Note: This is a spoiler free review
Back in 2005 the Australian Slasher flick Wolf Creek introduced viewers to the sadistic walking Aussie stereotype Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) as he stabbed and chuckled his way through a merry band of unfortunate tourists. The film was a solid blood filled romp and while it didn’t win any awards for originality it was an enjoyable watch. It was followed nine years later by a sequel that again was decent but did little to turn the horror world into a raging bush fire.
The Wolf Creek name remained dormant for a few years until this month when the maniacal Mick Taylor returns to terrorise hapless travellers again, this time however he is appearing on the small screen in a six part miniseries developed and in part directed by the franchises creator Greg McLean.
While Wolf Creek may not be the obvious candidate for the TV Series treatment, McLean and Co have revisited the story in an attempt to add some more sun burnt flesh to the twisted tale of Mick Taylor in a show that has some strong ideas but ultimately fails to set itself apart.
The Wolf Creek series tells the tale of Eve Thorogood (Lucy Fry) who travels to Australia with her family in an effort to help her get over her opiate addiction. What starts of as a typical tale of rebellious teen with some substance abuse problems quickly descends into a full blown nightmare when Mick turns up and slaughters her family, leaving Eve for dead in a sudden and brutal opening twenty minutes.
What follows is a sweat drenched tale of cat and mouse as Eve, along with well-meaning Aussie copper Sullivan (Dustin Clare), hunts Mick across the outback in an effort to avenge her family and bring justice to the quick witted killer. The problem is that while the tried and tested premise initially shows a lot of promise, bad pacing and an over-reliance on predictable plot points results in a hunt that is neither compelling or particularly horrific.
When Wolf Creek opens Fry’s overacted portrayal of a distraught and troubled teen strays dangerously close to derailing the series before it starts. In order to get behind this kind of tale of bloody redemption it’s important that viewers empathise with Eve, rooting for her to kick some ass. Instead she comes across as an unlikeable character from the start. In fact it’s very difficult to care if she survives the first episode let alone completes her quest. In this highly competitive TV climate audiences need to be sucked in from the word go and Eve is such a boring character that she, along with an over reliance on long brooding shots of the Australian landscape, inspires cringes more than anything else.
In a lot of ways it makes sense to have Eve start from such an unlikeable place. As she treks about the outback, bumping into a quirky but ultimately forgettable cast of well-worn Australian stereotypes, she grows from a whiny teen into a spear wielding Amazonian. By having Eve start from such a bad place the development should be something audiences can get behind. The problem is that this story has been seen before and almost every well-worn “woman out for revenge” trope can be found across the six hour story.
Cutting off all her hair while crying? Check. Narrowly avoiding multiple rape attempts? Check. Staring off into the sun and promising to make her family proud? Check. It’s all here and even the most casual of horror fan will be able to see it coming. Predictability is sometimes unavoidable in the horror genre but the lack of new ideas really starts to grate when it’s spread out over an entire series.
While the predictability of Wolf Creek causes it a lot of issues the biggest thing preventing the show from being something great is its pacing. Many of the interesting moments are interspersed with long, meandering scenes of the Australian wilderness and while they are beautiful (in fact the cinematography overall is stellar) they cause each episode to plod along at a lumbering pace. This slow and steady approach was clearly meant to tell a very deliberate and visually interesting tale but what it ultimately achieves are episodes that inspire relief when they are over and not the “oh man I need to see what happens next” feeling that great TV needs.
It’s clear to see that the creators were trying to go for a very primal story, where the wilderness and tribal drum soundtrack coupled with the ancient tale of hunter versus hunted plays across a desolate and sun bleached land. Unfortunately the commitment to this just ends up being quite dull and I spent a lot of my time with Wolf Creek feeling that this story could have been told in a more effective way if it had just been the third film in the series. Too much time is spent watching people either driving around the desert or staring off into the sunset instead of getting into some good old fashioned blood and gore.
Speaking of the gory stuff, Wolf Creek does have some strong moments in this department. Torture, shoot outs and decapitations are all present in what I like to call the “Mick Moments” of the show. Segments where we cut away from what Eve is up to and get to enjoy Mick Taylor do what he does best. Jarratt clearly understands his character well and watching him soak up the screen time is the best thing about the series. Towards the end of the story we get to see a little about the origins of the stab happy killer but again this will all be very familiar to horror fans. If the objective of The Wolf Creek series was to take a peek behind the curtain that is Mick Taylor then it certainly hints at things. Nothing is delivered in a particularly unique or satisfying way however and ultimately it leaves you wanting more.
As things draw to a close Wolf Creek does a decent enough job of wrapping up the story. Bringing major and minor characters together before pushing Eve and Mick into their final confrontation. Difficulties arise when so little time was spent explaining why audiences should care about ninety percent of the cast and what their motivations are that these moments end up being “oh yeah that guy again” more than “brilliant I was wondering what had happened to him”. Wolf Creek sticks to its main formula so much that characters and events that showed initial promise are left by the wayside in favour of just one more slow motion, brooding walk across the sand.
Overall I wouldn’t say that I hated Wolf Creek. It is competently written and acted enough that it never comes across as overly offensive but equally does little to make itself engaging. Die hard fans of the series may get a kick out of seeing Big Mick on the screen again but when there is such a strong roster of horror TV shows on the market at the moment (here’s looking at you Ash vs Evil Dead) it’s difficult to recommend Wolf Creek being worth your time or your money.
Wolf Creek The Complete First TV Series is out now on VOD. It will be available on BLU-RAY and DVD on the 10th of October 2016.
Starring: John Jarratt, Lucy Fry and Dustin Clare. Dir: Tony Tilse, Greg McLean