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 Wolf Creek
 Critic's Rating
   [A-]
 Date Posted
   19th February, 2006
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Cast: John Jarratt, Cassandra Magrath, Andy McPhee
Director: Greg McLean

"Wolf Creek" is relentless in the depiction of violence especially against women. The film is an easy target for conservatives who will be quick to brand it "shameless" or, my favourite, "an orgy of blood and gore." But I am here to tell you that "Wolf Creek" works exactly because it does not mince its words. It is actually really mostly about the nature of fear.

Based on true events that took back in the wild outback of South Australia, debutante writer-director Greg Mclean uses riveting documentary-style to tell the story of three backpackers two sweet English girls Liz (Cassandra Magrath) and Kristy (Kestie Morassi), and an affable city boy from Sydney, Ben (Nathan Phillips). When visiting the Wolf Creek National Park, their car breaks down. Picked up by a friendly local Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) they are driven to an abandoned mining town that he calls home. Thus begins the perils of our heroes, their fight for survival. Mick is a depraved serial killer who takes sadistic pleasure in raping, torturing, maiming and then finally killing his victims. John Jarratt plays him with all the cruelty of a vicious, hungry animal. Easily one of the scariest villains committed to screen in a long time.

Unlike the glossy Hollywood films in recent times ("Saw" and others of its elk that have found mass popularity) "Wolf Creek" is a hard-hitting horror film that is firmly rooted in the exploitation genre popularised in the 70s. But I feel I do the film disservice: exploitation films typically sacrifice traditional notions of artistic merit for the sensational display of some topic about which the audience may be curious, especially sex, gore, and violence. However, "Wolf Creek" is very well-made; the cinematography, editing and score are all extraordinary for a low-budget production. I was overwhelmed by the quality of the performances and this goes to show that you don't need marquee names to improve in the acting department (the film was nominated in the Grand Jury Award World Cinema Dramatic category at Sundance 2005).

For all the bluntness of its story "Wolf Creek" has a nuanced commentary on the essence of fear. Consider this scene: Ben walks into a pub with Liz and Kristy. A group of bush men call him over to their table and ask him if the girls would be interested in "a bit of a gang-bang." Ben slowly surveys the filthy men, their hard faces, their clenched fists: If he responds he risks life and limb, but if he doesn't remember the girls are watching then what becomes of the challenge to his manhood? Ben decides to swallow his pride and he quietly slinks away. Not a single punch is thrown, not one bottle broken. The scene still makes our heart pound. Writer-director Greg McLean has a clear, mature understanding of the nature of fear and he continues to explore this theme later in the film through much more visceral ways. Interestingly, even though women are a recurring object of abuse in the film, McLean is quick to establish the universality of courage. He ingrains the character Liz with the kind of strong-willed humanity that is commonly misinterpreted as a masculine trait. So feminists, reconsider accusing the film of chauvinism.

"Wolf Creek" will challenge and shock you. It is bold, unflinching and simply unforgettable. Take a deep breath and go experience it for yourself. - Adnan Khan

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