×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Venice Film Review: ‘Wolf Creek 2’

Neither as striking nor as scary as its predecessor, Greg McLean's robustly crafted sequel is still quite a ride.

With:

John Jarratt, Ryan Corr, Phillipe Klaus, Shannon Ashlyn, Shane Connor, Shane Connor, Ben Gerrard, Gerard Kennedy, Annie Byron.

“Rustic charm” wasn’t exactly the term for Greg McLean’s stunningly effective 2005 slasher thriller “Wolf Creek,” but that grisly tale of a jovial outback psycho carving up hapless backpackers had a scrappy, earthy shock value that even the most well-conceived sequel couldn’t hope to match. So it’s just as well that McLean’s surprisingly belated follow-up isn’t playing quite the same game, baiting auds with more-of-the-same terror for its first third, before taking an unexpected left turn into something approximating culture-war comedy — albeit with lashings of Grand Guignol gore. Neither as striking nor as fundamentally scary as its predecessor, this pumped-up, robustly crafted pic is still quite a ride, and one that genre-inclined distribs should have no qualms about hitching.

Opening, like the first film, with a “based on actual events” title card that should be taken not so much with a pinch as an entire mine of salt, “Wolf Creek 2” wastes little time in reintroducing viewers to Mick Taylor (returning thesp John Jarratt), as he dispatches a pair of corrupt traffic cops with efficient sadism before the opening credits are through. A paunchy middle-aged bushwhacker whose mild-mannered taste in safari shirts and cheery Crocodile Dundee lingo still make him one of modern cinema’s more flummoxing serial killers, he looks not unlike Hugh Jackman’s similarly mutton-chopped Wolverine gone rather badly to seed. So it feels appropriate that the new film departs from its predecessor’s relative realism to portray Mick as a kind of unkillable anti-superhero, with his ramshackle desert lair having morphed into a rotting, elaborately booby-trapped underground empire of torture.

With his conflicted identity no longer a secret, and the character having acquired cult standing in the horror community — enough to get Jarratt a cameo in “Wolf Creek” admirer Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unclained” — McLean works instead on expanding Mick’s motivation, with vague plausibility. It turns out he doesn’t merely prey on young tourists because they’re the most plentiful (and vulnerable) visitors to the titular natural landmark, a wondrously vast crater on which Mick has effectively marked his territory. Rather, he’s driven by a fervently right-wing loathing for all foreign intruders, carrying a bloody chip on his shoulder from the days of Australia being used as a salubrious depot for exiled British convicts.

Though the film’s opening act is largely dedicated to Mick’s terrorizing of sweetly smitten young German couple Rutger (Phillipe Klaus) and the longer-lasting Katarina (Shannon Ashlyn), his beef is principally with the Limeys. No reference is made to the first film’s doomed British protagonists, though it becomes horribly clear — if it weren’t already — that their story was far from a unique one. With a single rifle shot 40 minutes in, the focus of Mick’s latest chase elegantly and unceremoniously shifts to Paul (the disarming Ryan Corr), a handsome, well-educated Englishman on a gap year.

By stripping the narrative in the latter half down to a two-man hunt, McLean curbs the bloodshed to a degree — onscreen, at least, the film’s wallaby body count may actually be higher than its human one — while allowing for some imaginative, mind-based showdowns between the two. Playing Paul with more snap and savvy than the victims are usually granted in torture-porn cinema, Corr is a strong, witty match for the affably repulsive Jarratt in their scenes together, notably a grotesquely funny face-off that comes down to, off all things, an Australian history pop quiz. The stakes of this improbably tense scene are best left unspecified, but they might make “Wolf Creek 2” the first film of its type to have audiences yelling the name of Australian cricketing legend Donald Bradman at the screen.

This allusion to the long history of Anglo-Australian sporting rivalries ties into the thin political subtext of McLean and co-writer Aaron Sterns’ script. It’s an aspect that doesn’t hold up to close scrutiny, but two films in to what may as well be a series, it’s nice to learn that Mick cares about something.

Production values are uniformly topnotch, reaping the benefits of what appears to be a considerably expanded budget: McLean can now afford 18-wheeler trucks barreling down hillsides in his chase sequences, and isn’t afraid to use them. Toby Oliver’s slick widescreen lensing delights in the warm coloring of Outback brushwood and human entrails alike, while Johnny Klimek’s sparsely thrumming score sits in stark contrast to music supervisor Gary Seeger’s gleefully cheesy soundtrack choices: Even the first “Wolf Creek” wouldn’t have dared unite killer and victim in an impromptu singalong of Rolf Harris’s “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport.”

