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:: Wolf Creek

Greg McLean takes a classic horror formula and makes it terrifying once more in his first feature film, Wolf Creek. Three young backpackers are road tripping across Australia’s lonely plains when their car breaks down and they find themselves stranded at an eerie place called Wolf Creek. Good Samaritan Mick finds them late that night and offers to fix their car and give them shelter at his camp. Laughing and sharing stories with old Mick around the campfire, they have no idea of the sinister secrets this place is hiding.

Very loosely based on factual events, the film incorporates techniques used in the Backpacker Murders and the Falconio Murder. Although no more violent than an average slasher, the cruelty and realism of its violence makes it difficult to watch. Scenes suggestive of rape, torture and murdered children are an uncomfortable reminder of human nature at its worst. This film offers no rewards for the victims’ ingenuity or strength of character and there are no storybook triumphs of good over evil. Determination and pure chance influence outcomes.

There is more than one frustrating instance when characters make ridiculous decisions that will clearly put them in greater danger, yet overall this is a very well made film. As Ben Mitchell, Nathan Phillips (You and Your Stupid Mate) is finally cast in a role that really shows off his dramatic abilities. Similarly, Cassandra Magrath breaks out of her TV bubble with convincing emotional performance and slightly less convincing English accent as Liz. Kestie Morassi (Thunderstruck) is superbly plays the role of Kristy in her eighth feature film.

Without question, the standout performance comes from Australian screen veteran John Jarratt. The endearing bloke from McLeod’s Daughters, Better Homes and Gardens and a string of Australian films including Picnic at Hanging Rock, transforms into mad Mick Taylor with terrifying skill. He is a complex character, an outback hunter with more than a few skeletons in his closet, but Jarratt’s performance is flawless and has already attracted the attention of Kill Bill director Quentin Tarantino.

Many will need to look away for certain scenes and others will walk out, but if you can sit through Wolf Creek’s darker moments you will be rewarded with a landmark piece of Australian cinema and a chilling conclusion.