WOLF CREEK 2 (2013)
It’s been almost 9 years since writer/director Greg McLean unleashed psychotic Outback maniac Mick Taylor on the horror film world with his disturbing and very effective Wolf Creek, but finally McLean returns to the character that got him some well-earned attention. But while Mick is back, I felt the effectiveness and gritty and frightening realism of the first flick is not, as this sequel is basically a series of gory, over-the-top vignettes that are tied together with the thinest of stories and Mick has already become a parody of himself as with other film maniacs like Krueger and Voorhees.
Sequel starts out with two Australian highway patrolmen making the fatal mistake of harassing ‘redneck’ Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) over a fabricated speeding offense and finding out the hard and gruesome way that this was a big mistake. The film then focuses for about a 1/2 hour on a couple of German tourists Katarina and Rutger (Shannon Ashlyn and Phillipe Klaus) hitchhiking across the Outback and wandering into the Wolf Creek Crater area which is Mick’s domain and obviously crossing path’s with the sadistic cannibal with gory results. The film then segues to British tourist Paul (Ryan Corr) who almost literally runs into Katarina while driving through the area and the rest of the film becomes a Mad Max/ torture porn hybrid as Mick pursues Paul across the wilderness then torments the young British man back at his torture chamber/ lair. Yea, ummm… pick a story or main character will ya, mate!
I won’t say Wolf Creek 2 is badly made or directed, it’s not. On a technical level it is very strong. Taken individually the scenes are well staged and effective, especially the Road Warrior segment of the film, but it’s when you try to add these segments together into a complete movie that you realize this flick has no real story. It’s practically an anthology film patched together to showcase the homicidal and sadistic antics of Mick and by taking almost an hour to decide on a main character, we have no character focus until then, save Mick and the random situations he’s put in to allow him to slaughter. And another thing that bothered me is that McLean and Aaron Sterns’ script not only lacks focus, but turns Mick from a very gritty and frighteningly real psychopathic character to a one liner spewing almost parody of himself, who will gleefully engage in a sing-a-long with a potential victim with the same gusto which he then removes said victim’s fingers with a sander. He’s like a an Outback version of The Joker or an Aussie Freddy Krueger instead of the chillingly realistic madman that creeped us out the first time. That Mick was scary because he was believable, this over the top Mick could only exist in a movie and, while Jarratt is certainly having a blast with him, he’s reduced to the same kind of demented, entertaining anti-hero that Freddy and Jason became in their later flicks…and he’s placed in a film that is far more interested in showing off his routine then actually telling a frightening story. There are some very effective scenes, but when strung together, a complete film it barely makes and while the first film was not subtle, it used it’s bloodletting wisely. Here blood and body parts fly with almost Re-animator like abandon from almost the first scene…not that I mind a good gore-fest, but it goes against the more grounded tone of Wolf Creek part 1.
The two leads are actually very good. Jarratt is really having a good time taking the sadistic rapist/murderer/cannibal way over the top and the character is entertaining in a twisted way, though completely abandons the aura of being a realistic lunatic that one might actually meet in an out-of-the way place, or lonely road. He chews up the scenery with the same enthusiasm that he carves up his victims and while it works on one level, it makes a caricature out of someone we came to fear and despise in the first film, on another. He only seems like his old self in his scenes with the pretty Katarina and that only lasts for about ten minutes. Ryan Corr gives us a sympathetic character in Paul who, once the film settles down and focuses on it’s central victim, makes a good sparring partner with Mick as, despite being frightened out of his mind, he tries to outwit and escape his deranged captor. It’s too bad we didn’t get more time to get to know him, but Corr does good in creating a likable character with limited intro time. The two work well together and it’s sad that the film takes over an hour to get these two engaged in their game of cat and mouse that is waged both mentally and physically. The film only really locks it in then, even though it basically becomes a routine torture torment show once this happens and that is nothing new at this point. The rest of the cast are generic victims who we barely get to know and only serve as Mick fodder till the film finally decides where it wants to go in it’s last act.
So, despite being well acted and well directed, Wolf Creek 2 is an effective series of vignettes that fail to come together to make an equally effective film. It’s a film as schizophrenic as it’s star psycho that takes far too long to find it’s focus and thus draw us in and then it’s over too quickly and with a very unsatisfying climax. While Jarratt gives a strong performance, his Mick is turned from a grounded and frighteningly realistic psychopath to a joke cracking, sadistic oddball that is almost a parody of the Mick from the first film. Greg McLean is a talented filmmaker, but here he got a little too giddy with unleashing his most famous creation back on movie audiences and forgot that Mick’s antics need a strong story to be showcased in to be effective as they were the first time round. Brutally entertaining, but not scary, nor will it stay with you after the credits roll like the first film.
2 and 1/2 Micks.