Based on true events. It's a line that has been used to market movies for a long time now, and it's hardly ever accurate. Wolf Creek is based on a couple of famous murder cases, but it could just as easily be a complete work of fiction. At least this horror movie doesn't make the same mistake that so many other "based on true events" horror movies make. It remembers to actually deliver some real horror.
Nathan Phillips, Kestie Morassi and Cassandra Magrath play, respectively, Ben, Kristy and Liz, three youngsters who head off on a long road trip to see some of the sights that Australia has to offer. Ben is a born and bred Australian, while Kristy and Liz are both from Britain. They all, however, end up as potential victims when they have car trouble in the middle of nowhere. That's when Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) turns up. He seems like a very helpful man. Of course, appearances can be deceptive.
Written and directed by Greg Mclean, showing no signs that this is his first feature, Wolf Creek is an intense horror that isn't easily forgotten once the end credits have rolled. It takes its time, allowing viewers to get to know, and warm to, Ben, Kristy and Liz in the first half of the movie before then dragging them through a hellish ordeal. Some people may find their patience stretched a bit too thin, but the second half certainly provides a big pay-off. Rewatching it today made me wince and cringe all over again, just as I did when I saw it for the first time.
Phillips is a ball of energy as Ben, but Morassi and Magrath don't slouch alongside him. All three of the young travellers feel like real people, imperfect and not quite as prepared for their adventuring as they could be. And then there's Jarratt, giving horror fans a new horror villain, with a performance equal parts entertaining and terrifying. Mick Taylor is not an unstoppable boogeyman. On the contrary, he just happens to be someone who is very good at his awful hobby, especially when compared to his prey, who are unwary and unable to get their bearings in the countryside sprawling all around them. He may not be a new horror icon, but he comes pretty close, and Jarratt is undoubtedly the star of the show.
Not one for the faint-hearted, Wolf Creek is a nerve-shredding experience that doesn't have to throw blood and guts all over the screen to get a reaction. There IS some of the red stuff flowing, don't get me wrong, but viewers will tend to react most strongly to the relatively bloodless, yet no less visceral, moments.
There are a couple of flaws, mainly with the structuring of the second half and the less plausible moments that take it into proper slasher territory, yet they're not enough to drag it down too far. This remains a superior modern horror, and I'm sure that it has put more than a few people off the idea of a backpacking holiday.