Inspired by real events, Wolf Creek is the story of Liz Hunter (Cassandra Magrath) and Kristy Earl (Kestie Morassi), twenty-something British backpackers in Broome, Western Australia who team up for a car trip with young Australian, Ben Mitchell (Nathan Phillips), to a remote spot in the Wolf Creek National Park. Their car won't start, but a gruffly affable local, Mick Taylor (John Jarratt), turns up in his truck and offers to tow them to his place, an abandoned mining camp, and fix their car. When Liz wakes from a drugged sleep late the next day, she's tied up and gagged, in a hut. She hears loud music and screams from another hut and her worst nightmare has begun.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Who says you can't make a commercial genre film in Australia on a low budget? Delivering everything it promises, horror/thriller Wolf Creek boasts excellent naturalistic performances, a strong story and a good script, taut direction and excellent cinematography. It also pushes the envelope for Australian films with its occasionally graphic violence, but within context and never splashy.
It claims to be based on real events, but it is fairer to say it is inspired by a couple of outback disappearances, with writer director Greg McLean imagining the nasty bits to fill in the story. John Jarratt, cast against type as the good natured outback bloke who collects unwary tourists like a cat collects lizards, ends up with the sort of persona that is more frightening for his outward bonhomie and wisecracking.
The three youths caught in the nightmare are credible and the carefully handled subplot concerning a budding romance between two of them is perfectly pitched. The viciousness of their situation fuels tension without a sag, and some scenes are knuckle whiteners.
An apt score and a satisfactory conclusion make Wolf Creek every bit as good as the premise offers, and justifies Dimension Films acquiring world rights for three times the budget.
Review by Louise Keller:
As relentless as the midday Australian sun, horror thriller Wolf Creek is an assured debut from writer director Greg McLean, although explicit violence and downbeat themes will deter some. Like the circumstances, the film starts out lightly, as two British tourists prepare for a three week road trip to the remote outback with a cheerful local adventurer. The vastness of the Australian landscape is beautiful portrayed in Will Gibson's cinematography, which becomes agitated handheld fashion, mirroring the tumultuous emotions as fun turns to violent horror.
The relationship between the two girls Liz and Kristy (Cassandra Magrath and Kestie Morassi) is especially engaging. Theirs is an easy rapport, and although they both find their fellow traveller Ben (Nathan Phillips) cute, it is non competitive. During a comfort stop, Kristy makes to clear to her friend that she has noticed the attraction between them, leaving the way open for a romance. The kiss sitting on a large rock that overlooks the endlessly vast terrain around the crater is playful and sweet natured, reassuring that any relationship that transpires will not impinge on their friendship.
Then the atmosphere changes and tension sets in as watches stop and the car fails to start. After the initial relief at being discovered by jovial hat-wearing stranger Mick (John Jarratt, in a haunting role that is as effective as it is against type), the film quickly gallops into terrifying territory as Liz wakes to find herself bound and gagged in a deserted shed. Through her eyes, we see what Mick is really made of, and the horror begins.
As the intensity of violence escalated at the screening in Cannes, a number of people start to head for the exit doors. I looked away several times - the prolonged nature of the violence is far more disturbing than much of the violence we see in Hollywood fare. Whether or not such horror on screen is justified is questionable - does violence need to be this graphic to make its point? Do feminists have reason to feel outraged by the depiction of female degradation? The story twists like a key in a rusty lock as McLean never hesitates to reveal the ugliness of the consequences of this tale which is based on the Milat backpacker and Falconio murders.
Performances are excellent and our sympathies lie especially with Magrath's Liz, who takes her courage in her two hands and allows her survival instincts to overcome her fear. Like many true stories, there is little with which to be uplifted, and Mick remains a terrifying shadowy character. The wide outdoor spaces are a huge contrast to the claustrophobic intensity of the confrontation and results in a well crafted genre film, although the final resolution devastates rather than satisfies.
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GREG MCLEAN IN CANNES
GREG MCLEAN INTERVIEW
WOLF CREEK (R)
CAST: John Jarratt, Cassandra Magrath, Nathan Phillips, Kestie Morassi, Andy McPhee, Guy Petersen
PRODUCER: Greg McLean, David Lightfoot
DIRECTOR: Greg McLean
SCRIPT: Greg McLean
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Will Gibson
EDITOR: Jason Ballantine
MUSIC: Frank Tetaz
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Robert Webb
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 6, 2005 (pre-release for awards consideration); national release: November 3, 2005