Three 20-somethings take a road trip through the Australian outback only to become stranded after their car breaks down. Forced to accept the help of a deranged local, the three are then tortured for half an hour until the film’s abrupt end. Although Wolf Creek is “based on true events,” the predictable plot and poor taste sentence this film to be banished to the isolated landscape from which it came.
These days, the horror genre is saturated with computer generated images and redundant re-makes. With aging horror auteur such as John Carpenter, George A. Romero and Dario Argento past their prime, horror junkies are forced to sit through ridiculous story lines and cheap scares just to get a fix. Now more than ever, the genre needs an enema. While Wolf Creek manages to avoid the pitfalls of more recent, effect-laden horror movies, it fails to re-capture the glory days of the genre.
Based on a true story about three young 20-somethings who set out on a road trip through the desolate Australian outback to wolf creek, an impact crater in the middle of nowhere, the film follows a predictable course of events as their car breaks down and they are helped by a strange local who happens to have a taste for torture. However, it takes Wolf Creek over an hour to introduce any conflict. Instead, there is a tacked on romance between two of the characters, a vulgar encounter with several locals at a remote tavern and a great deal of discussion about what they are going to do once they are stranded in the outback. When the grizzly murders do begin, we only fear for the characters because they are human, not because we relate or understand them.
Making his directorial and writing debut with this home-brewed, Aussie horror film, you get the impression that Greg McLean is screaming, “Here I am! Look at me!” Unfortunately for McLean, Wolf Creek is an obvious blend of The Hills Have Eyes and Deliverance with a bit of Mad Max thrown in for that Australian flavor. Although the murders are brutal, they are nothing more than pure exploitation scenes. The story of young people who drink and have promiscuous sex and then are brutally murdered one by one has been the basis for nearly every slasher movie since the beginning of the genre. The killer has no motivation other than he is a killer and the three kids’ only purpose are to be his victims, which makes the “based on a true story” tagline a sad attempt at adding depth where there is none.
Instead of attempting to bring something unique to the screen, McLean attempts to shock us with gruesome murders in hopes of making us squirm. Although explicit scenes are affecting, what is even more horrific is when a filmmaker captures the cause of our fears. As with Carpenter’s Halloween, the killer is the personification of evil. He is that uneasy feeling you have when you walk down the street alone or that moment of hesitation before going into the dark basement that we brush off as childhood non-sense. With the recent Saw series and Hostel, we’ve seen our fair share of graphic violence. What the horror genre needs is a film that makes us contemplate the repressed darkness of our own humanity. Wolf Creek is not that film, it’s just more of the same.
The unrated, widescreen edition is present in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85 : 1 and boasts a fairly clear anamorphic transfer. While many of the low-budget shots were filmed using an unsteady, handheld camera with no prior framing set up, the transfer shines during shots of the Australian landscape, which is a breathtaking backdrop for a film that is fairly abysmal. The audio is presented in the standard Dolby Digital 5.1 in either English or French. There are times when the center channel gets lost in the mix, making it difficult to understand the dialogue, but odds are you didn’t miss anything in this empty horror flick.
In the way of supplements, the disc’s highlight is the feature length commentary where the director talks about the trials and tribulations of filming on a budget while the actresses attempt to chime with insights that fall a bit flat. There are a few entertaining moments in the commentary and it is always interesting to hear a first-time director talk about his first feature-length film.
Also included is a “making of” featurette that is just like every other featurette you have ever seen. There are a few interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, but nothing to write home about. Rounding out the disc are trailers and a deleted scene, which was deleted for an obvious reason. While the film might fail to impress, the bonus material does an admiral job trying to convince us of that the film has some sort of significance, if only to those who made it.