WOLF CREEK is the last place in the world you’d want your car to conk out on vacation. Three young people find that out when they accept an offer of help from a rough but jolly stranger who shows up out of nowhere. The nowhere is the Great Northern Highway of Queensland, Australia, a place where the striking landscapes can strike back at the unwary. The chortling stranger goes by the name ‘Mick Taylor’. You’ve been warned.
Back in 1999, two young British backpackers, ‘Liz’ (Cassandra McGrath) and ‘Kristy’ (Kestie Morassi) team up with ‘Ben’ from Sydney (Nathan Phillips), buy a junker Ford and set off from Broome to Cairns (around 2,230 miles/3,700 kilometers give’er take). After an unsettling stop in a jerk-populated hamlet (Halls Creek:pop. 1,546 gets a bad rap here) they visit the isolated meteor crater of the title location, and bad luck turns worse, worser and Worst. Big, rangy and hearty, bushman Mick offers to fix their mysteriously dead rig back at his mining camp quarry. Options zip, they warily accept a tow. There are mistakes and then there are grand mal FUBARS…as they awake the next day to realize Mick is a deranged psychopath and they are as far up the creek as you can get.
We’re breaking a loose rule on the site by including this Australian shocker from 2005; use of the word ‘recommended’ is left hanging. With a few exceptions, we leave movies about serial killers to other reviewer types, particularly the horde of horror junkies who salivate in detail over every p.o.s that’s churned out to make money off revulsion. *
All right, now that we’ve pleaded Taste & Dignity, let’s backtrack, as every once in a Full Blue Moon there will be a gruesome haunt-instiller like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the original) that is done with such skill and impact that it’s hard to simply banish with a ‘yuck’. Many critics reviled this lean, mean (really mean) 99-minute descent into too-plausible nightmare territory, and at screenings numerous audience members walked out. Made for a scant $1,400,000, written & directed by Greg McLean (his first feature), it nonetheless jabbed the right wrong nerves and grossed over $35,172,500 around the spinner.
McLean proved himself skilled as a director, well-assisted by the camera-work from Will Gibson, capturing the otherworldly regional setting, the claustrophobic desolation of Taylor’s ‘home’ and its hidden, horrific debris field. The story had roots in fact (based in part off a notorious series of Outback tourist killings in the 90s and early 2000s), features good acting by the younger people and dread you can taste. Towering above all is a classic job of keeping-you-hooked-while-freaking-you-witless from John Jarratt, 53, as Mick. The happily horrible Taylor is a natural-born fiend of the kind— unlike 98% of those showcased in cruddy slasher flicks— you know is actually out there somewhere, waiting to be helpful and give you a lift.
* The original Halloween we acknowledge, and we’ll get around to honoring great thrillers like Psycho, The Silence Of The Lambs, Zodiac and select company, but we don’t/won’t/can’t give platform to the sea of stalk & slaughter filth offered up from the indefensible likes of ‘Jason’, ‘Freddy Krueger’, Hostel, the Saw‘s, and countless cheapjack kill-fests. Originally, this site had brief reviews of a number of well-known murder-mashes like The Hills Have Eyes, but I scrubbed ’em. You really enjoy Last House On The Left or I Spit On Your Grave and find pleasure being doused with vicious torture slop like Chaos? Go elsewhere (like to a shrink, for starts).
Taste buds to the side, the careers of all involved took off (in veteran Jarratt’s case reinvigorated), and the instant cult film eventually spawned a 2013 sequel, then a 2-season TV series in Australia. Well-reviewed thrillers from director McLean include Rogue, Red Hill, Crawlspace and Jungle.