Wolf Creek

4 stars


28th February 2006

Teeth, tits and ass: three things that signify exactly what is wrong with horror movies today. I don't know about everyone else, but I'm getting kind of tired of seeing fresh-faced young teens get chased by cardboard cut-out lunatics and getting themselves into situations of mild-peril - if ever there was a genre that no one would miss were it to be banished from the planet, it's the PG-13 / 12A horror movie. It's not scary if you recognise the characters from TV series. It's not scary if you're yelling at the big-breasted blonde because you know what'll happen when she opens the door. It's not scary watching someone get killed in an ironic situation. You know what's really, really scary? Real life.

Wolf Creek doesn't try to make you jump out of your seat. It doesn't have people hiding in cupboards, or cats jumping out of closets. It doesn't have swelling orchestra music when the hero walks into a room that will obviously see them mutilated. Forget every cliché you've ever seen, because Wolf Creek plays it as straight as they come - this is a real situation, and whether you've got big tits and white teeth or not, it could happen to you. An amalgamation of every backpacking horror story you've ever heard (it purports to be based on real events but is actually a mulch of cases like the Peter Falconio murder and others), Wolf Creek sees three tourists - two Brits, one Aussie - trek deep into the Australian outback to see the famous landmark of the title. Unfortunately, the strange magnetisms of the rocks cause the backpackers' car to conk out, leaving them stranded in the middle of no man's land until a seemingly helpful traveller lends a hand and gives them a lift. Upon waking up, the trio find themselves tied up as the playthings of their very un-Mick Dundee-like friend.

Shot on DV with some exquisitely beautiful scenery, the wide open plains of the Australian outback have a terrifyingly hopeless feeling about them (help is dozens of miles away in every direction) - you get lost in Wolf Creek and you might never be found. For the first hour or so, Ben, Liz and Kristy soak in the luscious environment and revel in their surroundings, living it up Down Under and avoiding catastrophe. The build up is certainly a slow one (a friend of mine asked if we were watching a slasher movie or the Discovery Channel) but every minute that passes serves only to heighten the atmosphere as the inevitable slash-fest gets closer and closer. When the gore eventually comes, there are no punches pulled - real-life psychos don't generally make clever quips when they dispatch their victims, so why should movie psychos? This is cold, nasty violence, so far removed from the Hollywood blood and guts you've been desensitised to, it'll get right under your skin and stay there until the credits roll, and beyond. "I always use a rubber," says John Jarratt's unhinged killer as he approaches one of his bound victims. "I don't know where you cunts have been." We're a long, long way from Kevin Williamson material here, kids.

Wolf Creek is desperately unsettling, and watching the three hitchhikers struggling at the mercy of their kidnapper is almost as disturbing as being there yourself, tied up, unable to scream for help yet unable to look away. There are plenty of memorable moments that will stay with you long after the ambiguous conclusion - the 'head on a stick' moment for one, the doomed escape is another - but it's not the set-pieces that make the movie, it's the underlying tension that's stretched to breaking point throughout that'll fray your nerves. Take into consideration that Wolf Creek is never overtly gory and you've got to wonder how the rest of the industry has been getting slasher flicks wrong for so very long.

It's definitely not one for the Wes Craven crowd then, but horror aficionados might just have found a new instant classic to add to their collections. If teeth, tits and teen ass is your thing then you might be left scratching your head in befuddlement - the dialogue is sparse and the scenes are long and painfully drawn out - but when you ponder that the story is not exactly a million miles away from the truth, you'll realise that there really is nothing scarier than being out of your depth in a place, far, far from home. Enjoy your holiday.

More:  Horror  Slasher
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