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Mick taking
Aussie psycho Mick Taylor returns in WOLF CREEK 2, Greg Mclean's tense and graphically violent sequel to his own famously punishing 2005 original. It probably looks superb on Entertainment One's Blu-ray, but Gort only has the DVD to play with.
 
"Welcome to Australia, cocksucker!"
Mick Taylor, pig hunter

 

When part of your stock in trade is cinematic nastiness, there's a better than average chance that sooner or later its coincidental relationship to real world events is going to see it blow up in your face. Such is certainly the case with Wolf Creek 2, Greg Mclean's unfussily titled sequel to his brutal and disturbing 2005 survival horror favourite. It happens early on when a backpacker is beheaded. Not in that swish-of-the-sword manner you'll find in everything from Twins of Evil to I Claudius, but methodically and realistically with a very big knife. A horribly graphic sequence in its own right (you think you see more than you do, but you see enough), it too readily recalls the recent murder of American and British journalists and aid workers by demented religious nutballs in the Middle East. And as I shifted uncomfortably in my seat, I found myself wondering whether maybe, just maybe, I should be as disturbed by this gruesomely convincing makeup effect regardless of its unfortunate real-world associations.

If you've not seen the first Wolf Creek and plan to watch it soon (I'd have a drink first), then you might want to give this whole review a complete miss, as just about everything I have to say about the characters and plot in this sequel will act as a partial spoiler for the first film. Actually, there are likely to be a couple of of spoilers for this one as well, particularly if you're not familiar with how these films tend to play out, so proceed with caution. If you want to go in cold (best way, really) then I'd skip to the technical specs, which you can do by clicking here.

One of the strengths of Wolf Creek was that it allowed us time to get to know and rather like its unfortunate trio of leads before subjecting them to Aussie outback psycho Mick Taylor, and as a result we genuinely gave a crap for their fate and winced at their suffering. The sequel takes a slightly different tack. Quite reasonably assuming that anyone coming to the sequel has seen the first film, Mclean plays a little game with audience loyalties by having two bored highway patrolmen on a power kick pull Taylor over and harass him for fun. Thus instead of fearing how Taylor will respond, we sneakily look forward to him doing so. When the reprisal comes, however, it's so damned nasty that there's little in the way of cathartic satisfaction. It's clear that the ultimate purpose of the scene is to remind us who we're dealing with and the threat he represents. Job done, Greg.

We're then introduced to pleasant German backpackers Katarina and Rutger, and are just getting to like them when Mick Taylor rolls up, does horrible things to Rutger (believe me, the beheading is only the start of it) and chases Katarina after she gives him the slip, creating a blip of false hope for the audience that takes place far to early in the film to have a positive result. It's then that we're introduced to Paul Hammersmith, who stops to pick up the screaming and bloodied Katarina and quickly finds himself also pursued by Taylor, first in his truck and later in an articulated lorry and always with a large knife and the sort of rifle that could take out a tank with one shot. Here the film moves the survival horror of its predecessor into the realms of the chase thriller, the lorry's thunderous pursuit of Paul's fragile looking jeep having more than a whiff of Spielberg's Duel and Robert Harmon's The Hitcher about it.

This pursuit occupies a sizeable chunk of the film and includes the expected (but nicely handled) false ray of hope, plus some spectacular vehicular stunt work and a mob of CGI kangaroos that hop into the road and get slaughtered for their trouble. But sooner or later you know that Mick is going to catch up with his quarry and introduce him to a world of pain, and from the moment he has Paul cable-tied to a chair in a his grubby lair I was twitching with apprehension. That graphic decapitation and subsequent dismemberment had done its job well. By this point even newcomers to the series would be aware of Mick's complete lack of empathy with his victims and the extremes to which he will go just for a laugh. And as an audience we are also aware of how horribly realistic what he might do will look. Then something unexpected happens. I'm going to call a halt on the spoilers and refuse to say what, but in his desperation Paul finds a way to connect to his tormentor, transforming torture porn into a potentially deadly battle of wits.

Mclean makes it clear that racial bigotry is at the heart of Mick's hostility towards these tourists he collects and violently tortures. He thus has a particular dislike for our Paul because he's a bloody Pom. Excuse me? A what? You mean, Paul is meant to be English? Oh, so that's why there was a Union Jack on the side of his car. Makes sense now. The thing is, had Mick not told me I'd never have realised. Now I have to say that in all other respects, Australian actor Ryan Corr does a stonkingly good job as Paul, particularly in moments of extreme fear or borderline hysteria, but the guy sounds about as English as Crocodile Dundee.

As with the first film, events in Wolf Creek 2 are loosely based on the activities of notorious Australian serial killer Ivan Millat. There are certainly similarities here to the Millat case in the nationalities of the victims and even the beheading (although Mclean has played it a little safe and switched the gender here). But that's about where the close similarities end. Taylor is a movie serial killer through and through and thus can slaughter two highway cops without fear of being caught and chalk up the sort of victim count that suggests that the Australian police are either the world's most hopeless cops or that they just don't take the news of missing tourists all that seriously.

