Though criticized during its initial release for its grueling depictions of violence and torture, Greg Mclean's first feature film has much more to offer than it is commonly given credit for. WOLF CREEK begins with two English girls and their new friend taking off through the Australian Outback on a sightseeing tour. They return to their car after visiting a remote state park only to find that the engine will not start. Luckily, a local hunter spots them and offers to tow them to his camp, where he can fix the car in the morning. As these three unfortunate travelers would soon find out, they are not the first tourists to run into trouble in the desert, and their would-be savior is actually a wolf in sheep's clothing.
Mclean captures the natural beauty, tranquility, and vast emptiness of the Australian landscape in a way that few film exports have in the past. The gradual buildup and leisurely pace are used to establish the futility of escape once the hunter's trap is set. This also allows the audience time to truly connect with Kristy, Liz, and Ben, who are portrayed as honest and utterly believable characters. WOLF CREEK's casual dialog does not make it a point to form rounded backgrounds for any of its players, but rather focuses on creating organic conversations out of everyday speech. John Jarratt assumes the role of Mick, the jolly huntsman that is hiding a cold and calculating killer behind his lively exterior. Jarratt is able to turn character in seconds, and in doing so, he has become one of the most terrifying on-screen villains in years.
The gently subdued score adds an unsettling note that underlies the entire picture without ever relying on punctuated jump scares to effectively shock audience. Mclean's tight, hand-held filming has a hint of voyeurism, which draws the viewer in to the intimate dialog but also makes the attacks that much more visceral and disturbing. Unjust criticisms that dismissed the film simply for containing elements of torture were far to quick to judge it on its more brutal qualities, when beneath the horror lies a brilliantly-crafted thriller that is sure to find a growing audience in the years to come.
If you liked WOLF CREEK, check out:
BLACK WATER, THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, HOSTEL.