American theatre critic Walter Kerr once dismissed a Broadway production of I Am A Camera with the three-word put-down ''Me no Leica''. Film critic Leonard Maltin distilled his damnation of the 1948 movie Isn't It Romantic? into what is supposedly the shortest movie review ever written: ''No''. But Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton have gone one step further, panning Greg McLean's Wolf Creek 2 without saying a word.
They dismissed the locally made horror film in the final seconds of their ABC-TV review program At The Movies this week with the words, ''We've chosen not to review Wolf Creek 2, but on our website you'll find interviews with director Greg McLean and actor John Jarratt''. (Said interviews were filmed, it seems, without the involvement of either of the show's hosts.)
In declining to consider a movie that topped the local box office last weekend with a haul of $1.7 million, they handed its makers – who were described this week by actor Simon Westaway as being "as bad as drug dealers" – an almighty slap across the face with a wet fish. More importantly, they abrogated their responsibility as Australia's most-watched movie critics. Yet Stratton reviewed the film for The Australian.
McLean surely speaks for many of them when he says: ''Even if they didn't enjoy the movie, there are many, many Wolf Creek fans out there who love horror and thriller movies and want to support locally made productions. Like them, I'd love to hear their thoughts on our movie, whatever they might be.''
Each week, more than 300,000 people tune in to hear what the gently bickering pair think about the latest releases. The calendar is sometimes too crowded to accommodate every film, but the significant ones are rarely overlooked. And like it or not, Wolf Creek 2 is significant.
The original film, released in 2005, is by most measures the most successful home-grown horror movie of all time. (Leigh Whannell and James Wan's $100 million-grossing Saw was developed in Melbourne, but made in Hollywood.) For better or worse, John Jarratt’s maniacal serial killer Mick Taylor has become an iconic figure. The phrases "Wolf Creek" and "head on a stick" are now deeply resonant parts of pop folklore.
You can decry Wolf Creek's role in the rise of torture porn if you like, but it's worth remembering that the pair did review the first one in 2005, and each gave it four stars (though David did admit he had "qualms" about it). The sequel is certainly no more violent than the original.
For Margaret and David to ignore the belated $7 million follow-up is to turn their back on a serious engagement with our culture. It doesn't matter if they like the film or loathe it – it is an artefact and it demands inspection. If they aren't willing to do that it's time they vacated the chairs they have occupied for almost three decades and give someone else a go.
It was Margaret who delivered the non-verdict this week; David sat mute at her side, an inscrutable silver-bearded sage. Perhaps he has learnt the lesson of his long-ago skirmish with Geoffrey Wright, whose 1992 film Romper Stomper he refused to rate (though he did dismiss it in Variety as ''A Clockwork Orange without the intellect''). But his silence this week is damning.
Once upon a time, these two were proud warriors against censorship. A few years ago, the exhibition mounted to celebrate their 25 years on TV made much of their willingness to speak up.
What a cruel and sad irony it is that they now prefer not to speak at all.