Monday, 14 July 2014

[Blu-Ray Review] Wolf Creek 2

It's hard to believe that it's been almost ten years since we were first introduced to the villainous Anti-Dundee Mick Taylor. It was nine years ago that then first time Director Greg McLean stepped into the limelight with his shocking and unsettling horror debut Wolf Creek. Being both an avid Horror fan and of Australian descent, it was utterly thrilling to watch the birth of a new horror icon that we could proudly call our own. Now, nine years have past, and Greg McLean is ready to take us back into the terrifying wilderness of the Australian Outback with the much anticipated followup, Wolf Creek 2.

The scenario is much the same. A pair of European backpackers venture deep into the heart of the Australian Outback. Lulled by its beauty yet completely oblivious to the murky unknown danger that awaits. Soon enough, the infamous pig hunting psychopath (John Jarrett) shows up in his infamous truck. At first, Mick tries to sweet talk the couple with his larrikin charm but when he notices that they see right through his fake visage then, all hell breaks loose.

The genius of the original film boiled down to its masterfully constructed oppressive atmosphere of dread and unease. The first film managed to spend significant time establishing its characters, thus giving you victims who you could feel empathetic for in their hour of despair. With its gritty documentarian framing and its establishment of sympathetic characters, it was a sadistic little horror film that teetered on the knife edge of acceptability. You just didn't know how far it would go. Further made all the more unsettling thanks to the mysterious nature of the beast, Mick Taylor, himself. You never knew where he would pop up or just how far he would go in tormenting his victims.

Right from the offset, as Mick Taylor lay waste to a couple of corrupt cops in the opening scene, it's quickly apparent that Wolf Creek 2 is an entirely different beast. Mick Taylor is no longer that familiar yet frightening omnipresence that he was in the first film, rather he is the headlining star of the piece.

This time Mick Taylor is but a caricature of his former terrifying self. John Jarrett revels in making the character his own once again as he spews his heavily laced xenophobic rants before with devilish glee. Jarrett pushes the character even further over the thin line of acceptability, but with that said, it does come at the expense of Taylor's foreboding menace.

Like most sequels, Wolf Creek 2 ups the ante in every way imaginable. Director Greg McLean trades the gritty oppressive documentarian feel for a much wider and more playful canvas. Allowing the film to become a rollicking B-Movie in the process. The Australian Outback is once again framed quite beautifully by Cinematographer Toby Oliver and as such, it is very much its own character in the film. Meanwhile, the kill's are more explicitly gruesome, and the thrills more spectacularly elaborate and visceral.

The centerpiece being the chase sequence along the deserted back roads of the outback, where Mick Taylor -- driving a Semi-Trailered Truck -- plays a devilish game of cat and mouse with his prey. A scene which quite obviously takes much of its inspiration from Steven Spielberg's classic thriller Duel. It's a superbly crafted nail-biting chase sequence that also manages to throw in an unexpected dash of darkly laced slapstick for good measure.

Greg McLean clearly has a love of genre cinema and isn't afraid to show it. There's a little taste of The Hitcher sprinkled in, and there's also a little bit of the Australian classic Wake in Fright thrown in for good measure. But most notably, it owes a significant debt of gratitude towards Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

If the first film was Australia's answer to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, then Wolf Creek 2 is the answer to its sequel. Greg Mclean does away with the overpowering oppressive tone that permeated the first movie and instead, opts for a tongue-in-cheek sensibility, albeit a severely black humoured sensibility. As such, there has been a fair amount of criticism leveled towards the film in that it was too removed from what made the original successful.

I can't agree with such criticism. As I think, it would have been an even greater mistake to attempt to replicate the original beat-for-beat. Simply because it would be impossible to successfully replicate that same oppressive dread to the same effect. Pushing it even further into the realms of rollicking B-Cinema has at least allowed McLean and co-writer Aaron Sterns some creative liberty.

With that said, Wolf Creek 2 is far from perfect. The lack of empathetic victims detracts from the experience as a whole, as there's just no one to care or root for outside of Mick Taylor himself. The conclusion is also too abrupt and ultimately misjudged. Furthermore, there is an overly-long point in the midsection where the film loses some of its own momentum.

But, with all of that said, it still makes for a fun, if not overly routine, outback slasher. Whether or not it was a mistake to embrace the iconography of Mick Taylor as a classic Horror villain remains debatable. But still, as is, it's a well made rollicking B-Movie that should cater genre fans well enough.

Blu Ray Extras

-Deleted Scenes
- Creating a Monster: The Making of Wolf Creek 2
- Directors Commentary

(out of five)

- Daniel M



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