this movie looks CRAZY! high ass rating from what ive seen here are some expert opinions...

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"Wolf Creek is based on true events set in the desolate Australian outback," or so promises the opening credit. By the end, it is obvious that this grisly and gruesome horror has as much connection to the notorious murders that inspired it as "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" has to the story of the real life Ed Gein. What it lacks is the startling shock of that inspiration.

MOVIE REVIEW


WOLF CREEK

DIRECTOR: Greg McLean

CAST: John Jarratt,

Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi, Nathan Phillips

RUNNING TIME:

99 minutes

RATING: R for strong gruesome violence,

and for language

WHERE: Opens Sunday at Alderwood 7, Cinema 17, Kent Station 14, Longston Place 14, Meridian 16, Redmond Town Center, Renton Village,

Woodinville 12

GRADE: C

LINKS/TRAILERS
· Official site

PHOTO GALLERY

*View all photos

It starts out in lazy road movie mode in the company of three pleasant twentysomething vacationers blitzing across the outback. There are some unsettling detours into the company of crude and creepy locals and ominous chords of impending trouble, but it hardly prepares the audience for when the world as we know it drops from under our easy-going trio.

John Jarratt is perfectly creepy as the outback loner gone psychotic survivalist who gets his kicks from the systematic degradation and torture of hapless victims. And make no mistake, the ordeal is excruciating -- for the audience and for the victims -- as they are trussed, tortured and plunged into an exercise in sadism.

Greg McLean directs their torments and escape attempts with a bone-crunching, bullet-splattering, flesh-flaying naturalism that is almost admirable in its simple effectiveness. Almost. His mastery is impressive, but to what end? There's nothing entertaining about it.

"Wolf Creek" aspires to become the Aussie answer to the gritty style of '70s American horror cinema that has suddenly come back in vogue. This may be the most genuine expression of that once shocking trend, but after 30 years the shock is gone. What's left is a grueling exercise in unrelenting brutality with a subtext no deeper than an instinctual fear of the back-country bogeyman.

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Three twenty-somethings, Brits Liz (Cassandra Magrath) and Kristy (Kestie Morassi) and Aussie Ben (Nathan Phillips) road trip through the Australian outback. When their car stalls at the rim of a giant crater, a bushman (John Jarratt) "rescues" them, brings them back to his remote digs and proceeds to torture and/or murder them. Oddly, director Greg McLean keeps dropping little surprise mousetraps throughout, taking the plot in unpredictable directions, but the brain-dead characters continuously fail to use their heads, wandering willy-nilly through the crafty plot, as if they'd never seen Scream or any other movies about serial killers. Most of this "true" account comes from the testimony of one survivor, who -- according to the film -- wasn't even around to see much of it.

Starring: Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi, Nathan Phillips, John Jarratt
Written by: Greg McLean
Directed by: Greg McLean
MPAA Rating: R for strong gruesome violence, and for language
Running Time: 99 minutes
Date: December 25, 2005

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Wolf Creek is a film of the horror/slasher variety, a genre for which we have no affection or respect. That said, the film takes full visual advantage of the physical beauty of its setting in the Australian outback. The writer/director, Greg McLean, is trained as a painter, and it shows. He is very good at the creation of tension and dread, too.

And he has written dialogue that is not completely stupid.

Those are the positive aspects.

Wolf Creek is sort-of based on several actual crime events in Australia, including the Hume Highway backpack murders and the more recent Falconio case. (The film could not be released in the Northern Territory until after the recent trial of Peter Falconio’s murderer, Bradley John Murdoch, on the grounds it could affect Murdoch’s chances of getting a fair trial. Murdoch was convicted.)

In Wolf Creek, three backpackers — two British women and an Australian man — meet and decide to travel together to see the extraordinary meteor crater at Wolf Creek, which is handily located smack dab in the middle of nowhere in the Aussie outback.

It takes almost an hour to get these kids on the slab: There are brief flirtations to document, landscape and sunsets, twinkly stars, raindrops, UFO stories, campfires, spooky atmosphere bits and a menacing run-in with some toothless locals. So far, so good.


Everything creepy is a product of the imagination.

