WOLF CREEK (Greg McLean, 2005)
The horror film WOLF CREEK is based on the true account of three backpackers who were stranded in a remote area of Australia. Two girls and a guy drive to see a massive crater far from civilization. Their amazement at the natural beauty is eclipsed by their concern when they return from the hike and find their car won’t start. During the night a man drives by and offers to fix the car if they’ll let him tow it to his camp. Although they’re a little unsettled by him, they don’t have any better options. And really, what harm could come to them? A lot, as it turns out.
WOLF CREEK is a well-made film, but its technical merits are overwhelmed by the disgust registered as it wallows in some of the nastiest human behavior imaginable. The desolation of the locations is strongly felt, and the violence has been edited for maximum effect. Director Greg McLean does an excellent job evoking 70s-style horror and those films’ backwoods killers, or an outback murderer in this instance.
WOLF CREEK is a deeply unpleasant film to watch, which isn’t a problem in and of itself. THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST doesn’t qualify as comfortable viewing, but whatever issues I had with Gibson’s film, his depiction of explicit violence served a purpose. WOLF CREEK exists to enjoy the torture and mutilation of three innocents. It isn’t scary, and it doesn’t provide any insight into the true crime. The end calls into question everything preceding it, a twist that might have been valuable if it weren’t an offhanded inference. WOLF CREEK can only revel in ugliness. While I can appreciate the skill necessary to make the film, I can’t condone it being in service of this pointless exercise in brutality.
(Author's note: Determining grades, stars, etc. can be a tricky thing, and I realize that my contempt for the film and its purposelessness may not appear to be reflected in the grade. My reaction to WOLF CREEK was complicated. Ultimately I felt that a "C" grade, which reflects a mixed opinion, was the best compromise. It is not intended to be interpreted as an equal division of "A" for technical merit and "F" for content, although I'm more likely to favor the latter.)