Wolf Creek
Hitchhiking in Australia is not for the faint of heart.

Theatrical Release Date: 11/03/2005 (Australia), 12/25/2005 (USA)
Director: Greg Mclean
Cast: John Jarratt, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi, Nathan Phillips

When our old friend Hank asked if he could rent me anything to review off of Netflix, I asked for “The Descent”, a movie I have been meaning to rewatch for awhile, as it is my idea of an exception horror film. He also got me “Wolf Creek”, which I had seen before and wouldn’t mind reviewing. As I went home this Friday the 13th, I decided that I was too big of a scaredy-cat to watch “The Descent” alone after dark, but this one I could handle.

In “Wolf Creek”, Liz and Kristy (Magrath and Morassi) are two Brits that team up with Aussie Ben (Phillips) to drive across the Australian Outback to see all of the interesting stops. Their first big stop is at Wolf Creek National Park, the site of a huge meteor crash. When their car breaks down in this utterly desolate locale, a local named Mick (Jarratt) tows them to his garage, presumably to fix the car. What unfolds is not nearly as neighborly.

While this isn’t the most edge-of-your-seat thriller I have ever seen, it has several elements that really work. First of all, the story is loosely based on Ivan Milat, a serial killer that tortured and murdered anywhere from seven to seventeen backpackers in the Belangalo Forest in Australia. While Liz, Ben, and Kristy never actually existed, their treatment at the hands of Mick is made more disturbing by the fact that similar atrocities were actually perpetrated on real human beings.

Another impressive element of the film is the setting. As I watched the “making of” feature on the DVD, the director said that his fifth main character in the film was the Outback. Indeed, the desert terrain is almost as dangerous as Mick, and Mclean uses this fact to create an atmosphere that was menacing even before the blood began to spill.

The acting was pretty amazing in its ordinariness. The three hapless twenty-somethings play their parts so naturally that you are sucked into their world early on. They frolic and play like any of us would on a road trip, and the earlier part of the film feels almost like a home movie. This makes it all the more jarring when they come face to face a realistic fear when traveling- running into danger while disoriented and vulnerable.

In contrast, Jarratt is larger than life from the beginning. Boisterous and amiable, his playful demeanor continues throughout the majority of the film, which is terrifying when combined with his abject cruelty and sadism. The way he toys with his victims is unsettling to watch.

The only rough part in the film was the pacing. Watching this a second time, I could see past the tension and found some parts to drag a bit. However, most of the slower parts were necessary because they provided exposition in a more natural, seamless way. I don’t remember noticing the lulls the first time, because you were always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Overall, this is a well-executed, well-acted thriller. The all Australian cast and crew really delivered with this one. I give this film a modest 4 out of 5. Watch it in the dark, preferably on your laptop on a camping or road trip.