Wolf Creek 2 (2013): Australian Xenophobic Madness

Still from Wolf Creek 2 of star John Jarratt

In 2005 audiences were introduced to Mick Taylor an Australian backpacker serial killer in a film based very loosely on two real life serial killers in the Outback. Titled Wolf Creek, it was a grimly scary horror film with a killer who was terrifying. In Wolf Creek 2, the Australian xenophobe is back and his madness has intensified, along with his crazy sense of humor and off kilter patriotism.

Both Wolf Creek films were written and directed by Greg McClean, who also made the taut little horror thriller Rogue in 2007. This sequel is a great follow up to the original and perhaps the only complaint about the film is its ending. McClean exceeds in the horror genre and fans of Australian horror will count him as director capable of delivering.

John Jarratt as Taylor is getting to be as iconic as Robert England is for playing Freddy Kruger. The fact that Quentin Tarantino used the actor for a cameo in Django: Unchained proves it. “You’re a funny bugger,” says Jarratt’s character to Django in the remake and it is a variation on the line his Mick Taylor says to the captive pom he is torturing in Wolf Creek 2.

In this sequel to the 2005 original, Taylor is still working on his one man crusade to “cleanse” Australia of all that “foreign scum.” Not that Mick is too good to take out the odd fellow countryman as he proves when two highway patrol types decide to railroad the pig killer into a ticket and forcing him to take his truck off the road.

Taylor dispatches the two cops with little effort and then zooms in on German backpackers, Katarina and Rutger. Mick seems to be slipping a bit as when he knifes Rutger the backpacker recovers enough to attack Taylor as he is beginning to ravage Katarina. She then escapes while he is cutting up her finally defeated boyfriend.

She runs barefooted across the outback and stumbles into British tourist Paul Hammersmith (played by Ryan Corr) who tries to help her escape. There then ensues a Duel type chase between Taylor and Hammersmith where the pig farmer trades in his pickup truck for a semi, or lorry and the two vehicles do long distance battle for quite a while. Eventually Taylor wins and Paul flees on foot.

The tourist on the run comes to a house in the middle of the outback and passes out. He wakes to find himself in the care of two older Australians who are prepared to feed him and take him back to civilization. Mick has managed to track Hammersmith down and he retrieves his prey while taking out the old couple in the house.

Fans of Australian television soaps will recognize the old man as actor Gerard Kennedy who has worked mainly on TV in shows like Skyways, A Country Practice and The Flying Doctors to name but three and has had a long prolific career. At 80, when he filmed his role in Wolf Creek 2, Kennedy still has that stamp of authenticity and ruggedness that has been such a part of his long career.

After dispatching the old couple, Taylor chases the hapless tourist down via horseback. Mick takes Hammersmith back to his lair and begins to play with him. Apart from punishing him for interfering with his backpacker fun, the killer also starts a mad question and answer game with his captive where each wrong answer gets a finger ground off.

Out of the two films, the original was more shocking than this sequel and we did not learn about Taylor to the extent that ‘2’ allows. This first sequel, a Wolf Creek 3 is already in the works, is entertaining and affords Jarratt a chance to really work on the character of Mick Taylor. Streaming on Netflix, this is a 4 out of 5 star horror film that will entertain fans of the genre.

Snowtown (2011): Uncomfortable Viewing

This film came highly recommended. It was said to have the same edginess and bite that other Australian films have. Films that I adore like Long Weekend, Rogue, or even Wolf Creek. It was gritty, edgy, grim,  and incredibly hard to watch.

Directed by Justin Kurzel (this was his first feature length film) and written by Shaun Grant Snowtown (aka The Snowtown Murders in the US) is based on the true story of Homophobe John Bunting (Daniel Henshall) and  Jamie Vlassakis (Lucas Pittaway) and Bunting’s ‘gang’ of Homophobe friends who tortured and murdered at least ten men in the area who were suspected of being homosexual or were known homosexuals.

The film was shot entirely on location where the crimes took place and apart from David Henshall and Richard Greene (Barry), who were the only two professional actors in the film, locals were used for all the other parts. Where in some cases this may have hurt the film’s credibility, it added an overall grittiness and grimness to the film.

The decision to use locals was tantamount to Tod Browning‘s use of real ‘freaks’ in his 1932 filmof the same name. It makes for awkward viewing and one has the tendency to watch the film tensed up. With one eye sort of squeezed shut and not looking at the film head on. Almost like you expect one of these unpleasant characters to jump out of the screen and somehow infect your house.

Tod Browning’s controversial Freaks.

What happened at Snowtown is horrible, there is no denying it. But when watching the film you are hard pressed to be attracted or drawn to any of the characters. Dirty, apathetic, drug worn and alcohol ridden, they feel like the dregs of society who have all been drawn to the town of Snowtown like miserable moths to a flame.

The film quite openly shows the homosexual tension and interaction between the sons of a local family that Bunting befriends. It is only Bunting’s obvious dislike of any sexual act that might suggest homosexuality that Jamie becomes the willing Zoe to Bunting’s Svengali.

The film starts slow and never really picks up its pace. Even when the murders finally start happening it is done in such a leisurely fashion that I almost lost interest. This combined with the mother that Bunting was ‘living with’ being totally out of sync with her emotions (to such an extent that it was only after all her sons bar one disappeared that she finally showed some emotion) and the incestuous nature of her family made the film almost a chore to watch.

There is no humour or even ‘normal people’ to lighten the atmosphere of the film. Bunting himself was so intimidating that I found it hard to believe that anyone would willingly follow his lead. At the start of the film a boyfriend of the woman who Bunting moves in with takes suggestive photographs of her sons.

Her reaction is to shout abuse at this odious ex who lives across the street. Bunting’s answer is to systematically torture  the man by painting his house with the word Fag and other insulting phrases and dumping kangaroo heads and guts on his front porch. Bunting is so unrelenting in his campaign of hate that the ex boyfriend soon moves out.

Daniel Henshall as John Bunting.

The remainder of the film is just as unrelenting. I did struggle, at times, to keep watching until the end. When it does finish and the film tells us via subtitles what happened to Bunting and crew I felt too shell-shocked to care.

Overall, this was an incredibly hard film to watch. As I mentioned earlier it was nigh-on impossible to ‘bond’ with any of the characters. Of course Kurzel’s hands were tied a bit since the film is based on true events, but the lack of bondable characters combined with the use of locals in the film made the entire experience of watching the film unpleasant.

My final verdict is that the film is an interesting example of low-budget Australian cinema. Just be warned that you may feel like you need to take a shower after you’ve watched it.

The Torture and eventual murder of Barry.