Wolf Creek (2005)
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Yes and no. The actual characters and the specific narrative events depicted in the film are completely fictional; Liz Hunter (Cassandra Magrath), Kristy Earl (Kestie Morassi) and Ben Mitchell (Nathan Phillips) were not real people, and what they experience in the film never happened in reality. However, the overall plot (tourists going missing in the outbreak due to their encounter with a killer) is loosely based on reality, specifically the cases of Ivan Milat (aka the Backpacker Murders), Bradley John Murdoch (aka the Peter Falconio mystery), and Joseph Schwab (aka the Kimberley Killer).
Fans are generally in agreement that the main real life influence on the film was Ivan Milat, who killed at least 7 victims between 1989 and 1994 in New South Wales. On September 20th, 1992 a decomposing body was discovered in the Belanglo State Forest, with a second body found nearby the next day. Police were quickly able to confirm that the bodies were those of British backpackers Caroline Clarke and Joanne Walters. Walters had been stabbed 9 times, and Clarke had been shot several times in the head and stabbed post mortem. Investigators looking into the case determined that it was a random incident, and the chances of finding any more bodies in the Forest was negligible. However, in October 1993, a man discovered a human skull and thigh bone in a remote section of the forest, and when the police examined the scene, they discovered two more bodies, which were subsequently identified as Victorian couple Deborah Everist and James Gibson. Then, on November 1st, 1993 another skull was found in a clearing in the forest. The skull was later identified as that of Simone Schmidl from Germany, who had been last seen hitch hiking on January 20th, 1991. Like Walters, Schmidl had been stabbed to death. Clothing found at the scene matched that of yet another missing backpacker, Anja Habschied. The bodies of Habschied and her boyfriend Gabor Neugebauer were then found on November 3rd, in shallow graves near the area where Schmidl's skull was found. Habschied had been decapitated. Because of the different methods of execution, it was felt that the murders were perhaps the work of two killers working together, one who stabbed his victims, one who shot them (in his subsequent trial, Milat claimed that there were actually seven killers in total).
The case broke on November 13th, 1993, when police received a call from Paul Onions in Britain. Onions had been backpacking in Australia and had accepted a ride south out of Sydney from a man calling himself Bill. Near Mittagong, Bill's initially jovial manner had changed and he had pulled a gun on Onions, who managed to escape, flag down a passing car and flee. Around the same time, the girlfriend of a man who worked with Ivan Milat suggested that police talk to him about the murders.
Upon investigating Milat, the police discovered that in 1971 he had been charged with the abduction of two women and the rape of one of them, although the charges were later dropped due to lack of evidence. Milat also worked on the highway between Sydney and Melbourne (where several of the victims disappeared), he owned property in the vicinity of Belanglo Forest, and he had sold a Nissan Patrol four-wheel drive vehicle shortly after the discovery of the bodies of Clarke and Walters (this was the exact same type of vehicle as theirs). On May 5th, 1994, Onions positively identified Milat as the man who had picked him up and tried to kill him, and Milat was arrested on May 22nd. The search of his home revealed a huge collection of weapons, including parts of a .22 calibre rifle that matched the type used in the murders, plus clothing, camping equipment and cameras belonging to several of his victims. In March 1996 the trial finally opened. Lasting fifteen weeks, Milat's defence argued that in spite of the amount of evidence, there was no proof Milat was guilty and attempted to shift the blame to other members of his family, particularly his brother Richard. But on July 27th, a jury unanimously found Milat guilty. For the seven murders, he was given a life sentence on each count, with all sentences running consecutively and without the possibility of parole. He was also convicted of the attempted murder, false imprisonment and robbery of Paul Onions, for which he received six years' jail for each charge. In short, Milat will spend the rest of his natural life behind bars. After the trial, media tracked down Ivan's brother Richard, who was living in a secret location due to death threats. When asked about the case he said that the horrific actions carried out by Millat in New South Wales were nothing compared to what he had done in previous years. Richard also claimed that Millat had killed a total of 28 people, not 7 as he was convicted of, however, he was unable to provide any further details.
In relation to how this case manifested itself in Wolf Creek, it is worth pointing out that according to the film's official website (link no longer active), during the investigation, Dr. Milton, the forensic psychologist working on the case, was asked to summarize the motives of the killer. He did so with a single word - "pleasure" (in the film, Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) seems to thoroughly enjoy his "work", taking great pleasure from torturing, first Kristy and then Liz, and then pursuing Kristy on the highway). Additionally Milat kept the possessions of his victims, having a specific predilection for video cameras (as does Mick in the film). Milat also stabbed Joanna Walters in the lower spine, probably causing immediate physical paralysis (exactly as Mick does to Liz in the film). Finally, the sign at the entrance to Mick's site reads Navithalim Mining Co. "Navitalim" is Ivan Milat spelt backwards.