Once we all get to Wolf Creek, however, the plot thickens, and mostly through the simple addition of blood. The car dies, a friendly local (John Jarratt) shows up to help and our three backpackers (Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi) wind up in a pickle — we’re talking chains, knives, guns, nails, missing bady parts and like that. Gross.

About “18A” worth of gross. You may need to squirm and recoil a fair bit to get through the film, which involves graphic, sickening violence. The camera never looks away.

The director has said that he had a countercultural intention of sorts with this movie, and that intention was (more or less) to show that good doesn’t always triumph over evil. That is an important lesson generally learned in the process of growing up; one can only wonder if such understanding is fostered via the sight of dog-eaten dead bodies.

Sorry — half-bodies.

BOTTOM LINE

It’s possible to appreciate Greg McLean’s filmmaking talent and still hate the depiction of human cruelty, violence and madness to be found herein. Er, isn’t it?

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By MACK BATES
Special to the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Dec. 24, 2005

Whatever fond memories the "Crocodile Dundee" movies, "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" and even "Kangaroo Jack" gave you about the Land Down Under will be challenged by "Wolf Creek, " writer-director Greg McLean's visually arresting, unrelentingly creepy big-screen debut opening in theaters today.
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63468'Wolf Creek'

Three stars - ***

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Kristy (Kestie Morassi), one of three road-trippers in remote Australia, finds herself in danger when she accepts help from a friendly local in "Wolf Creek."
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Inspired by the "Back Packer Murders," a string of killings committed in Australia in the late 1980s and early 1990s, "Wolf Creek" starts out as an amiable travelogue and segues into a thriller that is genuinely frightening, despite McLean's use of some "look-what-I-learned-in-film-school" tricks.

After spending two weeks in Australia "that (felt) more like two years," a couple of college-aged women from England, Kristy (Kestie Morassi) and Liz (Cassandra Magrath), pair up with Ben (Nathan Phillips), a guy from Sydney, and hit the open road for one last adventure before heading to the States. One stop on their itinerary: Wolf Creek, a huge crater in the Outback.

They try to leave the site before nightfall but are foiled when they experience car trouble. They think they've caught a break when a tow-truck driver named Mick (John Jarratt) shows up and offers to take their car to his shop deep in the middle of nowhere.

Faster than you can say, "G'day, mate!" Ben, Kristy and Liz are fighting for their lives.

Shot on a shoestring budget on high-definition video, "Wolf Creek" makes the most of its limitations, establishing just how claustrophobic the darkness that envelops the Outback after dusk can be.

"Wolf Creek" was made with the intention to scare moviegoers silly, and it succeeds.

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When I say that I enjoy a nihilistic film on occasion, I don't mean movies that aren't about anything. There are films that adhere to the philosophy that life is meaningless, that there's not much hope, that we might be in Hell or, better, a godless maelstrom of happenstance and entropy. And then there are ostensibly nihilistic films like Wolf Creek and Hostel that are more accurately examples of nihilism. Both inspired by real-life events*, they seem to use their basis in fact as protection against not actually telling a story with gravity or purpose. They're not governed by a prevailing philosophy or buoyed by any artistry--they have nothing beneath their grimy veneers to reward a careful deconstruction (though we'll try). Worse, they know only enough about their genres to (further) discredit them in the popular conversation. I look at these films as though I were observing an alien artifact, an insect with solid black eyes. If there's intelligence to them, it's not a kind I understand.

There's no hint of existential conundrum in these pictures--and although my saying that may cause you to roll your eyes, consider that the best grindhouse films (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, Black Christmas, Deliverance, The Evil Dead, and so on) have something going on under the skin whether you care to engage it or not. What Wolf Creek and Hostel have is one already-notorious scene apiece and a lot of nothing going on in their ugly, empty little heads. They're cinema as punishment, providing no vicarious thrill; like the televised geekshow "Fear Factor", they just ask the question of how much can you take before you turn away. You watch them, you feel sorry for and superior to the filmmakers and the kids laughing for the benefit of their friends, and then you tell everyone you can that there's a difference between good, terrifying, nihilistic horror flicks and stupid exercises in braggadocio such as Wolf Creek and Hostel.

