Wolf Creek (2005) – movie review

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Movie Review by Vivienne Messenger

Starring: John Jarratt, Cassandra McGrath, Andy McPhee, Kestie Morassi

Director: Greg McLean

“How can you be found when no-one knows you’re missing?” A good question.

A more accurate question is: “How can you survive in the Australian outback when you are ill-prepared, up against a truly evil psychopath who knows the territory and has set up a trap for you?”

Two British girls, Liz Hunter (Cassandra McGrath) and Kristy Earl (Kestie Morassi), and a guy from Sydney Ben Mitchell (Nathan Phillips) are travelling through the Australian outback by car, exploring places on route until they stop at Wolf Creek, an isolated national park. Returning to their car they are unable to start it or have a clue about what is wrong with it. The night sets in, as does the rain. With Ben spooking up their situation and fearing it might be extra-terrestrial interference from a UFO, they all look up alarmed as a weird array of light grows in the darkness heading towards them.

The lights belong to a truck (how convenient!) driven by a seemingly helpful local, Mick (John Jarratt), who offers to give them a tow, not to the nearest town that would mean going north and he’s going south to his place, where’s he just happens to have the spare part that they need, and he’ll do it for free!

From here on, unbeknown to our touring trio, the moment the tow begins they are like fish caught on a hook and being reeled in. They’re chances of survival are rapidly diminishing as they’re towed under cover of darkness deeper into – well where? They have absolutely no idea! His premeditated trap is set and now sprung on his unsuspecting prey.

The three friends gory fates are all but sealed when they drink the proffered water on arrival at his lair and any odds in the favour of our three naïve backpackers have all but gone. From here on WOLF CREEK can be hard to stomach in places as Mick unleashes his ugly side and you feel yourself squirming uncomfortably in your seat as this carefully constructed abduction begins to descend into a fiendish slaughter.

The film’s script seems uncomfortable with the story and this makes the delivery of the actor’s lines difficult so you feel all the time that you are watching acting, almost like watching a rehearsal rather than the real thing. Also as the story is based on true events it is difficult to forgive the obvious ‘don’t go into the basement’ moments that cause so much fun in movies like HOUSE OF WAX (there is no basement – I’m just explaining a point).

What really bugs me about this movie is the filmmaker’s claim that it’s based on true events. What’s misleading is it’s not actually based on just one case but intertwined with other brutal crimes yet the way the movie unfolds and ends it appears to relate to just one – the memorable ‘backpacker murders’ that came to light in Australia in 1992.

The only beneficial thing WOLF CREEK might do is cause some scaremongering among the thousands of mostly students who get itchy feet and go off in search of adventure that can all too easily backfire with disastrously fatal consequences. Did you know that 30 000 people go missing in Australia each year? Just that fact alone is pause for thought but this mostly fictional slasher movie only delivers the gore not the fact as it purports to. Since two of the three perished and their remains have never been found and the third, who survived but had been held in isolated captivity could not corroborate much, the way they died is largely fictional conjecture on the part of writer/director Greg McLean.

2 out of 6 stars