Wolf Creek (DVD)

Wolf Creek (DVD)
Insanity & death in Australia's Outback.
Updated: 04-10-2006

Two touted torture horror flicks that came out in the U.S. within about a month of each other are Hostel and Wolf Creek. Both are quite similar in that they follow three vacationing friends, and all is fun and feel-good at first — then things take a terribly wrong turn when our protagonists are trapped by sadistic murderers. But Hostel and Wolf Creek are quite different in tone and conclusion. Hostel is cinematic and ultimately more satisfying, while Wolf Creek is just plain bleak.


Wolf Creek, a low-budget Australian film, starts off by introducing us to Aussie Ben Mitchell (Nathan Phillips) and two English girls, Liz (Cassandra Magrath) and Kristy (Kestie Morassi). They've decided to take a road trip out to see a crater that was allegedly made by space aliens. The friends are shown driving, bantering, and engaging in horseplay for quite some time, but even though a lot of time is spent showing them in their carefree state, not much is revealed about them as people. The pals first run into trouble when they return from their long hike to where their clunker is parked by the side of the road. It won't start, and the mechanically challenged trio prepare to spend the night in the outback.


As luck would have it, a friendly, burly outbacker called Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) happens by and offers them a tow to his place, where he says he'll fix their car. After an unusually long drive into the proverbial Middle of Nowhere, Mick regales the young sightseers around a campfire with stories of his career as a vermin hunter, delighting in reliving the deaths of the "animals" he’s dispatched. They laugh and drink his moonshine, but are unable to hide their growing unease. Something's not right with "Crocodile Dundee."


It turns out, their instincts were correct: Mick is a sadistic serial killer, specializing in hapless tourists. Before they know what hit them, he has the three young people subdued, and the scenes of torture that follow are truly cringe-inducing and horrifying. They’re almost painful to watch, which is a testament to the fine acting in Wolf Creek.


While the acting is good and the scenes of chaos are believable, the script is quite weak. The best-drawn character is the murderer, yet we are being asked to identify with the victims. First time writer/director Greg McLean shows promise, but he needs to find his own style — Wolf Creek is something akin to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets Blair Witch Project, and without half the story of those movies this one does not quite work as a whole on its own. In addition, the lighting and cinematography is so poor that it may induce eyestrain and headaches in some viewers.


The core element that works for Wolf Creek is the sense of total and complete isolation. The Australian Outback is brutal — scorching in the day, freezing in the night, offering no shelter, nowhere to hide, and certainly no signal, no phones and few manmade roads. The idea that Liz, Christie and Ben are neophytes up against a survivalist psychopath who knows the territory better than he knows himself is effectively brought home. What does not work are the puzzling flip-flops between smart and stupid in the things that the characters do. The movie definitely takes too long to build, then crumbles in the third act. Yet, it is memorable and I cannot say that about too many of the horror films I see.


The hi-def DVD looks much better than the grainy, shaky mess I saw on the big screen (though I still contend the cinematography could have been cleverer in framing and composition). The featurettes are reasonably interesting, but only for diehard fans of the movie. The Making-of feautrette runs nearly an hour, and commentary goes into extreme technical detail. The moments of fun (the cast and crew really did seem to like each other, and it's nice to see the normally jovial Jarratt out of character) are nice to see (and to hear, on the commentary — actresses Magrath and Morassi lighten things up). There is also a deleted scene (nothing special) and the obligatory trailer on the disc.


Special Features:

Commentary by director/writer Greg McLean, executive producer Matt Hearn, and actors Cassandra Magrath and Kestie Morassi

Making of Wolf Creek featurette

Deleted scene



Our original theatrical review


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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson

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