Besides their simultaneous release in U.S. theatres, the two films have in common a resentment of tourism, a victim waking up bound and gagged after being drugged, and gags involving severed fingers. Wolf Creek is partially set at the semi-titular park (as in Australia's "Wolfe Creek Crater National Park"--the spelling change meant to facilitate a "big bad wolf" read, maybe, or to soothe an international audience that's also supposedly queasier with words like "philosopher" replacing "sorcerer"), the world's second-largest meteorite crater and a place of such awesome natural foreboding that I wondered during the picture's leisurely first hour whether debut hyphenate Greg McLean had modeled his picture on Peter Weir's Outback creeper Picnic at Hanging Rock. Such intimations to greatness are hamstrung, though, first with a few incomprehensible party scenes that establish the bizarre love triangle between Aussie Ben (Nathan Phillips) and British birds Liz (Cassandra Magrath) and Kristy (Kestie Morassi) and later with the actual charnel house of the film, wherein Wolf Creek reveals itself as having no new ideas and runs out of old ideas fast.

Somehow this neo Jack, Janet, and Cindy agree to go for a day-hike to the crater. They talk about meteorites and alien abductions, and then when their car battery is mysteriously as dead as their watches (thank goodness for those non-electrical Aussie flashlights, eh mate?), who should swoop in as their salvation but good ol' boy Mick (John Jarratt, in a performance that elevates the film) by offering to tow them to his workshop for a little tune-up. Savvy genre blokes will prick up their ears not only when Ben's sexuality is challenged by a bunch of inbred locals at the Last Gas Station (and again by Mick, proclaiming Ben's hometown of Sydney "the poofter capital of Australia"), but also after Ben does what no one--especially not a fellow POME--should ever do and compares Mick to Crocodile Dundee, prompting Mick to lament the proliferation of feral tourism. This is to no good end, however, as Wolf Creek isn't terribly interested in either the oppressive indifference of the Natural or the offense that the city mice commits against the country mouse, or even the sexual politics of a male challenged and women threatened. It's not something as noble as a film that defies genre convention so much as it's a frantic pastiche that hopes there's a spark of life left in one of the sewn-on transplants. I'd been looking forward to Wolf Creek from the moment it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival to a few quiet raves; what I should have considered is that Saw bowed to similar festival buzz last year.

Still, Wolf Creek is a model of restraint compared to Eli Roth's Hostel. I had a fair share of affection for Roth's writing-directing debut Cabin Fever, seeing in it a refreshing honesty about his love for traditional spam-in-a-cabin flicks that I thought carried it over some of the (perhaps) intentionally shoddy filmmaking and a layer of Jackass crudeness and hostility. Hostel's a middle-finger flipped at every single thing that makes films like this worthy of deeper examination and, more importantly, the carriers of genuine unrest and discomfort. It lurches along with a wilful rejection of intelligence and sensitivity for fear of emasculation--"pussy" and "faggot" the two words its heroes use most often in Hostel's and thus, as Dr. Phil would tell you, the two things author Roth probably most fears that he is. The result of that puerility in its creation (maybe creator) is a film that bends over backwards to punish women and homosexuals; Hostel is unrepentantly, unselfconsciously leering, and so ugly on the topic of gay men that it reserves its nastiest, ugliest punishments for quiet schlep Josh (Derek Richardson) and the older Dutch man (Jan Vlasák) in whom he may be interested. Tellingly, the one vivisects the other before encountering his personal Waterloo in a train station's public water closet, his pants around his ankles and his head in a toilet full of his own waste. It's where queers go to die in movies made by homophobes. For more eloquent commentary than I'm capable of providing of the damage done by this kind of image, look to a bathroom murder scene in Hellbent.

