Wolf Creek (UK - BD RB)
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Based on true events (not to be confused with ‘based on a true story’), Wolf Creek tells the story of two young girls and a guy who attempt to travel across Australia in a clapped out old car. Along the way they stop off at a meteor crater in Wolf Creek national park, but when they return to their car they discover that it won’t start. Just as they are about to bed down for the night, a stranger arrives and offers to help them out, but when they accept his offer they get more than they bargained for.
A group of young people getting stuck on the road when their car breaks down is hardly the most original setup for a scary movie, but Wolf Creek is different from the recent crop of horror movies even though it tends to be put in the same ‘torture porn’ category as the Hostel movies. All three main actors are excellent and the relationships between them are convincing, most of all Liz and Ben as their romance blossoms. However, the introduction of hillbilly Mick Taylor throws a spanner in the works. At first he appears to be a helpful, if slightly unhinged, oddball, but once his guests decide to get some sleep he shows his true colours.
John Jarratt as Mick is a revelation and the time he spent preparing for the role really paid off. According to one of his interviews on this disc he spent four months perfecting Mick’s voice, in particular his laugh. The combination of Mick’s charm and wit with the growing sense that he’s not quite as nice as everyone hopes makes him one of the most memorable bad guys in recent horror cinema. Among the reappearances of characters like Leatherface and Michael Myers in the last few years, this well-developed, subtle and at times even likeable bad guy, Mick Taylor stands out a mile.
The growing sense on unease also sets Wolf Creek apart from its peers. The action doesn’t kick off until around the halfway point but at the same time, the audience isn’t left sitting around waiting for something to happen. There are red herrings along the way, but they still serve to develop the characters and make sure they know that the journey they’ve embarked on isn’t going to be as easy as they had hoped. The action mainly focuses on the girls and even though they make some decisions that may make you shout ‘no, don’t do that!’ at the TV, there are far fewer leaps of faith required than many Hollywood horror movies I’ve watched recently.
Wolf Creek is Greg McLean’s directorial debut and it’s clear he has a flair for camera work and editing. Handheld cameras are used to great effect, putting the audience in the car with the travellers at the beginning and almost creating the impression of us watching their holiday video. With the discovery of the holiday videos of some of Mick’s victims later on, there is a great sense of symmetry to the story and it is easier to sympathise with their plight. The director is also not scared to put a long prologue in the story before the opening credits or to leave an ambiguous ending hanging, and when the weather turned during the shoot he turned it to his advantage.
A less-than original story told in an original way, Wolf Creek is definitely worthy of your time. A lot of time has gone into perfecting the story and it shows in the accomplished way this movie has been constructed, even though it was shot on a low budget and a very short timescale. It’s worth watching for Jarratt’s performance alone and his laugh will stick in your mind long after you’ve forgotten any number of Hollywood horror remakes.
Wolf Creek is shown in 1080p on this Blu-ray release and just as the standard definition DVD earned itself a video award by this very site when Gabe reviewed it a couple of years ago, the quality here is pretty damn good too. Shot in HD, the detail is impressive, whether you’re looking at the wide landscapes or you’re face to face with everyone in close-up shots. The sunny, slower moving early scenes look great, especially during the scenes set on the beach, but the darker scenes later on show small patches of grain. The black level isn’t quite dark enough and there is slight edge enhancement during the Wolf Creek scene when the actors are filmed against the dazzling white sky but these really are small complaints that shouldn’t restrict your enjoyment of a good-looking movie.
This disc comes with two audio options, which were included on the standard definition DVD—Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 Surround, but unfortunately there are no uncompressed high definition options. The music is another factor of this movie that sets it apart from standard horror fare, with a minimalist tone during the scary bits rather than blasting us with noise to tell us when we’re supposed to jump out of our seats. I have no complaints about the quality or volume of the dialogue and the ambient sounds coming through the surround speakers will create a decent audio representation of the outback in your front room.
The extras available here are exactly the same that were included on the standard definition release, even down to the lack of subtitles and the promotional clip of Cry Wolf, which isn’t even due for a Blu-ray release any time soon as far as I can tell. The director, the producer and the two female leads provide a commentary track, with the director and producer offering more technical detail and the actresses keeping it all friendly with plenty of banter. They’re all quick to point out small interesting details, like when the action on screen deviates from the original screenplay and where the director pays homage to Close Encounters and Picnic at Hanging Rock.
The ‘Making of’ documentary isn’t the typical ten-minute fluff piece, instead going into great detail about the actors, production design, makeup and everything else that went into creating the low budget movie. The three deleted scenes provide additional information about the characters but they were unsurprisingly left out because they weren’t appropriate to the tone of the movie and slowed down the action. Finally, ‘Meet Mick Taylor’ is a twenty-odd minute interview with John Jarratt. It’s surprising to hear that he is so well spoken in comparison to his screen counterpart and he takes the opportunity to sing the praises of the director, who he originally had reservations about.
Wolf Creek is probably my favourite horror movie of recent years and stands head and shoulders above the slashers that Hollywood studios are peddling. The performance of John Jarratt alone makes this worth watching and it’s testament to Greg McLean’s approach that Wolf Creek 2, which would have been an easy cash-in, isn’t on the cards. While this release doesn’t offer anything more than the standard definition DVD, the quality of the presentation still makes this worth picking up, although it would have been good to have some HD audio options.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 19th November 2007
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Extras: Feature Commentary, Making of, Deleted Scenes, Meet Mick Taylor, Trailer, Cry Wolf Promo
Easter Egg: No
Director: Greg McLean
Cast: John Jarratt, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi, Nathan Phillips
Genre: Horror and Thriller
Length: 95 minutes
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