Review: Wolf Creek

Posted by Peter Hall - June 3rd 2006 @ 1:58 am

Directed by Greg McLean, 2005

Wolf Creek

I’ve been in a horror rut recently, hence the lack of reviews.  There’s nothing coming out that I want to see theatrically.  I’m a big supporter of direct-to-DVD stuff, but there’s little to offer there as well.  I never particularly had a good feeling about Wolf Creek, but given the buzz surrounding it when it was released months back, I thought maybe, just maybe, this would be something that could lift me out of the rut.

It was not.

Wolf Creek is shot exactly like an episode of "Laguna Beach", and it’s about as intense as one as well.  The title cards say the movie is based on real events, but that’s just bullshit.  Just because people go missing from time to time doesn’t mean you can make shit up about what happens to them when they go missing.  That’s called lying.  And when you are lying about the movie being based on reality, don’t have your closing title cards explain what happened to your made up characters after the film ended.  Who cares?

Irregardless if you know the film’s "real events" are completely fictitious or not, it’s not scary, nor is it intense.  It’s just another generic indie film about 3 tourists who get kidnapped in the middle of nowhere.  I don’t care that the film starts off slow, but if you want to us to think you’re building up your characters for 45 minutes of a 90 minute movie, you better give us a reason to care in those last 45 minutes.  At that point you really need to push the limit of what happens to these characters.  Instead, Greg McLean’s script just gets drunk off its own ideas and takes a nap.

Also, just a quick little rule.  Guns are scary machines in real life, they are not scary plot devices.  The only reason guns should exist in horror movies is so they can give the victim a glimmer of hope.  They represent the ultimate in power and should only be used to give the dying an advantage over their executioner.  The executioner should be a power so unstoppable that a gun in their hands would just look like a toy.  If you make a gun their primary source of control, they’re no longer menacing – they’re just one of millions of people who own a gun.  But if you are going to have your villain use a gun, I expect to see it displayed on screen like a knife.  Drag the barrel across someone’s jawline.  Ram it in their mouth.  Don’t shoot them in the back from 20 feet away. 

I’ll give credit to John Jarratt for giving a pretty steady performance as the psychotic kidnapper, I only wish he was given more to do.  He knows how to carry himself on screen, the script just doesn’t know how to carry him.  The rest of the cast deliver above their pay grade, but at the same time they’re also not given any truly memorable scenes.

Greg McLean’s direction is just plagued with pitfalls.  He doesn’t know how to work a scene’s full potential at all, but the most grating, to me, was the constant misrepresentation of time and continuity.  It’s pitch black for what the script has described as hours, then there’s a shot of the sun setting.  Then it’s black again, but another shot of an illuminated sky.  Back to black.  Then sunrise, followed quickly by a full lunar eclipse, and yet no change in the area lighting.  I understand that on the tiny budget that Wolf Creek had you can’t afford to alter the lighting of an entire landscape, which is fine, but if you can’t, just remove the shots that imply you need to.  They’re pointless and anachronistic.

I said it in my review of Silent Hill, and I’ll say it here.  Hell, maybe I’ll make it a catch phrase for bland movies:  I’ve felt more fear on the toilet than during any moment of Wolf Creek.

comments are closed
  1. June 3rd, 2006 | 8:38 am | #1

    Wow, you really laid into this one, and yet rated it “watchable”? Which is it, man?

    I thought the inital torture scene was tres creepy, and if the rest of the film could have kept up with it, McLean really would have had something there. Unfortunately, all we got was are supposed “hero” making stupid cliched decisions.

  2. June 3rd, 2006 | 10:06 am | #2

    Yeah, I’m kinda weird with my ratings. If I hear nothing but good things about a movie, especially an indie, for months on end, and then it ends up being only run of the mill, I tend to just completely bleed it dry in a review. The worst offender of this was with The Descent, which I’ll give another chance on the eve of its US theatrical run. It’s certainly not the best treatment to give a movie, but at least I can admit to the hype-machine bias.

    I think it is watchable because it never does anything that badly (though the night sky repetitions did piss me off), it just never does anything that well either.

  3. Tom
    June 3rd, 2006 | 10:55 am | #3

    Take it you didn’t work out it was all aliens then.

  4. June 3rd, 2006 | 12:51 pm | #4

    Oh, noes! My mind has just been blown by Wolf Creek.


  5. June 5th, 2006 | 9:59 am | #5

    I found this one to be “Watchable”, but the incredibly uninteresting first half of the movie in which we are meant to connect with the characters did test my patience. A few minutes more and it would have been switched off and hurled against the wall. While the horror element was fun it was short and generic and the insipid behaviour of the characters pretty much took away most scare factor it might have had. I fail to see why so many people where hailing this as a modern classic and scary as hell. I agree with you though John Jarratt gives a standout performance and is for me the main thing that lifts this film above the level of dross. The campfire chat seen is very good though I’ll give it credit for that. I’m glad you addressed the “True Story” element; stuff like that really gets on my nerves.

  6. Jason M.
    June 5th, 2006 | 2:25 pm | #6

    This movie isn’t watchable at all, in my opinion. I made it to the terrorizing stuff at the end because I had some hope in this flick, but once it came I was ready to turn it off. I think the film is utterly worthless. I regret renting it.

  7. pingback

    […] wasn’t the biggest fan of Mclean’s debut WOLF CREEK, so the varying degrees of success found in ROGUE bode well for the lad.  The success, or lack […]

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