Sunday, October 30, 2005

Movie Review: Wolf Creek

Hollywood seems, at times, to believe that the more money you spend on a film the better it is. Wolf Creek, the latest Australian offering, was made for a mere $1 million -- next to nothing in movie budget terms. And yet, for a million dollars, Wolf Creek offers one of the tensest suspense movies I've seen for a long time. Wolf Creek claims to be based on a true story but, in fact, is not. Liz (Cassandra Magrath) and Kristy (Kestie Morassi) are visiting Australia from the UK and are preparing for an adventure with local Aussie, Ben (Nathan Phillips) in the remote areas of Western Australia. They set out in an old car that has just been repaired by a friend and the first half of the film sees them on the road, developing their friendships. Eventually, they set out on a three hour foot journey to a meteor crater. When they return to their car, late at night, it won't start. They are in the middle of nowhere with no transport. As they resign themselves to sitting it out until morning, a friendly local, Mick (John Jarratt in a role you have never seen him in before) happens to come by and offers them shelter for the night while he fixes their car. After a long journey to a mining ghost town where Mick lives, they settle down for the night leaving Mick to fix the car and wake them when it is ready. Then things start to go terribly wrong. Liz wakes up and finds herself bound and gagged in a shed. From that moment, we see the true character of Mick through her eyes as she tries to escape from the terror that has come into their lives. Wolf Creek is a genuinely tense, horrific thriller, made more so because it is based on a combination of factual incidents. The acting is naturalistic and never overstated. Much of the movie is shot with a handheld camera intensifying the reality of the situation. The cinematography is excellent with the beautiful, wide open spaces of remote Australia contrasting with the claustrophic intensity of the evil horror experienced by the three travellers as Mick tortures his victims. The violence is very gruesome and, unlike so much Hollywood violence, seems very real. The violence will be the one thing that will put some viewers off seeing this film. It is graphic and realistic but not the splatter violence of some teen horror flick. And the violence is not dwelt on too long -- that would be impossible to watch. At times, though, it is so horrific that it is almost unbearable to watch. Questions do need to be asked about this movie: Is the explicit violence absolutely necessary to tell this story? And why has the filmmaker chosen to focus almost exclusively on the violence perpetrated on the women with very little focus on Ben, the male traveller in the story? Some may complain that the first half of the movie is too slow in building up to the horror of the second half. I don't think so. As the plot moves slowly to what we know is coming the tension becomes almost unbearable - we know something is going to happen but we are not entirely sure what or how. And the ending of the film is devastating and chilling because it does not end in the nice tidy way that Hollywood satisfies us with. In my view, this movie, along with Look Both Ways, Little Fish, and The Proposition is another indication that the Aussie movie industry is experiencing a revival. But be warned: it won't be for everyone! It is a genuinely SCARY movie. My Rating: **** (out of 5) Positive Review 'Delivering everything it promises, horror/thriller Wolf Creek boasts excellent naturalistic performances, a strong story and a good script, taut direction and excellent cinematography.' - Andrew L Urban/Urban Cinephile Negative Review 'For all its vaunted freshness, Wolf Creek is ultimately just another exercise in woman-in-peril sadism that's good for a few screams but has little to say.' - Matthew Leyland/BBC Content Warning Very explicit, high level violence and human humiliation Related Links

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