Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Frightfest Glasgow 2014: Wolf Creek 2 - Review

Mick Taylor (John Jarrat) is on a bloodthirsty rampage again in this, the long overdue sequel to Greg McLean’s terrifying 2005 feature debut which introduced its unsavoury, tourist loathing mass-murderer to the world and ensured that most of those who experienced it would think twice about exploring the Australian Outback.  In his sights this time are a couple of arrogant cops, a pair of German backpackers and an unlucky English tourist who is rewarded for his heroism by becoming the focus of the movie's lunatic protagonist's aberrant attentions for the last 2/3 of the movie.  Good fun guaranteed.

Wolf Creek was a tremendously effective horror movie but only those gifted with a dark and twisted sense of humour could possibly describe it as remotely amusing.  Wolf Creek 2 is, to a large extent, a very different beast and none the worse for it.  There are legitimate laughs to be found here in abundance and the majority of these come courtesy of pig hunting Outback boogeyman Mick Taylor.  The shift in tone from the grueling, unpleasant exercise in sustained torture (both psychological and physical) that McLean mined so effectively in the first movie to something which doesn’t so much dip its toes gently into more humorous waters  as take a bold leap into a deep, dark lake of pitch-black comedy is negotiated with 100% success.  It’s wonderfully refreshing to see a sequel that’s unafraid to explore new territory.  It’s doubly impressive to find one that does so as successfully as this.  I’m not trying to suggest that Wolf Creek 2 is torture porn Monty Python style but it is frequently funny and even goaded a few belly laughs from the audience I saw it with.

This new comedic edge doesn't mean that Greg McLean has lost the mean streak mojo he unveiled with Wolf Creek.  There are some nasty surprises here.  An extended scene three-quarters of the way through the movie sees Mick strap his latest victim to a chair and subject him to a quiz (subject: Australian history) with every wrong answer costing the poor guy a finger.  There’s also a moment early on in the movie that is guaranteed to make every guy in the audience gasp, cross his legs and silently scream NOOOOOOOO!!!  The second act of the movie also features some nicely staged automotive carnage as our favourite Outback psychopath attempts to elimate our hero in a stolen truck.  It’s during this chase sequence that Wolf Creek 2 throws it’s most outlandish, over-the-top gag into the mix when a troop of kangaroos stray into the path of Mick’s stolen wheels and he steps on the gas, ploughing through the unfortunate beasts all the time laughing like the mad bastard he is.

All the actors are superb with Ryan Corr particularly excelling in the role of Wolf Creek 2’s final guy, the increasingly desperate Paul Hammersmith.  The movie is never more entertaining than during the final act where Paul finds himself trapped in the killer’s lair and a verbal and physical game of cat and mouse ensues between victim and killer.  The desperate bonhomie that develops between the two generates a lot of the already mentioned laughs but the humour is at all times cut through with a constant sense of dread.  John Jarratt was fantastic in Wolf Creek but here, armed with a pin-sharp script courtesy of Greg McLean with assistance from Aaron Sterns (script editor on McLean's deeply underrated Rogue) which arms him with some of the finest audience pleasing one-liners I’ve heard in some time, he becomes one of the most entertaining onscreen psychopaths in horror history.  I’m not sure if there was any improvisation going on here but I wouldn’t be surprised.  Jarratt is never less than convincing as the last man you'd want to meet in the middle of nowhere.

It almost goes without saying that this is a gorgeous movie to look at.  The Outback is a gift to any cinematographer and there's an ever growing list of movies that take advantage of the location.  Here it is captured in all its rugged, desolate and often spectacular glory.  A place both beautiful and deadly.  Toby Oliver has an incredibly gifted eye for shot composition and the end result is a movie that looks amazing regardless of whether the camera is wandering through the vast emptiness of the Australian wilderness or winding it's way through the claustrophobic slaughterhouse tunnels of Mick Taylor's labyrinthine hideaway.

This movie is the rarest of beasts.  A horror sequel that didn't leave me gnashing my teeth in frustration and cursing the unholy gods of genre cinema for allowing such a travesty to be born.  If you loved the first movie don't expect more of the same.  Expect better.  On this evidence Greg McLean isn't interested in wasting his time with a simple retread.  Instead he's delivered a sequel that not only adopts a different but entirely successful tone to the movie that spawned it but does so in a fashion that has me itching for another installment that will further explore the sick and twisted mind of Mick Taylor.  Wolf Creek 2 is  macabre and often hilarious gem of a movie.  See it at the first opportunity.  Hopefully on a cinema screen which is where it belongs.

Steve's Score:

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