It begins as the Last American Virgin remake Roth's been threatening us with as a trio of college-age hedonists, on a budget and armed with a europass, frequent the ganja bars of Amsterdam just prior to going window shopping in the Red Light District. The usual suspects: the wild party guy is Icelander Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson); the devil-may-care daredevil is Yankee Paxton (Jay Hernandez); and the delicate, budding writer recovering from a break-up is fellow Yankee Josh (Derek Richardson). After getting locked out of their hostel, they find themselves in the apartment of a seamy Russian who advises them to take a train to Bratislava, where the women are beautiful and desperate. Sure enough, once they're in a gothically-appointed hostel, a pair of Russian beauties (and why are Russians staying at a Russian hostel? Who cares, right?), Natalya and Svetlana (Barbara Nedeljakova and Jana Kaderabkova), accidentally (oops!) flash their tits, invite the boys to a spa, and then flash their tits on purpose. Yet apparently these girls have more on their minds than fucking (but fuck they do, don't get me wrong)--seems they're paid a lot of money to deliver young men to a shadowy network of flesh peddlers who sell rich international businessmen the opportunity to torture someone to death.

Japanese girl Kana (Jennifer Lim) has an eyeball plucked out in slow-motion, quails at her appearance, and kills herself by jumping in front of a train. Yeah, she's vain, but is there anything to the notion that the loss of her eye is speaking to an objectification subtext? I doubt it. Hostel revels in its venality and arrogance, rubbing it all over itself like the gouts of blood it uses to soak every non-victim in the picture. It's posed itself as a piece owing a debt to the Japanese shock cinema of Takashi Miike (himself a bit player in the film) when it really owes more to the gore/schlock cinema of Herschel Gordon Lewis. For whatever you can say about Miike's pictures, not a one of them (and he's been known to churn out up to five a year) would you describe as empty, sadistic capering. Hostel can't be a commentary on sexual tourism because it is sexual tourism; it can't be a commentary on exploitation of women and virulent gay-bashing because it's those things, too; and, ultimately, it's neither as scary nor as funny as it wants to be, because it's just a cheap bit of garbage and everyone, even or especially the people who'll like it best, knows it.

But there's a catch--and the catch is the torture scene of anti-hero Paxton, whose humiliation Roth shows in bald, intimate detail. There's a suggestion in this lead-up that Paxton is "unmanned"--turned into the "pussy" he cavalierly calls his dead friends in bonhomie and goading. And so, in the calculus of his lizard brain, he's been degraded in a more significant way than dissection. He delays his own demise (and facilitates his escape) by showing off his bilingual ability, confusing his German tormentor with pleas for his life in his native tongue and, in the process, identifying a theme of ugly-Americanism that works as a weak undercurrent in the film. If Hostel fails to add much to the conversation about voyeurism and sexual identity in the slasher genre, at least it manages in spite of itself to suggest in a meta way how Americans piss off the rest of the world not just with their politics and their arrogant ignorance (note that in Syriana, another film with a disgusting torture sequence, one of the emir's men says of the Chinese that at least they learn Arabic to deal with them in business), but with their affluence and sense of entitlement, too. It doesn't make Hostel a good film--but it does make it worth a conversation.-Walter Chaw

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WOLF CREEK

By Josh Bell

WOLF CREEK (R)
(3.5 stars)
Nathan Phillips, Kestie Morassi, Cassandra Magrath, John Jarratt
Directed by Greg McLean
Opens Sunday

Leave it to the Australians to produce the best of the recent homages to 1970s American horror films. Writer-director Greg McLean surpasses his peers with Wolf Creek, an unsettling minimalist film in the vein of early Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper, right down to its dubious claims of being based on a true story. Eschewing many tired conventions of recent Hollywood horror movies, McLean achieves his scares by actually depicting scary events, rather than just turning up the music or having people jump out from behind closed doors.

He doesn't dance around the gore, either, earning his R rating without resorting to pointless nudity or even much harsh language. Wolf Creek is a straightforward tale with familiar elements, following a group of three friends (Phillips, Morassi, Magrath) on a road trip across the Australian desert. They stop at Wolf Creek, a landmark famous for its huge meteorite crater, and this being a horror movie, their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Soon a kindly stranger (Jarratt) arrives to help them out. This being a horror movie, what he really wants to do is torture and kill them.

The plot isn't exactly original, but the forbidding, almost alien locale (an actual giant crater) gives it a new twist, and McLean's execution is impeccable. His characters don't engage in annoying pop-culture banter or take their clothes off at the drop of a hat, and they aren't played by incompetent TV actors. They feel like real young people with real emotions, and their reactions to the extreme situations they find themselves in come off as genuine and not dictated by the horror-movie playbook.

