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Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek is a cheap Australian horror flick about a group of backpackers who get stranded in the outback. Vaguely inspired by actual events this is a slow, gruelling and thoroughly unpleasant film to endure. Positively desperate to shock Wolf Creek is a Texas Chainsaw Massacre wannabe that doesn't make the grade.

The film opens slowly as we get to know the three central characters, two backpacking girls from England and an Aussie city boy out for adventure in the outback. The bloke, Ben buys a clapped out wreck of a car and they set off to visit Wolf Creek, a huge crater in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately for them upon returning to the car they find it won't start and have no choice but to sit it out and wait for morning.

After a few hours Mick the loveable local turns up, he seems friendly in an Alf Stewart (Home and Away) kind of way and so they agree to let him tow their car back to his place. Once there the gang sit round the campfire and manage to insult their new host who sets off rather moodily to begin fixing their car. The three of them fall asleep and naturally things take a seriously dark turn.

The film was written and directed by Greg McLean in his first feature length production and sadly it shows. The writing is lazy and derivative, the pace is unbearably slow and the whole thing feels very cheap. McLean's mostly handheld direction is slightly better than his storytelling and amongst the messy entrails of the plot there are some nicely shot scenes but they are not enough to make this a movie worth watching.

The acting is very amateur, and the close up direction and poor quality sound coupled with the dull script don't do much to help. John Jarratt plays Uncle Mickey, a typically psychotic redneck who can also be terribly affable when he wants to. Cassandra Magrath plays Liz and Kestie Morassi plays her friend Kristy, the English backpackers. The cheeky Aussie chappy Ben is played by Nathan Phillips. The whole cast are TV actors and they should probably stay in TV.

The first half of the film is very slow and very dull, filled with cringingly bad acting and lots of road and countryside. The second half of the film is extremely violent, quite graphic in places and downright nasty in tone. The main problem with Wolf Creek is that we've seen this all before and we've seen it done better. This is highly derivative stuff, vaguely reminiscent of The Hitcher and blatantly ripping off The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in brief flashes but not as good as either and these are twenty year old films. McLean doesn't limit himself to pilfering from the classics though this also brings The Hills Have Eyes and Wrong Turn to mind.

The low budget nature of the production and the serious tone make this uncomfortable viewing. McLean has gone for and achieved a quite realistic feel at times which seems to heighten the perversity of what is unfolding before your eyes. There actually isn't that much gore or graphic violence but when it is done it is memorable and sickening, if a little too desperate to shock.

As Wolf Creek is about a harrowing and gruelling experience of torture and murder and it strikes a realistic tone that is the way it makes you feel - tortured for 98 minutes. First by the dull, badly acted introduction and then by the graphic and unpleasant mixture of rape and murder, sure it's disturbing but it's not very clever. Despite the array of gorgeous sunsets McLean packs in this ain't an advert for visiting Australia and it's not an enjoyable film either.

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