“WOLF CREEK 2” (Movie Review)
It’s been nearly nine years since Mick Taylor carved and tortured his way across the Outback in the first WOLF CREEK, and the sequel demonstrates that neither he nor writer/director Greg McLean have mellowed with age.
WOLF CREEK 2 (now on VOD and driving into theaters May 16 from RLJ/Image Entertainment) is as nasty and savage as its predecessor, with a slight change in narrative approach to keep it from seeming like more of the same. As opposed to the trio of vacationing victims Mick (John Jarratt) tormented before, he has, for the most part, a lone target this time: British backpacker Paul (Ryan Corr). Thus the scenario becomes a cat-and-mouse pursuit across rural Australia, harking back to such desert classics as DUEL and THE HITCHER—which lends the film a bit of familiarity, though McLean makes it clear he’s aware and respectful of his influences by naming a supporting character “Rutger.”
This young German man (played by Phillipe Klaus) and his girlfriend Katarina (Shannon Ashlyn) are the first to attrach Mick’s sadistic attention before he sets his sights on Paul, signaling one of the new wrinkles McLean and co-scripter Aaron Sterns have worked into the material. WOLF CREEK 2 sees Mick demonstrating a more specific prejudice this time by ridding the land of foreigners; a very Australian serial killer, he’s the ultimate “ocker” taking his ingrained national pride to murderous extremes. This point of view comes particularly to the fore in the way he deals with Paul in the film’s last act, which becomes the ultimate expression of the twisted sense of humor he demonstrates from the beginning. In the opening scene, listen for the way he puts a gruesomely ironic spin on one of the most famous lines from a much more benign Australian cinematic export.
Jarratt is in excellent form in WOLF CREEK 2, clearly relishing the opportunity to revisit a guy you might want to have a beer with—if you didn’t know how crucial it was to make sure he didn’t follow you home afterward. The Aussie veteran has a fine foil in Corr, a young up-and-comer on the country’s television scene who fully grants Paul a desperation and resourcefulness that keep the audience on his side. Their lengthy climactic one-on-one is a well-sustained setpiece that elicits a combination of nervous laughter, a growing sense of unease and outright bloody shock.
Throughout the film, McLean pulls no punches when it comes to depicting Mick’s many acts of violence. He doesn’t linger or dwell on the gore for its own sake, but nor does he shy away from the damaging impact of Mick’s blades and rifles, and he shows no mercy in his treatment of the supporting characters and the ways he upsets Paul’s hopes of escaping his predicament. You get the sense early on that anyone and everyone is expendable; it’s Mick’s world, and all others are just living—and dying—in it. The director also goes for bigger vehicular action in the sequel, pulling it off excitingly with the help of stunt coordinator Zev Eleftheriou. Here, too, McLean finds a way to sneak in some region-specific black humor, in a jaw-dropping sequence that sees another national symbol reduced to roadkill.
WOLF CREEK 2 re-establishes Mick as one of the great modern horror villains, a highly personable alternative to silent psychopaths such as Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees and the diabolically pretentious likes of Jigsaw. More than any of his screen brethren, part of Mick’s scary appeal draws from the fact that he’s very much a product of his location—though it might be fun to see Mick in the city in a subsequent sequel. Just as long as they don’t send him into outer space…