's best to know little about "what happens" here before seeing it. Most people know the basics--three backpackers on a road trip, they stop at remote Wolf Creek, entering an odd Twilight Zone of stopped time and dead car engines. A friendly bushman stops by willing to help, let the nightmare begin.
I love that director/writer/producer Greg McLean never offers an explanation for the watches and the car engine. What happens in this film seems almost alien--three humans struggling to survive on what appears like a distant, barren planet, up against a hunter with no semblance of humanity in him. Yes, this movie is very similar to "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," but it is in no way a rip-off. While the early-morning showdown on the barren road may look similar to the climax of TCM, it is its own nightmarish entity. In fact, some of the scene reminded me of "Duel." The acting in this movie is brilliant. The three leads--Ben, Kristi, and Liz--are so wonderfully likable, and there is an odd feeling of improvisation in the acting. It's so natural, it seems impossible to script. When everything goes to hell, you want all three of them to survive, and you'll surely be devastated by the slightest injury any of them endures. Many have complained about the hour or so of build up, but I think it was brilliant on McLean's part to make sure we cared about these people, and then to put them through the wringer. It's sadistic, too, emotionally, but it's the sign of a great director.
John Jarratt, as Mick, is unforgettably cruel. Jarratt embodies this character from head to toe, and is fearless in his performance. Mick is an ugly, cruel man, and yet when we first meet him, he seems like the nicest guy in the world. One of the scariest aspects to this film is that you can see yourself falling for all of his tricks.
To be honest, I never want to see "Wolf Creek" again. It's not a fun movie. I left wanting to hate it, because I hated what happened. But I admire this movie for what it managed to do. I truly had to keep repeating to myself, "It's only a movie," (the infamous "Last House on the Left" tagline) but it's so realistic and so unflinching in portraying what happens, that you'll feel as if someone was always peeking around a corner with a camera, filming an actual event. Of course, this is based on true events, and frankly, there is some discrepancy to how "true" this film tries to be (obviously, much of the second act had to be dramatized, and you'll realize why once you see the movie) but it didn't need that "based on true events" tag. It's already very real.
I hate to end on the old "Jaws" cliché, but as I am going to Australia soon, I can say for a fact that this does do for backpacking what "Jaws" did for swimming. I consider this movie a parable of sorts. Well done.
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