It takes a little time for the story to rev up, but McLean uses that time to build a real sense of menace and foreboding, with the harsh landscape looming as a silent harbinger of bad things to come. He also introduces one of the most jovial serial killers in recent memory, another character who's not bogged down in horror clichés, thankfully free of the excessive quirks that most villains are saddled with these days.

Unlike so many of its slick counterparts, Wolf Creek is genuinely unnerving and sometimes upsetting; any film that can turn a Crocodile Dundee reference into a bone-chilling moment qualifies as a success. Wolf Creek may be simple, but sometimes simple is what works best.



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Wolf Creek
Review: A devilish little respite from the holiday blockbusters.
by Spence D.
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December 22, 2005 - While Hollywood continues to churn out craptacular T&A-driven horror schlock by the bucket loads, a first-time feature film director from Down Under, working with hand held DV and practically no budget managed to deliver one of the most unnerving little films of 2005. Greg McLean, who both wrote and directed Wolf Creek drew upon actual events, melding them with obvious nods to Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the brilliant 1974 classic, not the crappy remakes) and other surreal serial killer endeavors to craft a little picture that overcomes a distinct lo-fi aura and ends up being a visceral movie going experience.

The film, which has been burning up the midnight movie screens overseas since summer, finally makes its way Stateside and should provide a devilish little respite from the holiday blockbusters and tidings of good cheer for the more adventurous moviegoers amongst us.

At the core, McLean's story isn't anything new, as it milks the predatory fears lurking inside us all. Much like the aforementioned Massacre, the film purports to be based on actual events, in this case the serial killings of one Ivan Milat who used to pick up hitchhikers on lonely stretches of Australian highway and have his way with them in the woods and the more recent murderous endeavors of one Bradley Murdoch, who seemed to follow in Milat's footsteps. McLean's initially wrote what he considered to be a "pretty standard horror thriller set in the Outback" about six years ago, augmenting the tale after he learned of Milat's exploits. The result is a yarn about three partying youth – Liz Hunter (Cassandra Magrath), Kristy Earl (Kestie Morassi), Ben Mitchell (Nathan Phillips) – who purchase a jalopy and head across the Outback. Sadly, their trip is cut short after a day excursion to Wolf Creek, a giant craterous national park region nestled within the interior of Australia.


The Weinstein Co.

As mentioned earlier, the film is a lo-fi digital video excursion the ends up being jolty and grainier than anything Hollywood would have done. Initially it feels a bit amateurish, especially during the home movie-styled intro, but as the film progresses it slips into a natural feeling momentum that only adds to the overall compressed feelings of intense terror that not only saturate the characters onscreen, but also reverberate out into the audience members. This transference of nail biting insanity from screen to ticket holders is what ultimately drives the picture and makes it almost an interactive experience, something so few of the horror films tossed out onto the public ever achieve.

While McLean's lean writing and realistic characters definitely add to the suffocating sense of anxiety, a lot of credit needs to be given to the players. Magrath and Morassi do a fine job of not only paying tribute to the classic inept women in distress archetype that is essential to this type of film, but they also elevate themselves above this now requisite stereotype, becoming a little more human than most of the heroines we've seen being trapped, mauled, and chased by cutlery wielding madmen lately. As for Phillips, he's one to watch, brilliantly playing up the Aussie beach bum/beer guzzling stud smartass role to the hilt.


The Weinstein Co.

Of course the film wouldn't be half as intimidating if it weren't for the villain, Mick (John Jarratt) who comes across like the bastard offspring of Jason (or Leatherface, take your pick) and Crocodile Dundee. He has that light-hearted "lemme slip another shrimp on the barbie for ya" demeanor, but his knife ain't just deveining shellfish, that's for sure. Granted, the film fuels a little of that red-neck xenophobia (here it owes a small nod to Deliverance), but let's face it, the fear of being preyed upon by the locals while you are on vacation is something that just about everyone who travels can relate to.

