As an attendee of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, I got tickets to see an Australian film called “Wolf Creek.” I went into this film with no prior knowledge, or hype, just knowing that it had been picked up for distribution by Dimension Films. What followed was 98 minutes of what I honestly think was one of the best and freshest horror films in recent memory.
The film begins by introducing you to the film’s three central characters, two girls and a guy, portrayed by Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath, and Kestie Morassi. With the two girls being from the U.K. and Nathan Phillips’ character haling from Sydney. We see the protagonists at a party, on the beach, and buying a car. They decide to go on road trip through the Australian outback to a place called Wolf Creek. Once they reach their destination, things start to go awry when their watches stop and their car won’t start. But this is no “Blair Witch Project”, the course of events from here only become more realistic and horrifying. Much to their delight, the three travelers are aided by a man from the outback who offers to tow them to somewhere where they can get their car fixed. To go on any further with details would be a crime of spoiling the film, but what does follow is a frightening tale, based off of true stories, of abduction in the Australian outback.
I’ll admit, about an hour into this film, I was a little skeptical. I always try to appreciate a slow build up but I did not have a clue where this one was going, and this was a trend that followed throughout the whole film. From the plotline to the violence, I thought “Wolf Creek” was as unpredictable and as cliché-defying as they come. I’ve heard comparisons of this film to the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Open Water”, and “Blair Witch Project” and while all of these are notable comparisons, “Wolf Creek” definitely creates its own existence. Realism is a trait that all of these films have in common, some more than others, but you really feel like what occurs in “Wolf Creek” could happen to you on your next road trip.
As for the technical aspects of the film, the cinematography and sound are top notch. The film was shot on a high definition digital camera and then transferred to 35mm but I could have sworn throughout the entire film that it was shot on 35mm, with its crisp picture and color. The incredible long shots of the Australian outback and creepy close ups by Cinematographer Will Gibson are reason enough to see this film. The sound in this film is also noteworthy as its brash, loud sounds really aid the eeriness and uncomfortably in many scenes.
The film is absolutely fantastic, from its shocking realism to its original plotline, to its great acting performances, especially from the chilling antagonist. Unfortunately, no film is perfect, and there are a few elements that could be considered to be plotholes. Fortunately, a great part of seeing a film at Sundance is getting to see the director and cast do a Q & A session following the film. Director Greg Mclean had a great sarcastic yet confident attitude about the film, his first full-length feature. When asked about these plotholes, he simply responded “it’s a shitty horror flick, think what you want of them.” Many audience members were so disturbed by the film that they were asking him “what the fuck is wrong with you?” and “what is your mental history?” Mclean, however, appeared to be a very sane man who had an interest in horror films, “The Shining”, being his favorite, and took great interest in the true stories that the film was based off of. He explained that the film was basically a composite of two or three absolutely true stories that took place in the outback and details all the way down to the killings, were based off of these cases (sidenote: these were referred to as the “Backpacker Murders” committed along the Hume Highway by Ivan Milat between 1989 and 1992)
Overall, “Wolf Creek” was a film that re-instilled faith in me that horror can still be terrifying and original. At a time when it feels like the horror genre consists of nothing but PG-13 haunted house movies, this was a much appreciated breath of fresh air. Both shocking and scarily realistic, “Wolf Creek” is bound to be on the of the best horror releases of 2005.