Wolf Creek

          There was a time when Australian films came into vogue here in the
  United States. Films like
and PROOF introduced American cineastes to such performers as
  Mel Gibson, Jack Thompson, Hugo Weaving and Russell Crowe and directors like
  Philip Noyce, Bruce Beresford and Jocelyn Moorehouse. Then Hollywood poached
  a lot of the talent and the renaissance of the Australian cinema slowed. Fewer
  and fewer homegrown product was released theatrically in the U.S. Here in New
  York City, we’d be lucky to see a gem like
LANTANA or other movies like
JAPANESE STORY or SWIMMING UPSTREAM, but they became rarer. One
  such rarity is the thriller
WOLF CREEK, a crackling good yarn replete with
  startling imagery, strong performances and even a sense of humor (albeit
  somewhat cynical).

          WOLF CREEK is loosely inspired by several cases wherein travelers in
  Australia mysteriously disappeared. (The film engendered some controversy
  Down Under when the film’s distributor was asked to delay its release until
  after the trial of Bradley John Murdoch who is accused of murdering British
  tourist Peter Falconio. Murdoch’s trial began in October 2005 and, as of this
  writing, was still ongoing. Writer-director Greg McLean has pointed out that
  the film is based on several cases, although the media has jumped on some
  similarities to the Falconio case.)

          McLean’s tale centers on a pair of British women, the plucky Liz Hunter
  (Cassandra Magrath) and the quieter Kristy Earl (Kestie Morassi), who are on
  holiday in Australia. Enjoying the beaches and just out for a good time, the
  women eventually meet handsome native Ben Mitchell (Nathan Phillips) who
  agrees to drive them to Wolf Creek National Park to see a meteor crater.
  In spite of having a girlfriend back home in Sydney, Ben begins a tentative
  flirtation with Liz. After a brief stop to fuel their car, the trio eventually makes
  it to the crater where things begin to get dicey. As it is getting dark, the car
  won’t start. Fearful of being stranded in this remote area, the three welcome
  the arrival of Mick (John Jarratt), a strange but seemingly innocuous local who
  offers them a tow and a place to stay. Anyone who has ever seen a horror film
  knows that things won’t go smoothly but I certainly won’t spoil the plot.
  Suffice it to say that things take an unexpected turn and the tension ratchets
  up with each subsequent scene.

          In his feature debut as writer and director, McLean clearly has studied
  the best of the genre. He knows how to slowly build tension. The early
  sequences that introduce the characters allow the audience time to get
  to know them and sympathize with them. These are not just cardboard
  cutouts being moved around by a director to service a plot. The audience
  gets to know the trio fairly well. Despite seeming to be a party animal, Ben
  has a  moral code where women are concerned. For her take-charge front,
  Liz has a sentimental side shown in her growing attraction to Ben. Kristy
  shows sensitivity and concern for her girlfriend. Once they fall into a perilous
  situation, the audience is caught up in their struggles to survive.

          I have to give special props to Jarratt for creating the character of Mick.
  Back when I was first studying film in college, my instructor called attention
  to Jarratt along with Mel Gibson, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, and Bryan Brown, among
  others. The actor has enjoyed a fruitful career Down Under but never cracked
  the international market, so it was something of a surprise to find him in this
  film. His performance is particularly chilling, in part because it is quite different
  from his other work.

          Beautifully shot by cinematographer Will Gibson,
  the classic elements of the genre – a handful of characters, an isolated setting,
  a deranged killer – and twists them into a shocking and scary film.

                        Rating:                          B
                        MPAA Rating:                 Not rated
                        Running time:                99 mins.

                        Viewed at the Broadway Screening Room
©  2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.