Aiding in the implementation of the brutal suppression is the minimalistic and organically industrial score by Francoise Tetaz, who only has one other feature length film to his credit. Much in the same way that Tyler Bates utilized stripped down electronic drones and buzzes and clanks to fuel the fury within The Devil's Rejects, Tetaz essentially paints the onscreen images with a veneer of aural terror in the form of detached ambient tones dredged up from the darkest recesses of the aural spectrum. It all furthers the experience of trepidity that emanates from the screen.


The Weinstein Co.

The immediate knee jerk reaction After watching Wolf Creek is to never make plans to visit Australia. Seriously, this film will make any reasonable traveler think twice about planning any kind of cross-country jaunt through Australia's Outback region, let alone a visit to the natural wonders of the Wolfe Creek crater itself. In many ways Mclean's lean and mean little film proves that the Aussie's are still capable of beating Hollywood at her own game when it comes to bare boned horror chills. On the other hand one can't help but wonder how good this film is for the Aussie tourist trade as it's certainly not the type of cultural export you'll see the Australian Tourism Bureau endorsing any time soon.



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Rating: ROTTEN (0/4)

Hey, here's an idea for the new year. What if a bunch of us get together somewhere and burn all copies of movies like "Wolf Creek?"
0 stars

Hey, here's an idea for the new year. What if a bunch of us get together somewhere and burn all copies of movies like "Wolf Creek?"
That would mean gathering up copies of "High Tension," "The Devil's Rejects" and all the other recent so-called horror films that are thinly disguised snuff pictures that border on porn.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a horror movie aficionado. But this stuff crosses the border of R-rated horror to what should be NC-17-rated smut. And it is beyond my belief why this latest piece of trash opened on Christmas Day.

But I digress. Let me stop ranting long enough to tell you what I hated about this movie. OK, everything. Still, you might want to know a little bit about the story, such as it is.

Stars Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath and Kestie Marassi play friends who are hiking in a deserted area in Australia.

The first part is just plain boring, because it certainly takes a long time for any action to evolve.

The friends walk around and then go back to their car to discover that their watches have stopped and the car won't start. At this point, I wondered if they have cell phones in Australia, but then I decided I was asking too many questions so I began to wonder if things would go from boring to worse.

They do. This guy (John Jarratt) stops by to help the trio with their car. The four of them end up camping together. The friendly stranger begins telling gruesome tales about animals (and yes, I admit it, the film lost me right there) and then everyone goes off to sleep.

But then one of the women awakes to find that she has been bound and dragged into some sort of shed while her woman friend is being tortured physically and verbally by the knife-wielding stranger.

I wondered idly exactly what means the stranger used to capture the sleeping young people, but then I thought to myself "No, Linda, here you go asking too many questions again." There follows a sequence so vile, so graphic, that I began asking even more questions: "Who thought this up?" for example.

I was so repulsed by the end of the movie that I wanted to ask the other members of the audience just what in thunder they were doing there on Christmas Day.

I know what I was doing there. Seeing this junk so that you don't have to.

Stars: John Jarratt, Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath and Kestie Marassi.

Screenwriter and director: Greg McLean.

Running time: Ninety-five minutes.

Rated: R for explicit violence, gore and foul language.

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Wolf Creek

Rated: R
Director: Greg McLean
Starring: John Jarrat, Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi
Genre: Sadistic Horror

.5 star(s)

Far more terrifying than anything in the ludicrously overrated Wolf Creek are the words "based on a true story" – and that's exactly how this nasty, amateurish crapfest from Down Under starts. It's downhill from there.

At least once a year, some bottom-of-the-entrail-pail horror flick comes along that gets tagged as new, daring, groundbreaking and the salvation of the genre. This year we were treated to no less than two such movies – High Tension, and this. Both look exactly like the same old stuff to me. Sure, High Tension is slick and this one's cruder than crude, but they're brothers under the skin – supposedly breakthrough works that do nothing but pick the last bits of flesh off the carcasses of movies from years gone by.

First time writer-director Greg McLean has basically made an Australian knock-off of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre combined with a slightly calmed-down version of The Blair Witch Project. (Think of it as The Blair Wallaby Project.) But unlike The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the Tobe Hooper film, not the trashy remake), Wolf Creek has no larger point to make. You'll search in vain for even a scrap of a hint of a vestige of a soupcon of a trace of social commentary here.

