Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #339
Number of Views: One
Release Date: 30 August 2013 (VFF), 20 February 2014 (Australia)
Sub-Genre: Exploitation/Backwoods Slasher
Country of Origin: Australia
Box Office: $4,300,000
Running Time: 106 minutes
Director: Greg McLean
Producers: Helen Leake, Greg McLean, Steve Topic
Screenplay: Greg McLean, Aaron Sterns
Special Effects: Clint Ingram
Visual Effects: Marty Pepper
Cinematography: Toby Oliver
Score: Johnny Klimek
Editing: Sean Lahiff
Studios: Duo Art Productions, Emu Creek Pictures
Distributor: Roadshow Film Distributors
Stars: John Jarratt, Ryan Corr, Shannon Ashlyn, Philippe Klaus, Shane Connor, Ben Gerrard, Gerard Kennedy, Annie Byron
Suggested Audio Candy
Johnny Klimek “Soundtrack Suite”
There are a number of rules one would ordinarily adhere to when attempting to craft a successful sequel. Like a band’s sophomore album, the follow-up can either make or break you, and can be the difference between franchising your product or watching it take its final labored breath. Chances are that your audience will already be more than familiar with any threat posed so there is less need for exposition and, instead, you can roll up those sleeves and get down to business. However, too often we witness a director attempting to trump his own work and come unstuck in the process. More isn’t always more you see; sometimes you can’t just pummel your addressee into oblivion as it can be only too easy to lose track of what gave you a winner in the first place.
When Greg McLean’s Wolf Creek reared its butt-ugly head in 2005, it had every horror aficionado’s head this side of Timbuktu on a swivel. Not only was it a damned good exploitation flick but it also introduced us to a certain Mick Taylor. These are pretty large shoes to fill but, fortunately for us, Mick rarely ever removes them to wash his feet. It fills me with immense satisfaction to report that Wolf Creek 2 is that rare creature which surpasses the original unequivocally and the kicker is that, despite opening up its playground considerably, it has you looking over your shoulder from the very first scene to its mortifying final hurrah. There are over a hundred minutes sandwiched in-between and not an ounce of fat to be discerned.
McLean took his sweet time stirring the broth so to speak and gave us the imposing survival horror/thriller Rogue in the interim. Personally I’d rather take on a gargantuan crocodile any day of the week than be pitted against Mick. The good news for you guzzling Grueheads is that John Jarratt makes a triumphant return to the fray and the bad news for those of an easily compromised disposition is that John Jarratt makes a triumphant return to the fray. And no I didn’t stutter. Ironically, Aussie Jarratt doesn’t ever watch horror films, since Psycho made him shit his strides as an infant. Well, you could’ve fucking fooled us John.
This time around, he is our focal character. That means no thirty minute getting to know you sessions with a group of hapless backpackers while our brutalizer sharpens his hunting knife in some dank underground workshop and, instead, Wolf Creek 2 has something of an exclusive structure which sets it apart from its contemporaries. The outback is his treasured sandbox and, by hook, crook, or sniper rifle, he’s damned well going to keep it that way. Within minutes he begins his relentless pursuit of whomever or whatever foolishly wanders onto his territory and he takes us along for the ride whether we like it or not. Jarratt is utterly chilling once again and is offered a lot more screen time to vocalize his disdain for outsiders.
Whether amusing himself as he carves through flesh as though it were water, snarling as he prepares to open that dreaded can of whoop once again, or engaging in unforeseen male-bonding sessions with his prey before the inevitable unhappy finish, he is unerringly your own worst nightmare. As for his quarry, and he makes it crystal clear early on that they have no unique right sharing his screen time, they are never afforded a breather. Whether hunting them in his dilapidated truck with searchlights blazing, saddling up for horseplay, or busting out the big rig, he sniffs any trespassers out and, when he does, get ready to be challenged as Wolf Creek 2 shies away from absolutely nothing whatsoever.
However, every good villain worth their salt needs some kind of a foil and, in Ryan Corr’s Paul Hammersmith, Mick has himself a real beauty. Little is known about Paul when one wayward decision places him squarely in the crosshairs and that is by-the-by as the real question is what lengths will this plucky young man go to in order to secure his safe passage. Corr is utterly superb throughout, particularly later on as he is required to do some quick thinking in order to succumb a horrifyingly drawn-out round of ten questions, ten pinkies. There is not a solitary decision he makes, apart from possibly the opening clanger of stopping in the outback in the first place, that I wouldn’t have made myself had I been in his position and this makes it all the more disheartening that his best efforts repeatedly blow up in his face.
Director of photography Toby Oliver makes the very most of the wide-open expanses at his disposal and, when the walls do come closing in, he douses each hallway with ominous light and choke-holds us into submission. One thing which Wolf Creek 2 has in its vast armory is vehicular stunts and the sight of Taylor sitting behind the blackened windshield of his eighteen wheeler calls to mind Steven Spielberg’s monstrous Duel. McLean has a far more luxurious kitty at his disposal second time around and every last cent is there on-screen for all to marvel at.
I truly believe that Wolf Creek 2 is a progression from its forerunner and that is, in no way a slight against the original. Yes it ups the ante, yes it is more savage, more unrelentingly tense, more in every conceivable area. But the real reason why it manages the unthinkable is that it transcends its genre and becomes an altogether different animal, while still upholding the key strengths that made it an anomaly in the first place. So fuck off Dundee as there’s a new Mick in the bush. Judging by the fact that McLean already has the pilot for a Wolf Creek TV series in the works, I’d say we’ll be seeing a lot more of this glorious bastard in coming times. I’ll throw some shrimps on the barbie.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10
Grue Factor: 5/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: I’m buggered if I know where to start here. Anything is fair dinkum in Mick’s playground and there is enough grue on offer here to have the more sensitive amongst us running to the dunny. Obliterating headshots, glaring exit wounds you could fit your fist through, sickeningly authentic slow decapitation, disembowelment, removed hearts and other surplus organs, dicks too and, in a hilariously wrong scene played out to The Tokens’ The Lion Sleeps Tonight which proves that even the nation’s mascot marsupials aren’t safe, we are even subjected to roadkill on an epic scale. There are few films in circulation, and poor Paul could count them on the remaining digits on one hand after a round of questions with Mick, as horrendous gory as this. Bonzer.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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