In 2005, director Greg McLean and actor John Jarratt, perfectly crafted and unleashed Australia’s first iconic horror villain in Mick Taylor. The psychotic serial killer, trojan-horsed as your friendly everyday Aussie bushman, stunned and engrossed audiences both far and wide. Wolf Creek worked on a multitude of levels, not only for its clever manipulation of suspense or shockingly graphic violence, but because Mick Taylor was a guy we’ve all met. He’s your uncle. Your neighbour. That guy at the pub. His ‘everydayness’ made his tortuous actions strike a nerve that echoed loudly in our collective Australian conscious.
That was back in 2005.
Based loosely (although I suspect not at all) on ‘true events’, Wolf Creek 2 fails mightily to live up to the name and status of its predecessor despite providing a few brief flashes of what could have been. Sadly, it’s just another mostly mediocre horror sequel.
This time round, the film doesn’t waste any time in reacquainting the nefarious Taylor (and his truly disturbing laugh) back to his adoring fans. The opening pits Mick against two crooked police officers who made a ‘grave’ mistake in pulling his truck over on a desolate highway strip. In this finely crafted opening scene, McLean quickly re-establishes his knack for carving up the tension, only to forget about it for the remainder of the film.
Whether we’ve grown accustomed to this character and these settings or not, the vast majority of the film is almost entirely devoid of scares or anything that represents effective suspense, something that Wolf Creek managed with absolute precision.
Also as baffling is how the character of Mick has been homogenised and mutated into a parody of horror villain clichés. Jarratt clearly relishes the opportunity to play such an epochal character, hunting his prey while dishing out a colourful array of funny but distasteful one-liners (with a hyper ramped-up ‘ocker’ accent in tact). Unfortunately, the film decides to provide a poorly conceived justification for his actions, therefore stripping away from the ferocity and monstrosity of his acts. He’s a sadist, not a vigilante. We don’t want to know what his motivations are. It’s far more horrifying (and Hitchcockian) when someone acts without cause or reason. Show don’t tell.
While not as graphically violent as the original, this sequel does have its fair share of bloodshed, including an extended torture sequence at the end that well and truly overstays its welcome. Although thankfully the camera cuts away during those awful torture-porn-esque moments.
Apart from Jarratt’s rollicking (yet sadly slightly overdone) performance, the film’s one saving grace is the world-class photography by cinematographer Toby Oliver. Matching his lens with an increased production budget, the visuals on display do truly capture the grandeur of our great country that attracts so many backpackers to our lands.
Let’s just hope films like this don’t scare them away.