Wolf Creek 2: Venice Review
A splatter franchise endorsed by Tarantino and the Venice Film Festival.
Xenophobic bushman Mick Taylor is back slicing them up in the Aussie Outback, in an eight-years-later sequel that barely corrects its aim compared to writer-director Greg McLean’s original indie horror film Wolf Creek, released in 2005. Though showing a smidgen of mercy to female members of the cast, possibly to counteract accusations of misogyny in No. 1, Wolf Creek 2 knows better than to deviate from the classic scenario of a mad serial killer of almost supernatural evil (all hail Leatherface) who has it in for foreign tourists in remote regions. McLean’s superb grasp of technique and his talent for inducing major fear in audiences should be a gift to gore and splatter fans, even as it raises protests from those who wonder why such genre fare, however scary and well made, should win a prestigious out of competition slot at Venice instead of being quarantined to Midnight Madness (a section Venice currently lacks).
Since his break-out work, McLean has executive produced the thrillers Red Hill and Crawl Space and earned special thanks from his admirer Quentin Tarantino on Django Unchained (where actor John Jarratt appears in a privileged cameo at the side of Tarantino, no less). With this kind of endorsement, WC2 can be expected to attract attention, but by any standards it lacks the third dimension of great horror films, which would somehow tie its lesson about evil in to people’s lives. This film is straight out of the bottle with no metaphoric or psychological pretensions.
And to think that Jarratt’s unfaltering performance as the 100 percent evil Mick Taylor begs to be mythicized, as he stands with his high-caliber rifle outlined against the red desert sunset, or rides horseback through the wilderness, exalted by DP Toby Oliver’s vibrant Western cinematography. But poetics are clearly peripheral to the film’s main concern, which is to be as scary and violent as possible for worldwide sadism fans who want to leave the theater with twisted guts of their own.
Everybody else will have to take what they can get: very fine acting, especially in the extended dialogue between Mick and his principal victim, played by a smart and wonderful Ryan Corr; highly atmospheric cinematography that makes the wide-open landscape a major player; and the occasional note of black humor.
This is evident from the first scene, which introduces Mick on an almost sympathetic note. In the middle of nowhere, hiding behind a road sign, are two of the most sadistic highway patrolmen on film. A monster truck zips past, just inside the speed limit, but the cops decide to nail the poor guy anyway. How not to feel some degree of empathy for driver Mick’s horrific revenge?
But the next bit turns the tables with two angel-faced German tourists (Shannon Ashlyn and Philippe Klaus), whose innocent young love screams out for blood in a hyper-obvious setup. They cross paths with Mick and get the worst of it.
Finally, a nice clean-cut British surfer, Paul (Corr), gets dragged into the horror when he makes the mistake of trying to help someone in distress. His struggle to get away from his implacable nemesis injects some interest in what was fast becoming a mindless gorefest. Only Paul’s quick thinking under pressure allows him to survive long enough to play a sinister guessing game with Mick that involves Australian history, a model to end all game shows. Both actors are at their finest in this bloody face-off, which like every other major scene will have many viewers looking the other way.
Since much of the action takes place on the highway, two of the film’s main set pieces occur on deserted stretches of road. One is a Spielbergian dual between a jeep and a big rig with murderous intentions; the other involves the wholesale slaughter of a herd of suicidal kangaroos who decide to cross the road at just the wrong moment.
If Corr acts and looks better scene by scene as his character pulls out panicked courage, Jarratt has his role as a psychopath down pat and seems calmly poised for an eventual Part 3.
Venue: Venice Film Festival (out of competition)
Production companies: True Crime Australia in association with Emu Creek Pictures, DuoArt Productions, Screen Australia, South Australian Film Corp.
Cast: John Jarratt, Ryan Corr, Shannon Ashlyn, Philippe Klaus, Shane Connor, Ben Gerrard, Gerard Kennedy, Annie Byron
Director: Greg McLean
Screenwriters: Greg McLean, Aaron Sterns
Producers: Greg McLean, Steve Topic, Helen Leake
Executive producers: Samantha Jreissati, Evelyn Gilmore, Matt Hearn, Silvio Salom
Director of photography: Toby Oliver
Production designer: Robert Webb
Music: Johnny Klimek
Costume designer: Nicola Dunn
Editor: Sean Lahiff
Sales: Arclight Films
No rating, 107 minutes