See here for a lengthy article about Milat, and here & here for an interview with Milat himself.
Another major event to influence the film was the Bradley John Murdoch case involving Joanne Lees and Peter Falconio. Lees and Falconio were British tourists backpacking in Australia. Whilst travelling along the Stuart Highway, near Barrow Creek in the Northern Territory on July 14th, 2001, they were stopped by a man who was indicating that they were having trouble with their car's exhaust. Falconio got out to investigate, and Lees heard a gunshot. The man then dragged her from the car, tied her up, and blindfolded her, before forcing her into his van along with Falconio's dead body. Whilst he was driving however, Lees managed to escape into the bush. Now in the dead of night, she hid and watched as the man and his dog attempted to find her. Eventually after the man left the area, Lees hailed down a passing car, and contacted police. A massive search was initiated for Falconio's body and the murderer. But almost immediately, the world media began to point the finger at Lees herself. Expert Aboriginal trackers had been sent to the scene where Lees had hidden from the man but could find no sign of tracks other than Lees' own in the vicinity. They also failed to find any fresh blood where the car had been stopped. Two years later, with many now firmly believing that Lees herself had killed Falconio, Bradley John Murdoch was charged with rape in Barrow Creek on or around July 14th, 2001. Murdoch was found not guilty of the rape, but Lees identified his photograph as being the man who abducted her, and DNA tests then confirmed that the bloodstains on Lees' clothing matched Murdoch's DNA.
Murdoch's trial began on October 18th, 2005. The jury was out on December 13th, and returned with a verdict of guilty on the same day after only 8 hours of deliberation. Murdoch was also convicted of other assault-related charges on Lees, and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 28 years. Falconio's body has never been found, and there is still a great deal of speculation about the truth of the case. Murdoch has always maintained his innocence, and during the trial his defence team claimed that police procedures were not followed correctly, that Lees' story was inconsistent, and that it was impossible for him to have committed the crime. The defence also discovered that Lees had been cheating on Falconio during their time in Australia, something she denied until confronted with incontrovertible evidence. It was also pointed out how much money Lees has made from the incident; 125,000 AUD for an interview with Martin Bashir and 650,000 AUD advance for a book. Lees was also forced to admit to using ecstasy and marijuana during her visit to Australia, all of which undermined her credibility as a witness. Murdoch's team argued that the whole thing was a cover up:
Peter Falconio faked his own death, and when Peter Falconio and Joanne Lees stopped by the side of the road near Barrow Creek, it was to meet with a third man, of description unknown, in order to take Peter Falconio away, alive. Police planted evidence, with the assistance of Murdoch's former drug-running partner James Hepi, who had both motive and opportunity to frame Murdoch, after Murdoch had been central to Hepi's arrest.
Despite the defence's arguments however, the evidence against Murdoch, most notably the presence of his blood on Lees' clothing, was enough to convince the jury that he was the killer. However, it is worth pointing out in relation to the DNA that the technique used to collect and identify the evidence is itself not entirely without question. Low copy number DNA is a technique which can use minute amounts of DNA to identify a sample, however, not everyone agrees that it is a valid technique. At the trial of Sean Hoey in Northern Ireland in December 2007, where Hoey was charged with 29 murders related to the Omagh bombing, the primary evidence against him was based upon LCN. Hoey's defence team however had several experts testify that LCN is unreliable as an identificatory technique, and Hoey was found not guilty on all charges. The judge was highly critical of the prosecution for relying on such a technique, and subsequently, LCN was suspended by the British police (although it was reinstated, with modifications, several months later). Murdoch's response to the outcome of the Hoey trial was to file an appeal against his conviction. The appeal as well as a subsequent second appeal was unsuccessful.
As an aside, it is worth noting that Murdoch's trial was still under way at the time of the film's initial release in Australia, and for this reason the Northern Territory court placed an injunction on the film's release in that area, believing that it could influence the outcome of the trial if shown.
See here for an archive snapshot of a website dedicated to the Falconio case and here for a 2006 interview with Lees.
In making reference to these two cases as inspirations for Wolf Creek, a commentator on the Australian Outback Travel Guide states:
You should also keep in mind that writer/director Greg McLean wrote the original story years ago, as a conventional and purely fictional horror flick set in the Australian Outback. He only became aware of the true cases afterwards, and took ideas and cues from them and blended them into his story. The line "based on true events" surely helps marketing the film, but it is misleading....