That Mclean took a different approach this time around rather than simply re-run the first film helps give the sequel its own identity. It's certainly tense, and if you're in it for the gore then you won't have to wait long to slurp at the trough. Indeed, there's nothing in the second half that comes close to topping the murder and dismemberment of the unfortunate Rutger, though the constant threat of it should keep you on your toes.

For the most part, Wolf Creek 2 is a solid sequel to one of the more punishing Australian films in recent years. It's smartly made and the supporting roles are well cast and played. Special kudos to Shannon Ashlyn here, who not only completely convinces as a German backpacker, but does blind screaming terror better than anyone else I've watched on screen all year. John Jarratt is once again imposingly scary as the murderous Mick Taylor, and his move towards centre stage gives the actor more room to have ghoulish fun with the character. But in the process Mclean almost appears to be inviting horror fans to side with the killer instead of his victims, something I'd argue the first film never did. A little more worryingly, he also seems to be setting Jarratt up as a franchise-friendly movie monster. And with the formula now set, the scale of Mick's past crimes seriously upped, and the fate of only a couple more true-life victims to draw on, if I were Mclean I'd be sorely tempted to quit while I'm ahead.

sound and vision

I'll tell you something, HD sure loves the sun-drenched Australian outback. I'm talking about HD as a format for capturing footage, mind you, as we were sent a DVD review disc rather than a Blu-ray. But even that looks superb. According to the usual sources, Wolf Creek 2 was shot on an Arri Alexa Plus, which was supplemented by the use of a string of trusty GoPro cameras to get those extreme angles during the pursuit and crash scenes. The transfer here is as pristine as a non-Second Run DVD can be expected to look, with a beefy contrast range, inky black levels and the sort of close-to-natural colour rendition (at least in the daylight exteriors) that we rarely seem to see in modern horror movies. Night footage is always clearly rendered, thanks to cinematographer Toby Oliver's video-friendly lighting and a 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer that doesn't mess around with these fine default settings. The level of detail is excellent for a DVD – I'll bet the Blu-ray looks lovely.

The Dolby 5.1 surround track is most impressively mixed, with the always clear dialogue never lost beneath the music or effects, both of which make lively use of the full surround stage. The making-of documentary reveals that Mclean and his sound crew went to some trouble to give Mick's vehicles a menacing aura, and that's nicely captured here, particularly in the thumping LFE bass throb of the engines.

extra features

The Making of Wolf Creek 2 (51:00)
A fairly substantial behind-the-scenes documentary, with plenty of interviews with cast and crew – director Mclean included – and a decent selection of behind-the-scenes footage. There are a couple of gems here, as when one of the GoPro cameras is melted by the explosion following a spectacular lorry crash (which is all done for real) but the SD card containing the footage survives, or when the screaming at auditions so alarms the neighbours that the police are called in to investigate. The CGI kangaroo sequence is usefully covered, and actor John Jarratt talks about getting in the right frame of mind to play Mick Taylor, a challenging task for someone who in real life really doesn't like that sort of person. With you there, John.

Deleted Scenes (24:51)
A substantial collection of deleted scenes and alternate cuts of existing sequences, all edited, scored, sound mixed and subtitled when required. They are all anamorphic 2.35:1 and of a similar quality to the main feature, but with a small vertical translucent black bar on each side of the image, for reasons that probably mean something to someone. There's some really interesting stuff here, not least a considerable expansion of the early backpacker hotel scene – a brief montage in the final film, here it is presented as the title sequence and its level character detail would have given the first half of the film more of a Hostel feel.

summary

A well made, tense and unsurprisingly grisly sequel to a dark original that varies enough from its predecessor to not stand too heavily in its shadow. Some have bemoaned the inclusion of the protracted first half chase, whilst others have suggested it loses focus in the later stages. I don't agree, although that horror sequel curse of having to up the ante by transforming Mick from an outback psychotic into the most prolific mass murderer in Australian history does feel a little like playing to genre convention. The DVD looks great, but I'm betting on the Blu-ray really being the business.

Wolf Creek 2

Australia 2013
102 mins
directed by
Greg Mclean
produced by
Helen Leake
Greg Mclean
Steve Topic
written by
Greg Mclean
Aaron Sterns
cinematography
Toby Oliver
editing
Sean Lahiff
music
Johnny Klimek
production design
Robert Webb
starring
John Jarratt
Ryan Corr
Shannon Ashlyn
Philippe Klaus
Shane Connor
Ben Gerrard
Gerard Kennedy
Annie Byron

disc details
region 2
video
2.35:1
sound
Dolby 5.1 surround
languages
English / German
subtitles
English (forced) on German language sequences
English SDH
extras
The Making of Wolf Creek
Deleted scenes
distributor
Entertainment One
release date
15 September 2014
review posted
18 September 2014

See all of Gort's reviews