(Photo of myself and a friend at ‘Wolf Creek’ from my trip to Calgary Horror Con)
Wolf Creek has become sort of a staple for horror fans. It’s the kind of movie that falls somewhere in between a hidden gem and an indie classic. It doesn’t yet have cult status, but I can see it heading there in the future. It was successful enough to spawn a sequel and a series.
And I must confess…..I’d never seen it.
To me, Wolf Creek seemed to be a fairly typical vacation-gone-wrong flick. Three tourists are stranded in the Australian outback, and their not-so-friendly backwoodsman swoops in to give them a hand. Mayhem and bloodshed ensues. Blah blah blah. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good backwoods slasher as much as the next person, and I wasn’t actively avoiding this movie. There just wasn’t any urgency for me to see it.
When I saw it on Shudder this past week, I decided to give it a whirl. Now I can see what all the fuss is about.
John Jarratt truly elevates this from what could be a cliched movie about travellers never seen again. I almost feel disappointed that I went in to this movie knowing that he was the bad guy. You know that moment in horror movies where you scream “Just wait for the tow truck! Just wait for another car! Have one of you wait with your belongings! DO NOT GET IN A STRANGER’S VEHICLE!!!!”? That doesn’t happen here. Mick is affable, lovable, friendly, and easy going. He is the local colour in every story written about Australia. He is harmless. He is safe.
Until he isn’t.
And that moment that you see him switch? It is something to behold. Watching the mask come off of lovable ol’ Mick as the group talks around the campfire is truly something to see. He wears the mask so well that it is easy to see how he has racked up such a crazy body count; he is completely trustworthy. He is like the big, bad wolf to Little Red Riding Hood. The victims gladly hop in his mouth because he is so believable. You could picture a cop interviewing him with a dead body at his feet and Mick could talk his way out of it.
The setting of this movie is also a huge factor in how scary some moments of this film are. Even if you can escape, where do you go? It is scorching by day and freezing by night, and it is pitch black.
While this movie is a bit of a slow starter, the build up is worth it. They spend a fair amount of time showing the audience exactly how far away from civilization these three are. By the time anyone tries to escape, you know how they feel; there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and you might die WITHOUT the crazy serial killer stalking you. It paints a pretty hopeless picture for the prey, and Mick Taylor is at the top of the food chain.
Wolf Creek also knows how to be subtle, and when to show and not tell. At one point, one of the girls wanders into a makeshift building while trying to help the others. When she enters, you see dusty and dirty car after car after car. Without saying anything else, the film has managed to tell you how far Mick has gone, and how long he has been doing this.
All in all, Wolf Creek was a solid horror movie with great acting! I had the pleasure of attending one of John Jarrett’s panels at Calgary Horror Con this past summer, and I thought he was so genuine and well spoken. He spoke of everything in his life, not just acting, with real passion, and that side of him definitely comes out in his work. I’m looking forward to watching the follow ups just for John Jarratt’s character work. I won’t wait so long this time!