It is rather more likely that the original inspiration for the film was the 1987 case of Joseph Schwab a German tourist, who murdered five people in the region straddling the Northern Territory, Western Australian border, not far from the real Wolfe Creek. The case gripped Australians generally at the time and caused terror for travellers in those parts until he was caught. As Wikepedia states: The gunmans first victims were Marcus and Lance Bullen, a father and son, who were shot dead with a high-powered rifle on June 9th, while scouting for a fishing location on the banks of the Victoria River, and their bodies later found in shallow graves. Just days later three more tourists Phillip Charles Walkemeyer and his fiancé Julie Anne Warren, and their friend Terry Kent Bolt were shot dead similar circumstances at the Pentecost River Crossing near Wyndham, Western Australia.
A documentary was produced for Foxtel's Crime & Investigation Network called "The Kimberley Killer". Edit (Coming Soon)
The opening legend of the film states, "30,000 people are reported missing in Australia every year. 90% are found within a month. Some are never seen again."
This is not entirely accurate, but it is not too far from the truth. According to the Australian Federal Police's official missing persons website, the actual number of reported missing persons per year is higher; an average of 35,000. As the website explains, this is the equivalent of one person disappearing every 15 minutes. However, 95% (33,250) are found within a week, and 98% (34,300) within six months. This means that only 2% of all missing persons are still missing after 6 months. 2% of 35,000 is 700; so, of all the missing persons reported every year, roughly 700 remain missing over six months.
For example, between July 2006 and December 2007, a research program was undertaken into missing persons in Australia, which revised outdated statistics. According to this report, 30,288 people were reported missing to the police in 2006, which is a rate of 1.5 per 1,000 (i.e. for every 1,000 people, 1.5 went missing, or to put it more simply, for every 2,000 people, 3 went missing, for every 4,000, 6 went missing etc). 98% of these 30,288 (which is 29,682) were found within six months, leaving 606 people unaccounted for after six months.
However, the problem some fans have with the opening legend is not that the figures are wrong, but that it seems to imply that 10% of all missing persons (roughly 3,000 people per year) are murdered and never found, which is, of course, completely inaccurate. The opening legend does not specifically state that the missing 10% are murdered, but given the ominous tone of "Some are never seen again," and taken in the context of the movie itself, many fans feel that this is what is implied, whether it be a conscious decision on the part of the filmmakers or not.
As regards reasons for why or how a person may go missing, the above mentioned report offers a variety of explanations, and in fact, never mentions murder once. Amongst some of the possibilities are people who disappear on purpose and simply don't want to be found, such as illegal immigrants, tax evaders, criminals, people fleeing from personal problems (such as abuse), and drug addicts fleeing a debt. People suffering from a mental handicap are also mentioned, particularly victims of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. The report also mentions that of the roughly 30,000 reported cases each year, many involve children that have simply wandered off their property and gotten temporarily lost, and over-zealous family members who report someone missing when there is no real need to do so.
Taking all of this into consideration then, the opening legend is not entirely wrong; several hundred people do go missing in Australia every year who are never heard from again. However, at the same time, there are a vast array of reasons as to why someone may disappear, and given the figures, of the roughly 700 people who disappear, the percentage that are murdered in the outback and never found is minuscule. Edit (Coming Soon)
Exactly why the watches stop is unknown, and is never clarified for certain in the film. In one respect, the scene is simply a homage to a similar scene in the 1975 Peter Weir film Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975). Writer/director Greg McLean confirms this on the DVD commentary track. Also on the commentary track Mclean points out that from a practical point of view the crater possibly generates some kind of magnetic interference which causes problems with watches, compasses etc. This ties in with what Ben says about why the meteorite landed where it did, as opposed to somewhere else; that there was perhaps something in the earth which drew it to that spot.
However, Mclean also acknowledges that there may be something more to the scene, "there's potentially some kind of force going on that's not quite normal; something outside of themselves is moving around." The reason the watches stop is thus connected to some kind of "Otherness" in the area, i.e. when they enter that area, they are stepping outside normal reality and into a place where different rules are at play.
As regards the car, it is confirmed later on in the film when Liz looks at the camcorder that obviously, Mick himself sabotages the car whilst the others are at the crater.