What you have instead consists of three unlikable, meat-on-the-hoof characters who go to look at a hole in the ground (made by a meteorite) in the middle of nowhere. When they return to their car, they find it won't start and that their watches have stopped at 6:30 (a theoretically creepy touch that has nothing to do with anything and goes nowhere). Out of the dark comes helpful Mick Taylor (John Jarrat, Dead Heart), whose good Samaritan stance and "colorful" colloquialisms (think: the Crocodile Hunter gone really bad) are (big surprise) a sham. What he really wants, of course, is to torture the trio to death in various sadistic and repellent ways – all of which require his victims to behave as if they're even more stupid than the film has already portrayed them (that's saying something).

The first two-thirds of the movie moves at the pace of a rheumatic, three-legged tortoise as it establishes the characters and gets them to their date with slaughter. Within five minutes, you're good and ready to see these people offed. They get drunk, they get stoned, they say stupid things, they're obnoxious and crude. Their impending demise seems less like potential mayhem than thinning of the herd.

Apart from the film's heavy dose of misogyny and tendency to lovingly linger over every drop of blood in its last 30 minutes, there's nothing to separate Wolf Creek's last act from those of a few hundred other cheapies. It's boring, then it's nasty, then it's over. That last one is its only saving grace.

Supposedly released unrated, the film clearly has an R rating on its end, making for another bit of shameless huckstering to sit alongside its "true story" rubbish.

– reviewed by Ken Hanke

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Wolf Creek
Cast: Nathan Phillips, Kestie Morassi, Cassandra Magrath and John Jarratt
Directed by: Greg McLean
Screenplay by: Greg McLean
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Runtime: 99 min
Rating: R
Year: 2005
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n this era of horror films soullessly carted out of Hollywood, Wolf Creek immediately stands apart from the pack, beginning with the stunning image of sunset-tinted waves crashing onto the sands of an Australian beachfront. For a split second, this expressionistic shot resembles a volcano blowing its top, and the realization that it's something entirely more mundane exemplifies the unsettling tenor of the film's casual shocks. Like two of the best horror films of the '80s, Robert Harmon's The Hitcher and Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark, Wolf Creek is propelled by a lyrical sense of doom, and the ease with which first-time director Greg McLean creates a compelling sense of place—not to mention characters worth rooting for—is truly something to behold.

After a lively farewell party, three friends set out to hike the Wolf Creek crater in Western Australia. It's there that the strange beauty of the desolate locale perpetuates stories of alien encounters and helps to uproot a suppressed romance. Kristy (Kestie Morassi) casually informs Ben (Nathan Phillips) that Lizzie (Cassandra Magrath) returns his secret crush; soon the surfer dude is taking the brunette beauty aside in order to pull her in for a kiss—no tongue action or popping breasts, just a simple kiss. When Lizzie pulls back and puts the back of her hand to her mouth in a show of genuine rapture and bashfulness, you realize these could be real people reacting to the stirrings of bourgeoning love. When an alien does arrive, they react sensibly (for sure, these aren't the teens made fun of in Wes Craven's Scream films), which makes what happens to them all the more disturbing.

McLean methodically evokes a self-contained universe expressive of a profound sense of mystery and isolation. At once mundane and frightening, the moon, the sun, and the crippling heat appear as minions of Wolf Creek's impact crater, which is meant to bring to mind visions of mass destruction and animal extinction. To this landscape of nature in sinister, determinist motion, McLean adds the holographic shapes of light dancing in the night, profoundly conveying a sense that something is out of whack, or, more simply, that his characters are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Rescued by a local (John Jarratt) after their car mysteriously stops running, the film's three young leads play nice with their eccentric but seemingly friendly savior, understanding, perhaps unconsciously, that his arrival jives too perfectly with the ominous mood of Wolf Creek and that he may be here to finish off the job the meteor could not when it first crashed in the region long ago.

