Friday, May 16, 2014

Wolf Creek 2: Throw Another Corpse on the Barbie

Just for the record, the meteor crater national park featured in Greg McLean’s horror franchise is actually called Wolfe (with an “e”) Creek and it is found in northwestern Australia, whereas Mick Taylor terrorizes backpackers around the similarly named Wolf Creek somewhere to the south. We would not want prospective visitors to be confused, even though his grisly business is hardly likely inspire tourism. The outback will indeed get bloody again in McLean’s Wolf Creek 2 (trailer here), which opens today in New York.

Unless you’ve got your bloodlust up, you might need to crack open a few Fosters to get through this one, but if you were taken with the first film, Taylor basically delivers more of the same. However, McLean almost invites viewers to identify with the sadistic pig hunter, when two corrupt highway patrolmen try to shake him down during the prologue. Needless to say, they pick the wrong psycho-stalker to play games with.

Before long, Taylor is up to his old tricks brutalizing foreign tourists. Initially, it seems like the film will focus on the woes of two German hitchhikers, Katarina and Rutger, but McLean soon switches the focus to the hapless British grad student, Paul Hammersmith. Needless to say, that does not bode well for Katarina and Rutger (who does not live up to the example of his namesake, Rutger Hauer in The Hitcher).

There are a few cleverly executed moments in Creek, but (mild, screechingly obvious spoiler alert) McLean never lets us vicariously enjoy the hunted turning the tables on the hunted, because Taylor is the franchise. Therefore he must always walk off into the outback sunset.

Frankly, it never seems like a fair fight. Taylor’s violence has a pronounced misogynist bend, but he also typically preys on skinny Euro kids. To mix things up, he also takes it to the elderly this time around. It would be a lot more interesting to see him face off against some sort of special forces veteran, who could lethally improvise.

Regardless of viewer sensibilities, one has to admit John Jarratt really digs into the role of Taylor. He has become sort of a twisted cult icon, but his career goes back to Picnic at Hanging Rock (as Albert Crundall, the valet). The rest of the cast is serviceable enough, but we all know they are just grist for the mill.

Each installment of Creek incorporates elements of recent true crimes, making it sort of the Australian version of Law & Order, by way of Eli Roth. Cinematographer Toby Oliver frames some striking shots of the crater and surrounding environs, heightening the lonely, forsaken vibe, but the film is too consistently brutal to be any fun. It is probably best to avoid Wolf Creek 2 and the fanbase that will come out when it opens today (5/16) in New York at the AMC Empire.