Two simple words can send shivers down the spines of every Australian. Without a doubt one of our greatest horror movies with scares galore, a villain befitting the status adorned by names such as Myers, Krueger and Voorhees and above all, it was set in my own backyard. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Wolf Creek.
I’m not normally one for movie reviews, however I wanted to provide the readers of Truly Disturbing with some insight as to what makes this film scary. But before I dive into the murky waters filled with fun facts and random knowledge, let me address the storyline.
Two British backpackers, Liz and Kristy, are traveling across Australia with Ben, a young man from Sydney. They are traveling from Broome in Western Australia through to Cairns located in Northern Queensland.
After stopping at Halls Creek for a night, our adventurers make a stop at the Wolf Creek crater which was formed by a 50,000 ton meteorite. (Fun Fact: The crater in question is actually spelled Wolfe Creek)
Hours later, upon returning to their car, they discover that it won’t start. Ben gets out, fiddles around under the hood only to realize he has no idea what’s wrong. As they prepare themselves for sleeping in the car, two lights can be seen in the distance. Enter Mick Taylor, a local man who’s personality resembles another famous Aussie icon, Crocodile Dundee.
Mick tows them back to his lair, which is actually an old mine, offers them fresh water (which is drugged), promises to fix their car and eventually spends part of the night chatting to them. Something about this man freaks Liz out.
Upon awakening, Liz discovers she is bound and gagged, separated from her friends. She can hear Kristy screaming but can’t free herself. Eventually, due to her struggling she manages to free her hands from her binds. She frees her feet, removes the gag and heads outside. She spies Kristy tied to a pole with Mick taunting and torturing her, her face is covered in blood and blood drips freely down her legs. Mick makes a few crude comments before Liz uses their car as a distraction by igniting it.
When Mick returns, he leaves the gun right where Liz is hiding before returning his attention back to Kristy. Liz attacks him, shooting him in the neck. As Mick falls to the floor, she frees Kristy from her restraints before running out the door.
Seeing as their car is in flames, they steal Mick’s in an attempt to get away.
But Mick, who’s not dead (are they ever), is following them in a back up truck. The girls manage to evade Mick in the bush by rolling his truck off a cliff and hiding, before returning to the mining site to get another car. Liz leaves the hysterical Kristy outside the gates, telling her to escape on foot if she does not return in five minutes.
Liz enters another garage and discovers Mick’s large stock of cars as well as an organized array of “travelers” possessions, including video cameras. She watches the playback on one of them and is horrified to see Mick “rescuing” other travelers stranded at Wolf Creek in almost identical circumstances to her own. One family even happens to have a young girl with them. God only knows how long she was in Mick’s grasp.
She then picks up another camera which turns out to be Ben’s (whom she hasn’t been able to locate), through viewing some of Ben’s footage, the recording ends focusing on a scene with Mick’s truck in the background, indicating he’d been following them long before they got to Wolf Creek. She gets into a car and attempts to start it, but Mick shows up in the back seat and stabs her through the driver’s seat with a huge knife.
After more bragging, he hacks three of Liz’s fingers off in one swipe. He then severs her spinal cord with a knife, paralyzing her and rendering her to be, quote, “A head on a stick.” As Liz lies motionless on the garage floor, he interrogates her for Kristy’s whereabouts.
Kristy is still outside the gates but decides to do what Liz told her and takes off on foot. She’s stumbling around in the outback before collapsing on the road where a passing car stops to help her. The driver helps her into the car when a gunshot rings out. He looks up at his flask before another shot rings out and the driver hits the road, a single bullet between his eyes.
Kristy is now alone again, tired and scared. She climbs into the driver’s seat and floors it the best she can as Mick’s car comes roaring up along side her. He ends up running her off the road after shooting out a tire.
The car crashes and Kristy crawls out and begins to crawl away when Mick cruelly shoots her in the back. He then takes the bodies of both Liz and Kristy and puts them in the back of the wrecked car before igniting it and walking away calmly.
Then we flash to Ben who is nailed to what seems to be a mock crucifix in another one of Mick’s torture rooms. Next to him hangs a half eaten body and two vicious dogs are locked in a cage, looking like they haven’t eaten in a while. Ben pulls his arm away from the crucifix, the nail passing through his wrists, causing blood to spurt.
He manages to escape from Mick’s clutches during the early hours of the morning. Ben enters into the outback, but becomes hysterical and dehydrated, eventually passing out beside a dirt road. He is discovered by two shocked Swedish travelers who take him to Kalbarri, where he is then airlifted to hospital.
Despite a lengthy police investigation and numerous searches, there is no trace of the girls. Ben is arrested but after four months in custody, he is released.
The end of the film sees a silhouette of Mick Taylor walking off into the sunset, rifle in hand.