Ben, Lizzie, and Kristie do everything right, at least under their especially tenuous circumstances. Bombarded with pleases and thank yous and money for his services, Mick (Jarratt) still drugs, kidnaps, and tortures the trio, and, in effect, McLean affirms that there is no shaking the amoral values of a serial killer who plays by his own rules. But if Wolf Creek's blistering, sunburnt images are any indication, the film's locale seems to represent an otherworldly place untouched by accepted societal mores; it's as if Mick believes he's the only person in this world and as such is entitled to govern it as he sees fit. Unaffected by Hollywoodized visions of serial killers, Mick doesn't take to creating elaborate photo montages or flesh composites of his victims. He simply keeps their memento moris in boxes and their pictures on his wall. This is a no-frills boogeyman, and like Lizzie waking up to discover that she was hog-tied and thrown in a shed sometime during the night, Wolf Creek's horrors are presented with a chilling, offhanded nonchalance.

Given the slow-crawling pace of its first half and absurdist hell of its second, this grue-marinated film invites comparisons to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The opening and closing title cards are major downers (McLean trots out the "based on a true story" public service announcement as if to bestow the film with the urgency it already has in spades), but Wolf Creek is a beautiful piece of horror that doesn't come with the noxious social and sexual baggage that typically dooms its ilk—like the technically proficient High Tension and Marcus Nispel's version of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The film's context is existential. Characters charge into the desert, so blinded by the heat and dirt that they come to resemble moving Rorschach ink blots. Like the film's opening shot, these images are expressionistic in nature; they express a gripping vision of characters struggling and resisting to be made out by a terror at once terrestrial and alien.

Ed Gonzalez

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Wolf Creek

Rated: R
Director: Greg McLean
Starring: John Jarrat, Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi
Genre: Sadistic Horror

.5 star(s)

Far more terrifying than anything in the ludicrously overrated Wolf Creek are the words "based on a true story" – and that's exactly how this nasty, amateurish crapfest from Down Under starts. It's downhill from there.

At least once a year, some bottom-of-the-entrail-pail horror flick comes along that gets tagged as new, daring, groundbreaking and the salvation of the genre. This year we were treated to no less than two such movies – High Tension, and this. Both look exactly like the same old stuff to me. Sure, High Tension is slick and this one's cruder than crude, but they're brothers under the skin – supposedly breakthrough works that do nothing but pick the last bits of flesh off the carcasses of movies from years gone by.

First time writer-director Greg McLean has basically made an Australian knock-off of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre combined with a slightly calmed-down version of The Blair Witch Project. (Think of it as The Blair Wallaby Project.) But unlike The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the Tobe Hooper film, not the trashy remake), Wolf Creek has no larger point to make. You'll search in vain for even a scrap of a hint of a vestige of a soupcon of a trace of social commentary here.

What you have instead consists of three unlikable, meat-on-the-hoof characters who go to look at a hole in the ground (made by a meteorite) in the middle of nowhere. When they return to their car, they find it won't start and that their watches have stopped at 6:30 (a theoretically creepy touch that has nothing to do with anything and goes nowhere). Out of the dark comes helpful Mick Taylor (John Jarrat, Dead Heart), whose good Samaritan stance and "colorful" colloquialisms (think: the Crocodile Hunter gone really bad) are (big surprise) a sham. What he really wants, of course, is to torture the trio to death in various sadistic and repellent ways – all of which require his victims to behave as if they're even more stupid than the film has already portrayed them (that's saying something).

The first two-thirds of the movie moves at the pace of a rheumatic, three-legged tortoise as it establishes the characters and gets them to their date with slaughter. Within five minutes, you're good and ready to see these people offed. They get drunk, they get stoned, they say stupid things, they're obnoxious and crude. Their impending demise seems less like potential mayhem than thinning of the herd.

Apart from the film's heavy dose of misogyny and tendency to lovingly linger over every drop of blood in its last 30 minutes, there's nothing to separate Wolf Creek's last act from those of a few hundred other cheapies. It's boring, then it's nasty, then it's over. That last one is its only saving grace.

Supposedly released unrated, the film clearly has an R rating on its end, making for another bit of shameless huckstering to sit alongside its "true story" rubbish.

– reviewed by Ken Hanke

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dont pay attention to the half-witted comments made by the guy three reviews up... this movie delivers... i recommend you peep it seriously, very good movie