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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 04.16.14] Australia horror

I vaguely remember seeing Wolf Creek a year or two after its release. The only things that stick in my mind of Greg Mclean's feature film debut are that it was gruesome and brutal and just a little disturbing. I haven't felt the need to re-watch Wolf Creek or check out Mclean's second feature Rogue, but now that I've dipped into Wolf Creek 2, I can't help but wonder if I wrote off the first movie, along with the killer crocodile follow-up, too quickly because if such a thing as an artistic horror movie exists, Wolf Creek 2 is it.

Shannon Ashlyn and Philippe Klaus star as Katarina and Rutger, a pair of young, good looking German tourists taking in the beauty of Australia by backpacking across the country. The trip is going well until the pair encounter Mick Taylor (John Jarratt reprising his role), an apparently concerned citizen who advises the pair that it's illegal to camp on a national park site. The two men talk, Rutget becomes suspicious and defiant and the next thing you know, the confrontation turns violent. Taylor loses his cool, brutally kills Rutger and proceeds to chase Katarina across the open countryside. Sadly for Katrina, this is only the beginning of a nightmare that will bring down not just her but the man who tries to save her.

Wolf Creek 2 opens with an episode of violence that clearly marks Taylor as a crazed man (for those who haven't seen or don't recall the original, this bit of character set-up is welcome). What's surprising is that the movie that follows is far removed from the average gore filled horror movie. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of violence, blood and the occasional moment of looking incredulously at the screen as some terrible moment of torture unfolds, but for a while, particularly in the forty or so minutes of the first act, Mclean's movie is also a really beautiful and sweet story of two young people in love and exploring a breathtaking countryside. These two things are so dissimilar they shouldn't work together but through some magic, Mclean doesn't simply make it work - he nails it.

Part of the movie's success is the performance from Ashlyn who is fantastic as the lovely young woman. The chemistry between her and Klaus is wonderful and sweet but when terror strikes, Ashlyn really shines. It's been some time since I've seen an actress react to terror in a way that is so gut wrenching and primal. The look on her face when she sees what Taylor is doing to her boyfriend is memorable in part because of the acting but also because the audience has had time to get to know and like the character and she's more than just a cute ginger who happens to be the object of desire for a deranged killer. And what a deranged killer. John Jarratt is great as Taylor, partly because he doesn't really look like the average killer and partly because he's enjoying himself too damned much. I love that the final act Wolf Creek 2 devolves into a game that is both strangely hysterical and repugnantly creepy.

Wolf Creek 2 is not only a great horror movie, it's also a fantastic chase movie and a relationship drama all rolled into one. If that's not enough, Mclean and co-writer Aaron Sterns manage to include character development that is so often lacking from over-the-top genre movies, they play with expectations and perhaps most refreshingly, the action occasionally takes a breather to highlight the breathtaking scenery (Toby Oliver's cinematography is nothing short of spectacular). My one complaint: it's a little on the long side, particularly in the second act where the chase sequence seems to go on for ten minutes too long but on the whole, Wolf Cree 2 is completely satisfying.

Wolf Creek 2 is available on VOD April 17 and in theatres on May 16.

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Nerf Herder (9 years ago) Reply

You should really check out Rouge. It's surprisingly good.

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