When Wolf Creek was released in 2005, it was released in every state of Australia except the Northern Territory because of an ongoing investigation. In 2001, a British backpacker by the name of Peter Falconio disappeared. His girlfriend, Joanne Lees survived the ordeal and eventually helped Australian police capture Bradley John Murdoch who was accused of murdering Peter. The Northern Territory court placed an injunction on the film’s release there in the belief that it could influence the outcome of the proceedings.
Despite stating “Based On True Events” on the movie posters, many believe the entire movie is based on a true story, when it only had many influences from other murders around Australia, like the Ivan Milat backpacker murders and the Peter Falconio murder case.
But that wasn’t the only controversy surrounding the film. Unbeknown to the crew, the abandoned mine where they chose to film had actually been the site of the real life murder of a woman. The filming prompted a protest from locals who erroneously thought the film was about those events.
So why does this film cause shivers to run down an Australian’s spine or goosebumps to raise on the arms? I can sum that up in two words: John Jarratt.
John Jarratt is Australia’s Mr. Nice Guy. For years he hosted a home improvement show and was often the practical joker on the show as well as being our favourite larrikin. He had worked the stage, showing his range of ‘Nice Guy’ talent. So when he was cast as Mick Taylor, Australia pretty much roared with laughter.
His performance, however, was no laughing matter. In fact, Cassandra Magrath, who played Liz, said that his sinister laugh gave her nightmares.
So how did he deliver such a stand out performance? Jarratt is a method actor and spent weeks living in the Australian outback preparing for the role of Mick Taylor. In addition he also avoided bathing before shooting so he would have a much more rugged appearance. Furthermore, the idea for Mick to have a creepy laugh was Jarratt own (Fun Fact: He says it took him four months to get it just right), and he also created a detailed biography for the character… although, to this day, he hasn’t reveal the details to anyone.
Friends of mine who live overseas don’t understand the appeal with this film. Yes, it is a little like torture-porn for some and the characters have stupid moments (like shooting Mick once rather than riddling his body with bullets), but what makes this film completely terrifying is no one outside of Australia really has any indication at how many people disappear in our outback every year.
Let me give you some scale. Australia is an island with the land mass that would cover ¾ of the United States. We’re not as small as some people may think. Most of Australia is desert and most of its inland is uninhabitable. There may be a couple of sheep stations way out west, but otherwise it’s just red soil.
Now for some reason people think it’s a great idea to literally go out into the middle of nowhere for a holiday. They take their fancy city cars and travel into a place where you’re not going to get any phone reception….see where I’m going with this? It’s easy to break down in the outback, especially if you’re not equipped for the journey. Not to mention that you can lose your bearings very quickly when you don’t know where you are. And unless you’ve told someone where you’re going, the chances of finding you are pretty slim.
Now if that doesn’t terrify you, add in the fact that Australia has eight out of ten of the world’s deadliest spiders and nine out of ten of the world’s deadliest snakes. Not to mention crocodiles that dwarf the American alligators to the point that we say “Aww, aren’t gators so cute and little.” (I feel as though at this point I should probably apologise to the Australian Tourism board)
Wolf Creek played on the fears of the Australian public about being stranded in the middle of no where with no hope, or means, of escape. Your will verses the will of a man who knew the area like the back of his hand. A man who was a roo shooter and had near-perfect aim.
There are moments with Wolf Creek that are hard to stomach. The “head on a stick” sequence is a stomach-churner as is the the brutal torture and sexual assault of Kristy. Watching Ben pull free of the crucifix can create gagging but overall a lot of the violence is no different to any other horror or action movie. (Fun Fact: John Jarratt actually stuck the knife into a carcass of a pig during the “head on a stick” scene)
So, how would I rank this among Aussie horror? It’s one of the best, truly disturbing in every aspect. Realism is extremely high. The film is gritty and certainly shows a darker side to Australia. Entertainment value is also high with John Jarratt giving the performance he will be remembered for (Robert Englund has Freddy Krueger, Anthony Perkins had Norman Bates. John Jarratt will have Mick Taylor). Film quality is amazing. Storyline falls a little short of exceptional. But then again, if the characters in horror movies don’t do stupid things, then we wouldn’t have the gruesome deaths that we’ve come to know and love.
Entertainment Value: 8/10
Film Quality: 7/10
Overall Rating: 8/10
With a sequel currently in the works, it’s only a matter of time before we see Mick Taylor return to the screen, rifle in hand, ready to show the rest of the world what happens when you take on an Aussie.
So, if you’re after a cultural shock that will leave you reeling with fear, check out Wolf Creek. And if you still want to come Down Under and wander through the outback……you’re either very brave or very stupid. In which case, whatever the reason, I beg you to take the train. It’s much safer. Because here in Australia, we know what really scares you.