The outback once more becomes a place of horror as another unwitting tourist becomes the prey for crazed, serial-killing pig-shooter Mick Taylor.
Back in 2005, director Greg McLean told us the story of Mick Taylor and his predilection for slaughtering tourists who happened to wander near his home in Wolf Creek. The first film was a taut, nerve wracking exercise in horror that left audiences stunned at its brutality. Here we are nearly 10 years later and guess who’s back, roaming the desolate plains of Wolf Creek, looking for new victims to slaughter?
Wolf Creek 2 isn’t so much a continuation from the first film as it is a remake (With one big difference). This isn’t unheard of and has been done successfully before (Most notably with Evil Dead 2) but if you’re expecting a different spin on the first film you might be disappointed. The film opens with a pair of highway policemen sitting in their patrol car on the side of a desolate road, waiting for a speeder to shoot past so they can issue proper citations. Of course the only car that passes them by has Mick behind the wheel and once he’s pulled over, the 2 cops seem to enjoy threatening him & calling him names before they issue him a ticket. John Jarratt plays Mick with a engaging innocence in this opening scene and the cops are such pricks you kind of want to see Mick take them down, which he does in a most brutal manner. Afterwards we’re introduced to a German couple, Rutger & Katrina (Philippe Klaus & Shannon Ashlyn), backpacking their way across the outback. In an interesting twist, they speak German throughout the film although the film is subtitled so we can follow their dialog. But in actuality it doesn’t make much of a difference as their dialog is fairly mundane – exactly what you’s expect two young lovers to be saying to one another and nothing more. But since the first 15-20 minutes of the film follows them as they inexorably wend their way towards the titular creek, you can’t help but get a bit invested in their story. Even if you know exactly how it’s gonna end up.
Or do you? Although Rutger ends up brutally murdered, Katrina manages to get away. She even ends up getting rescued by a passing car driven by Paul (Ryan Corr), a British student traveling across Australia. But Mick eventually catches up to them and after doing away with Katrina (Using a rifle equipped with a scope), he goes after Paul. The rest of the film details the hunt and its results and this is the biggest difference between this film and its predecessor. There isn’t a “Final Girl” as there was in the first film, there’s a “Final Guy” and while it’s extremely prototypical for there to be a final victim facing off against the killer, it’s usually a girl. The idea of a “Final Guy” facing off against the killer in the end is intriguing but does it work?
Wolf Creek 2 is nowhere near as slow & deliberate as the first film was. In the original we didn’t even get to see Mick until maybe halfway into it. He’s on screen almost immediately in this film and that takes away the sense of mystery surrounding the character. In the original film he’s practically an enigma but here he’s portrayed as just another psycho with a truck and a rifle. He’s also a lot more verbal here and a lot of his dialog consists of humorous asides & wise cracks, much like Freddie Krueger’s dialog in Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) and beyond. While the humor might satiate those who enjoy their psychos to be funny, I personally think that the funny dialog lessens the dread in Wolf Creek 2 to the point that Mick becomes more a shadow of the fearful presence he was in Wolf Creek.
But what the film loses by making Mick more quipster than monster it regains in its depiction sheer violence. The gore quotient has been quadrupled for Wolf Creek 2 and some of it is really, really brutal. Heads are blown apart or decapitated, bodies dissected & immolated, penises sliced off (Thankfully not eaten though). All of this brutality (& more) is detailed in loving close up with crystal clear cinematography by Toby Oliver. In fact, Wolf Creek 2 is gorgeous to look at, the wide open spaces & gorgeous vistas of Australia are truly a sight to see and the film takes advantage of the inherent beauty of the country.
My biggest problem with Wolf Creek 2 is the polar opposite of my biggest problem with Wolf Creek, namely that we see way too much of Mick Taylor and that lessens its fear factor enormously. While I enjoyed Wolf Creek, I thought that it was really slow in the beginning and didn’t get to Mick quick enough to keep me engaged. But after watching the sequel, I understand the mood that McLean was going for in the original. He spends so much time with the characters in the first film that when the shit finally did hit the fan, audiences really cared about them and had a vested interest in their safety. There’s none of that in Wolf Creek 2, it’s almost just another mindless slasher flick.
But John Jarratt’s performance elevates the material into something special. Although he’s a big man he doesn’t look particularly threatening and he has a very welcoming smile but once he furrows his brow and gets angry? He literally transforms himself into something a lot scarier than you initially thought. He becomes near feral and he gets a perverse pleasure from killing innocent people that’s extremely upsetting. Murder isn’t fun but Taylor sure seems to be having a good time regardless and that’s what makes Jarratt’s characterization frightening – he’s enjoying every second of the hunt and revels in the kill.
McLean’s direction is sturdy but I don’t think the script (by McLean & Aaron Sterns) demanded too much in the way of a sure footed director. McLean knows the character well enough to fashion a script that serves to introduce him to a new audience and remind the old audience of how brutal he is at the same time. There is an amazing car chase scene smack dab in the middle that’s highlighted by a stampede of kangaroos (!) which is both hilarious and sad at the same time and obviously based on the Gallimimus stampede in Jurassic Park (1993). There’s a lot of CGI here but it’s all quite realistic and believable. Wolf Creek 2 has its faults but in the end it’s still a very engaging bit of Ozploitation that manages to creep you out as it builds up to a thrilling climax. It has almost none of the atmosphere the first film had but it has enough tricks up its sleeve to thoroughly surprise & shock its intended audience.
Wolf Creek 2– 3.5 out of 5 shrouds.