“Based on True Events” does not mean “This is exactly what happened”, folks. “Based on True Events” means this is what happened in our eyes. Now, I bet you’re surprised that this hardcore horror fan, the one who loved an equally brutal horror film known as “Haute Tension” gave “Wolf Creek” such a low “undeserving” rating, eh? Well, trust me when I tell you this, I was disappointed myself. I’m crushed. But you’re saying “How the hell can you like Haute Tension and not like this?!” Well, firstly, what director and writer McLean does most of all is give us a ho-hum run of the mill slasher film that in every sense failed to impress me.
I’m not easily impressed, but when an independent or foreign filmmaker can make a great or decent horror film from a low budget, that’s impressive, however McLean takes the low budget and makes yet another thriller/slasher film that just fails to bring anything new to the horror table. Brutal, yes, Gory, yes, but it’s also very cliché. Ever seen “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”? Well, then you’ve seen “Wolf Creek” just take the setting to Australia, the end. Why should you waste ninety minutes on this? Either way, McLean seems to want to give us something original, but the fact is there’s nothing original here. This is an Australian “Texas Chainsaw” and there’s nothing flattering about that comment; it’s derivative, it’s clunky, and it fails to give me what I was expecting. Usually foreign horror gives me joy, because they know how to make horror better than Americans, however, McLean is the exception to the fact.
“Wolf Creek” breaks no ground in the field of horror, whatsoever, and you’re probably second guessing me. Maybe I was expecting too much, or maybe my expectations couldn’t be met, but I was expecting an original horror film, and all McLean gives us is a vicious slasher film that exposes its audience to scenery we’ve laid our eyes on millions of times, including in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. Junkyard/home base? Check! Psycho with a favorite weapon? Check! Deserted roads? Check! Hapless tourists? Check! Vapid exposition? Check! “Wolf Creek” is immensely underwhelming, and in spite of being based on true events, McLean doesn’t take those events and create a watchable, intense horror film that plays on human fears of being lost and ravaged by an unforgiving presence, he just serves up another psycho hunting down teenagers.
“Wolf Creek” is utterly predictable, standard horror fare, and that’s not what I was salivating for. If I wanted that, I’d have watched something on late night cable. If you’re going to have the balls to lay your cards on the table and signal to us that you have one hell of a hand, you better not be bluffing, or you’ll get a knife to the gut. There are very few horror films these days that can so poorly develop its characters, but McLean fails to take our three titular characters and turn them in to human beings we can care for. From beginning to end they’re nothing but three tourists who ended up at the wrong place and got in to a horrific situation. What films like “Haute Tension” and to a lesser extent “The Hills Have Eyes” succeeded in was letting us know these characters beyond their concepts. These three characters were never interesting enough for me to care about at all and I really didn’t get too sad when one of them were off’ed.
Sure, it was sad when one of them were killed, but I didn’t know them enough to really connect with them on a deeper level. Meanwhile, McLean seemed to take great pleasure in showing these women be victimized, and tortured, and so utterly tormented beyond belief, it was sickening. When all was said and done, I just wanted the damn thing to end. That said, in regards to John Jarratt, I wish I could ask Mr. McLean where the hell he found Mr. Jarratt. Was it during a casting call? Was he a friend? Because, I’ve never seen such spot on casting ever in a horror film. Never have I seen an actor that is both so utterly welcoming and inviting, and also so menacing and frightening. Jarratt with his role steals the movie and makes everything else look miniscule with a performance that should go down as one of the best performances in a horror film, and though it does seem presumptuous, I was blown away by Jarratt’s frightening performance, and he literally gave me goose bumps as Uncle Mikey.
Jarratt’s smile signals to us that he’s friendly, but once he becomes mean, he’s the figurative big bad wolf, the nice persona whose ill intentions aren’t made clear until the second half. And for what McLean fails to serve up he really pays off with the second half which has some unexpected twists, turns, and utterly shocking brutality that had me cringing in disgust. With Jarratt’s nightmare-inducing portrayal, our watching does pay off. McLean’s direction is excellent from the roving landscapes and claustrophobic confines, he mounts the tension from the very beginning slowly taking away our comfort, and safety and then hitting us with the pay off. It’s tense, the direction by McLean is great, and John Jarratt gives one hell of a memorable performance, but in the end, I not only wasn’t impressed, I wasn’t amused.