Finally, it is also worth pointing out that from a purely narrative point of view, the watches stopping is simply a misdirection for the audience. Upon first watching the film, the audience assumes that whatever happened to the watches has also happened to the car, so they never stop to suspect sabotage, and hence do not see anything unusual in the arrival of Mick; i.e. the watches stopped, and so the car stopped for the same reason. Mick driving by was just a coincidence. Edit (Coming Soon)
According to Greg Mclean, yes, it is: That whole sequence is taken from the Milat case. When I read that I couldn't believe it. That's what he did to some of his victims, and that's probably some of the worst stuff I've heard my whole life. That's very real, which is even more disturbing. here[/link]] Head-on-a-stick is also mentioned in the book Sins of the Brother: The Definitive Story of Ivan Milat and the Backpack Murders, by Mike Stewart where it is mentioned that Milat had talked about this method of torture many years prior to the first murder. Additionally, Milat's victim Joanne Walters had a knife wound in her lower spine which could have caused a total physical paralysis. Edit (Coming Soon)
When Liz returns to Mick's lair to get a car, she looks around the garage for a few moments before getting into one of the cars. When she gets into the car however, it is revealed that Mick is sitting in the back seat, and he stabs her through the seat. This prompts the question, of the many cars in the garage, how did he know which one she'd get into. There is in fact, no explanation offered for this, with many fans seeing it as a plot hole. Fans have also queried how Mick was able to sneak into the garage, open the car door, get in and close the door behind him, all without Liz hearing him. Some fans have speculated that this is an element of Mick's "other-worldliness", that he is not entirely what he seems, not entirely from the same "realm" as the rest of the characters, i.e. there is something supernatural about him, but there is no evidence for this in the film, and his knowledge of what car Liz would choose does seem to make little sense. A more mundane possibility is that of all the cars in that garage, only one of them was in working condition. Many of the cars were covered in thick dust and could have had their gas tanks emptied and batteries disconnected. He could simply have waited in the back of the vehicle that worked and waited for her to try the car. Visually, that car could also have been the one with the least dust on it. Given that the girls returned to the camp on foot in the dark, while Mick traveled by truck, he certainly had time to prepare this. Edit (Coming Soon)
In the final shot of the film, Mick, in silhouette, is seen walking away from the camera towards the outback. As he moves, he slowly fades from view, literally disappearing before our eyes. Writer/director Greg Mclean says of this shot: It's conceivable that this guy could be real. He could exist. Also, even though we don't know anything about his back-story really he's a genuinely frightening character who is like a monster. In terms of what he does and what he gets up to. He transcends things, he's not just a bad guy. here[/link]] Furthermore, on his DVD commentary Mclean says; "this shot suggests that Mick could be a force of nature, and he's still out there somewhere." Fans have offered their own theories as to the significance of the shot. Some argue that Mick fading away means he could be anywhere at any time; he is Evil itself as opposed to an evil person and is thus ubiquitous. Another theory is that Mick is literally part of nature itself, and in the last shot he is returning to it. A more straightforward theory is that the shot symbolizes the fact that Mick got away with the murders, and that he will never be found and brought to justice. Edit (Coming Soon)
The R1 US Unrated DVD, released by the Weinstein Company in 2005, the standard R1 US DVD, released by the Weinstein Company in 2005, and the R2 UK DVD, released by Optimum Releasing in 2005, all contain the following special features:
• Feature length audio commentary with writer/director/producer Greg McLean, executive producer Matt Hearn and actresses Cassandra Magrath & Kestie Morassi.
• Theatrical Trailer
• Teaser Trailer
• The Making of 'Wolf Creek' (2006); a 50-minute documentary looking at the making of the film
• Deleted scene
• Theatrical Trailers for Haute tension (2003) and Dead Man's Shoes (2004)
• Exclusive clip from Cry Wolf (2005)
Additionally, the standard R1 US DVD and the R2 UK DVD contain a 21-minute interview with actor John Jarratt and two additional deleted scenes. These scenes are also available on the R1 US Unrated DVD; they have simply been edited back into the movie to create the unrated version. Edit (Coming Soon)
All three DVDs detailed above contain one deleted scene:
Nathan at Store: Nathan is in a store trying to decide what road map to buy. He picks up two and approaches the cash desk, behind which a woman is sat reading a book. As Nathan reaches the desk, the woman turns, smiles manically at him and says "G'day".
Additionally, the standard R1 US DVD and the R2 UK DVD contain two further deleted scenes (which have been edited back into the film to create the Unrated version):
Kestie in bed with Nathan: Kestie wakes up the morning after the party to find herself in bed with Nathan. They are sleeping in opposite directions, with his feet on her pillow and vice versa. She gets up, sneaks out of the room, and goes to her own bedroom to get a toothbrush. Whilst there, she ruffles the bedclothes of her own bed to make it look slept in.
Cass Down the Well: When Cass returns to Mick's to look for a car, she takes time to inspect the desk where Mick kept all his weapons. She finds a hand gun and tries several boxes of ammo before she finds the ones that fit the weapon. After loading it, she then goes outside and approaches a well of some kind. Leaning over to see what is in the well, she drops the gun, and so climbs down after it. At the end of the ladder however, she slips and falls to the ground. She takes a second to get her bearings, and is then horrified to see that the well is full of bodies in various states of decomposition. She screams, and climbs back up the ladder, leaving the gun behind. Edit (Coming Soon)