Popular on Variety

Venice Film Review: 'Wolf Creek 2’

Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (noncompeting), Aug. 30, 2013. Running time: 105 MIN.

Production:

(Australia) A Screen Australia, South Australia Film Corp. presentation of an Emu Creek Pictures production in association with Duoart Prods., True Crime Australia. (International sales: Arclight Films, Los Angeles.) Produced by Greg McLean, Steve Topic, Helen Leake. Executive producers, Samantha Jreissati, Evelyn Gilmore, Silvio Salom, Matt Hearn.

Crew:

Directed by Greg McLean. Screenplay, Aaron Sterns, McLean. Camera (color, widescreen), Toby Oliver; editor, Sean Lahiff; music, Johnny Klimek; music supervisor, Gary Seeger; production designer, Robert Webb; art director, Obie O’Brien; costume designer, Nicola Dunn; sound (Dolby Digital), Paul Pirola; makeup designer, Jen Lamphee; supervising sound editors, Matt Lambourn, Michelle Childs; re-recording mixers, Peter D. Smith, Pirola; visual effects supervisor, Marty Pepper; stunt coordinator, Zev Eleftheriou; line producer, Barbara Gibbs; assistant director, Jamie Crooks; second unit director/camera, Ernie Clark; casting, Angela Heesom, Louise Heesom.

With:

John Jarratt, Ryan Corr, Phillipe Klaus, Shannon Ashlyn, Shane Connor, Shane Connor, Ben Gerrard, Gerard Kennedy, Annie Byron.

More Film

  • Imax logo

    Imax China Hires Edwin Tan as CEO

    Former conferences and exhibitions executive Edwin Tan has been appointed CEO of Imax China. He replaces Jiande Chen, who now becomes vice chairman of the company, having headed the company since its inception in 2011. Tan was previously CEO of the China business of leading events firm Messe Muenchen. Before that he held roles at [...]

  • Alexander Skarsgard in the front rowGiorgio

    Film News Roundup: Alexander Skarsgard Joins 'Passing' With Tessa Thompson

    In today’s film news roundup, Taryn Manning, Shane West and Alexander Skarsgård have new roles, and Warner Bros. unveils a modernized logo. CASTINGS Alexander Skarsgård has signed on to join Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga and André Holland in “Passing.” The film marks Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut and is based on a screenplay that Hall adapted [...]

  • Spike Lee

    Spike Lee to Direct Hip-Hop Love Story 'Prince of Cats'

    Spike Lee will direct a big-screen version of the hip-hop love story “Prince of Cats,” based on Ron Wimberly’s graphic novel. Legendary has been developing the project with Janet and Kate Zucker of Zucker Productions. Lee, who won the Academy Award for adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman,” will also re-write the “Prince of Cats” script with [...]

  • DOLEMITE IS MY NAME!, 2019, DOL_Unit_06284.RAF

    'Dolemite Is My Name' Writer Larry Karaszewski Recalls 10-Year Journey to Make Rudy Ray Moore Biopic

    “Harriet” writer-director Kasi Lemmons was in a reflective mood at Tuesday night’s “Behind the Scene” event at the Formosa Cafe in West Hollywood, sponsored by the Writers Guild of America West. The biopic, starring Cynthia Erivo as slave-turned-abolitionist Harriet Tubman, has been receiving buzz since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. It’s Lemmons’ [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    Abrams Artists Agency Signs Writers Guild Deal

    In a major triumph for the Writers Guild of America, the Abrams Artists Agency has signed the WGA’s Code of Conduct, allowing the agency to return to representing WGA members again. Chairman Adam Bold made the announcement Wednesday, saying that the agency wants to put its clients back to work. He also noted WGA West [...]

  • Taika Waititi and Roman Griffin Davis

    Holocaust Experts Debate 'Jojo Rabbit' at Museum of Tolerance Screening

    With its comedic, cartoonish portrayal of Nazis, Taika Waititi’s satirical Hitler youth tale “Jojo Rabbit” has polarized critics and audiences alike. And that division continued to be stirred at Tuesday night’s screening of the film at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, where Liebe Geft, director of the museum, moderated a heated panel discussion [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content