I’d had this knocking around on Blu-ray for a while and wanted something quick to watch so decided to give it a go, thinking it would be a nice little horror film (oxymoron?) with a few scares, a bit of gore. Perfect, I thought. Wrong, I soon realised. There are spoilers ahead, by the way, in case anyone doesn’t want little there is to spoil spoiled.
The plot, or the closest to a plot as I could find in the film, is that three backpackers, Liz (Cassandra Magrath), Kristy (Kestie Morassi) and Ben (Nathan Phillips) go off to look at a meteor crater but when they come to leave their car won’t start. They are then rescued by Mick (John Jarrett), some guy who is seemingly just passing by. However, he isn’t just some guy but a psychopath who likes torturing tourists and backpackers. Sure the Aussie tourist board were well impressed with this.
First of all, can we please dispense with the whole ‘car won’t start’ thing? There are few horror film clichés done to death as much as this and in Wolf Creek it happens another couple of times on top of the initial instance. It’s boring, trite and completely unoriginal. Here it’s explained by some strange force that also stops everyone’s watches from working. This is likely something to do with the meteor crater but it’s suggested that there is some paranormal or extraterrestrial power at work. Just what type of horror is this exactly?
This is a good third into the film, at least. Up to this point, precisely nothing happens. I can’t recall anything that happens. There’s something with a swimming pool and a gas station with hostile locals (yawn), but that’s about it. We could have had some back story, some build up of tension, some foreshadowing, anything. Everything of use in that first half an hour could easily have been told in ten minutes or less, leaving much more time for some actually scares.
Actually, wait, there was something else that happened. There was some ridiculous romantic sub plot between two of the backpackers that has a whole scene dedicated to it but is literally forgotten without mention for the entire rest of the film.
Let’s get back to those scares, shall we? OK, there are none. The most intense part of the film lasts a mere matter of minutes and even then there’s nothing that will make you jump, reach for the nearest cushion or even do anything else other than wonder if this is the best it could come up with. A horror film should build tension and make the audience feel uneasy, but the only thing to feel uneasy about is the realisation that you’ve paid to watch it. And even if you haven’t, well there’s still nothing to get your heart rate going.
Apparently, additional footage was left out where one of the girls finds a load of decomposing bodies but it was cut after test screenings for being, according to director Greg McLean, “simply too much”. TOO MUCH?! I seriously can’t imagine that any audience, after seeing the film, would ever say “you know what, that Wolf Creek was scary as hell, I was on the edge of my seat. And that bit with the decomposing bodies, well that was simply too much.” There are no scares or any kind of tension in the film; taking one of the few scenes out that could have added to it seems an odd choice.
One of my biggest wrangles with the film (and as you can see, there are many) is how it ends. Rewind back to the start and we have three backpackers, but we only really see what happens to the two girls; the guy is absent for a massive chunk of the film and he’s barely even referred to. It is literally as if he’s been completely forgotten about. But once the girls have been dealt with (the fact that they didn’t survive was probably the most interesting thing about the film), we suddenly go back to our friend who manages to escape and find help. My problem with this is that we have invested absolutely no time whatsoever with this character’s struggle or torment. At least with the girls, we saw what they went through and their fight for survival, helping us to identify with them a little more. Yet, with this guy I completely forgot he existed for a good portion of the film, so by the time he did crop back up, I really didn’t care whether he escaped or was hacked into a million little pieces. In fact, the character comes across as such an idiot that the latter would probably have been preferable.
Wolf Creek is apparently ‘based on a true story’. Except it’s not really. The Peter Falconio murder case and the Ivan Milat backpacker murders are cited as influences, but the film is most definitely not based on a true story. Every single one of the characters is completely made up. Just because some backpackers were once killed in Australia does not make this based on a true story. It’s like saying that Home Alone is based on a true story because a parent once left their child in the house by themselves, or that The Shawshank Redemption is based on a true story because someone once escaped from prison. The film may well be inspired by a true story, but it’s certainly not based on one. I know it’s only a case of semantics and I’m being picky here, but it annoyed me.
Who knows, maybe it’s just me. It was nominated for quite a lot of awards and actually managed to win a few. Obviously some people out there like it. Am I completely missing the point of the whole thing? If you’ve seen Wolf Creek, I’d love to hear your thoughts, good or bad. Am I being too harsh or am I justified in my criticisms?