Trailer: Wolf Creek 2
The outback once more becomes a place of horror as another unwitting tourist becomes the prey for crazed, serial-killing pig-shooter Mick Taylor.PT2M11S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2zv3t 620 349 December 24, 2013
Even if no Australian horror movie comes close to the reality of Ivan Milat or the Snowtown murders in South Australia, both have left a mark on our psyche and our cinema. Horror and crime are two genres in which Australian filmmakers have excelled in the new century, and that's partly because our ideas of the limits of human depravity have been shaken.
Wolf Creek, written and directed by Greg McLean in 2005, was partly inspired, if that's the right word, by Milat's backpacker murders near Sydney. He relocated the story to the outback, to bring in a sense of the landscape, both the beauty and the terror.
McLean studied landscape painting in a fine arts degree before taking a directing course at NIDA. Wolf Creek was another film about the way landscape has warped our national character, in a long line from Wake in Fright through to Picnic at Hanging Rock and Mad Max. Mick Taylor, the serial killer played so memorably by John Jarratt, was a collision of the old and the new, a pig shooter who saw no difference between gutting a pig or an English tourist. Both were vermin to him.
Australian psycho: Wolf Creek 2.
In terms of the horror genre, what was new about Mick was his cheerful, friendly manner. He was an inversion of Michael ''Crocodile'' Dundee, with just as big a knife. One was a cuddly personality calculated as a marketing tool for Australia; the other was just cuddly on the outside. Beneath that was a virulent, psychopathic reaction to the ''invasion'' of Australia's 19th-century idea of itself, a son of the pioneers turned feral: you send 'em, I'll kill 'em.
And we all knew that he was out there after the Falconio case, the testimony of Joanne Lees and the conviction of Bradley John Murdoch. ''There's a killer on the road … ''
As brutal and unforgiving as the first movie was, and as disreputable the genre in which it excelled, the original Wolf Creek did what an Australian film is supposed to do. It held up a mirror and not one that was part of the official story. It wasn't comforting, which might explain why Jarratt was overlooked in the national film awards that year for the best performance of his long career.
The sequel, eight years later, expands upon the same themes. It is bigger and louder and just as bloody, but Mick says a lot more this time around, most of it unrepeatable. He doesn't like foreigners, be they ''f---ing Krauts'' or ''Pommy c---s''. He's a bit like Bazza McKenzie, but the layers of misogyny and xenophobia have putrefied. He may be a Vietnam vet, which would explain why he's such a great shot. In the first movie, he says he got the ''head on a stick'' idea from that conflict, although he doesn't say that he was there.
His victims this time include a young German couple who go into the outback without proper respect for the dangers. Katarina (Shannon Ashlyn) and Rutger (Philippe Klaus) hitchhike to the Wolfe Creek crater in WA, to experience a sense of space unlike anything in Europe. They misjudge the return and have to camp. Mick arrives like a saviour, to offer a lift into town. Katarina escapes and flags down a young British tourist (Ryan Corr) on the highway. The stalwart actors Gerard Kennedy and Annie Byron come to his aid in turn, after his first terrifying encounter with ''Uncle Mick''.
The first film was made for $150,000 and with no limitation on McLean's vision. He was producer, writer and director and he had a lot of aggression to vent, after years of trying to get a feature made. The second film comes after the worldwide success of the first and with more budget. That often ruins a sequel, but McLean has taken pains here both to respect what he created and extend it.
The film has many of the same qualities: a nightmarish sense of humour, combined with bowel-twisting tension, and a clear sense of purpose and theme. There's a lot more road action with cars and trucks, and a script in which it remains hard to see what will happen.
McLean co-wrote the film with horror novelist Aaron Sterns, the first time he has collaborated with another writer. The xenophobia is more explicit, as if to relate the film more directly to today's headlines, but I was glad Mick was more talkative. It usually meant he wasn't sticking a knife in someone's spinal chord or dismembering them - although not necessarily.
The horror genre usually offers respite after all the bad things have happened, but that isn't quite true in the Wolf Creek series. We don't get to exhale at the end and think, ''phew''. We never know who will survive an encounter with Mick Taylor, or whether anyone will; and we can never know how many of his kind might be out there. Waiting.
Throw another tourist on the barbie, Mick.
WOLF CREEK 2
Directed by Greg McLean
Rated MA, 104 minutes