Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wolf Creek (2005): The Halloween Fifteen

Ryne over at The Moon Is A Dead World has devised a plan so cunning so as to entertain us throughout the entire month of October.  It's called The Halloween Fifteen, and surely this is the "We Are The World" of the horror blogging community.  My humble part in this extravagant plot is to simply review the film Wolf Creek.

All told, Wolf Creek really is a simple story: Three adventure-hungry youths take on the isolated Wolf Creek Crater in Western Australia.  They become stranded there, far from anything remotely resembling civilization.  Help arrives in the form of friendly Australian gentleman, Mick.  As soon as Mick is trusted, it is revealed that he, well, should NOT have been trusted.

Director Greg Mclean is the captain of this ship.  He begins the film at a leisurely pace and let's things meander as we get to know the cast.  We see excessive pool partying, excessive drinking, and excessive flirting.  All this serves to introduce us to the 3 main leads:

Ben, the confident yet sensitive city boy,
who may or may not have a crush on Liz.

Liz, the resourceful and quick-witted life of the
party, who may or may not have a crush on Ben.

Kristy, the wet blanket/third wheel, who may or may
not be bitter that she's boyfriend-less on this outing.

Group shot!

As the film progresses, we are treated to many Australian locales, from the suburbs to the highways, a hole-in-the-wall bar to the sprawling plains.  Visually there is a lot to take in, which is impressive considering the sparseness the film maker is trying to convey.  And once we get to the heart of the story, the film does a great job of portraying the middle-of-nowhere helplessness of the characters effectively.

I mentioned the slower pace of the first hour or so.  It's intentional, and never feels like the film maker was lost to what he was doing.  It was the right way to set this story up.  We spend time with these three characters, and we are able to identify and empathize with them.  By the time we see bad stuff happening to these good people we've spent enough time with them to feel that they deserve to survive this nightmare.

I won't go into all the intricacies of the story.  Watching how things unfold is half of the fun.  Having said that, the story is not what's important here.  The real meat of the film is in its performances, and misdirection of the audience.  Each cast member gives their all (with a slightly off-putting turn by the male lead toward the end) and is fairly believable in their reactions to their new found stress.  But the real star of the show is John Jarratt, who plays Mick.  He's fucking RELENTLESS:

Geez, and this picture is from one of his more tame moments.  Mick can play friendly, menacing and creepy all in the same scene.  In scenes where he is in full on Crazy Mick mode, it's underlined by the fact that he is always in control of his actions.  Not once is he unaware of what is happening around him, and his actions are precisely calculated.  Mick is a hunter, and he does this to people because he can, plain and simple.  And that laugh of his is haunting...

There are several sly misdirections from the director. One precedes the 'head-on-a-stick' scene.  One happens toward the end on a lonely stretch of highway.  I don't want to give them away because they are pretty effective.  There are many scenes where the leads seem to be making progress and then things blow up in their faces.  It's the typical 'one step forward, two steps back' scenario, but it works well in this film and keeps the viewer unnerved.

At one point, this kind, old man shows up, but isn't really any help to anyone.  His intentions were pure, but let's just say he won't be attending the annual Gorton's convention this year...

When all is said and done, the slow build first hour is a great set up for the bat-shit INSANE finale.  The movie poster claims this was based on true events, but I'm not aware of the supposed real life incident, so I can't comment on that.  What I do know is despite a bit of a weak ending, this movie will make you give pause the next time a stranger offers you help.

Here are a few things I took note of while watching the film:
-the travelling montage while not boring, is quite forgettable.
-the locals at the bar worked hard at making us hate them, but nothing came of it.
-'head-on-a-stick' is largely effective because Mick is explaining what he's doing to his victim.
-not only in America, but old men wear funny hats in Australia too (refer to above photo)
-only 5 cast members have names in this film, 19 actors are listed as "Pool Party People."  

In closing:

Wouldn't you trust him?  He seems harmless enough, doesn't he?  (WARNING: If you answered 'Yes' to either of these questions, it is very likely that you have been, or will be, one of Mick's many victims)