Studio: Image Entertainment
Director: Greg McLean
Writer: Greg McLean, Aaron Sterns
Producer: Greg McLean, Steve Topic, Helen Leake
Stars: John Jarratt, Ryan Corr, Philippe Klaus, Shannon Ashlyn, Shane Connor, Ben Gerrard, Gerard Kennedy, Annie Byron
Serial killer Mick Taylor returns to stalk unsuspecting travelers in the Wolf Creek Crater region of the Australian Outback.
“Wolf Creek 2” follows in the first film’s footsteps with an identical setup and identical opening title cards. Apparently in the eight plus years separating the two movies, the statistics on missing persons in Australia have not changed any. Establishing shots of pretty scenery warm things up for a road trip montage, and the script putters onward with familiar scenes involving side-by-side vehicular pursuits, sniper rifle executions, and knife blades in the spine.
The difference between “Wolf Creek 2” and the first “Wolf Creek” (review here) is somewhere in the same neighborhood as the difference between “Freddy’s Dead” and the original “Nightmare on Elm Street.” Cashing in on audience response to the character as the series moved further from Wes Craven’s initial vision, Freddy Krueger became a darkly comic antihero known for crowd-pleasing one-liners instead of his abhorrent rap sheet as a child-murdering pedophile. In a similar vein, “Wolf Creek 2” finds filmmaker Greg McLean downplaying the gritty realism of his first foray to favor a focus on inflating the larger than life persona of fictional serial killer Mick Taylor.
Which is not to say that the directions taken by franchise stakeholders in either case were right or wrong. But acknowledging those creative choices is crucial to understanding how subsequent sequels shape their intended audience appeal.
There was always a tinge of surreal silliness to the Mick Taylor character, what with his generally jovial demeanor and closed-mouth laugh mixing grim with goofy. That aspect of his personality had a harder time dominating his presence in “Wolf Creek,” where it was offset by the dire circumstances taking place everywhere else. Although what was a measured dose of lunacy becomes a chugged gallon of Mick’s demented Crocodile Dundee characterization with full throttle acceleration as things ramp up in the sequel.
McLean clearly listened to the vocal fans who hailed Mick Taylor as a new icon in slasher cinema. So with co-writer Aaron Sterns, McLean decided to deliver what those “Wolf Creek” faithful wanted and crafted a script with murderous Mick in the spotlight from minute one to minute 100.
“Wolf Creek 2” undeniably aims for a more commercial flavor than its predecessor. McLean is almost proving a point that he can straddle a line of broader appeal by making the sequel more “fun” as escapist entertainment as opposed to a stark reflection of gruesome real-life terror. “Wolf Creek 2” trades in creeping dread and tortured screams for blockbuster action sequences, horrific ha-has, and a main maniac painted as a caricature of a twisted Aussie patriot.
The modestly lightened-up tone is not necessarily an ill-advised path for a burgeoning franchise to go down, time and audience reaction will decide, but it is one that is thematically different from what the original had in mind. “Wolf Creek 2” purposefully takes itself less seriously, incorporating on-the-nose gallows humor like Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces” playing in the background while Mick dismembers a corpse, and a kangaroo-crashing car chase all but winking at the audience for being over the top. (Though the latter sequence culminates in a badass semi-truck crash that is absolutely spectacular no matter how you feel about the rest of the film.)
“Wolf Creek” creator Greg McLean wears a middle finger on each of his fists, with one arm pointed at anyone who thought him an Ozploitation bandit unable to make mainstream horror without being torture-centric. The other arm is thrust squarely at everyone who mislabeled him as a misogynist for the way “Wolf Creek” depicted brutalization of female victims.
As if to rub it in the critics’ faces, the sequel replaces Final Girl with Final Guy, putting actor Ryan Corr in the hot seat for the final stretch of painful punishment, suggesting that Mick and McLean are both equal opportunity exploiters without a women-hating agenda. The final sequence labors on to such a ridiculous length that one wonders if McLean is intentionally saying, “see, this is what you have to sit through when the final face-off involves a male murderer and a male victim.”
The good news about where “Wolf Creek 2” takes the viewer is the same as the bad news, depending on personal tastes. This time around, McLean is less interested in indie arthouse aesthetics for mood bearing the stylistic equivalence of a ready-to-spring bear trap. Those roped in by the eerie tension and unsettling atmosphere of “Wolf Creek” will find that part two instead has a tongue not quite firmly in cheek, but definitely licking the roof of its mouth. Which means that if you thought actor John Jarratt’s off-kilter killer was the best part of “Wolf Creek,” then the sequel is like a caramel-covered brownie fudge sundae for a fat kid indulging a sweet tooth.
Review Score: 65