Thursday, May 1, 2014

Wolf Creek 2

Description from Netflix: Backpackers Rutger and Katarina escape the city for an adventurous vacation in the Australian outback…but their dream trip turns into a nightmare when they run into a bloodthirsty serial killer with a penchant for sadistic games.

My thoughts:
I love slasher movies.  It’s a well-known fact about me.  And yet I didn’t love the original Wolf Creek.  It took me a while to figure out what I didn't like about it, but I think I finally nailed it down: it seemed like they were more interested in making the killer interesting than about fleshing out the people he was killing.  It seems lazy; like they’re skipping a step.  The great slashers – the icons – didn’t start as the focal point of the movies.  Michael Myers.  Freddy Krueger.  Jason Voorhees.  Leatherface.  The movies focused on their victims.  They made us care for the victims.  The idolization of the killers came after.  With Wolf Creek, it felt like they had built up this killer to be interesting and magnetizing, and forgot to make the victims people worth caring about.  If I don't care about the people on the other end of the knife (or machete, or chainsaw...), the movie loses some of its heart.  This is not necessarily true of sequels - when most teens are nothing more than cannon fodder - but it's true of the first in a series.  Wolf Creek failed at that most basic premise.

All that being said, I was still interested in the sequel.  I was curious to see where they would take it.  After all, the first movie was nothing if not simplistic: seemingly friendly bushman kidnaps, tortures and kills.  It's a basic slasher set-up, if in a different location than we're used to seeing.  Setting it in the vast expanse of Australia was the most interesting thing about the first movie.  Even when you escape, you don't necessarily have anywhere to run.  It lent an extra air of hopelessness to an already bleak situation.

That was present again here.  Australia makes for a beautiful setting, but also a terrifying one.  Unfortunately, the setting alone does not a good movie make.  Aside from the setting, this movie had very little going for it.

For starters, they decided to make Mick Taylor an even bigger presence in this movie.  It was as if they were actively trying to convince me that Mick Taylor deserved to be the next big slasher icon.  They did this by making him talk more.  Rattling off one-liners.  Saying "funny" things about the terrible deeds he was committing.  Perhaps this worked for some people, but it didn't do anything for me.  Freddy Krueger didn't go into full wise-cracking mode until his fourth movie (if you want to say it was his third, you'll get no argument from me), but he was on an entirely different level from Mick Taylor from the word "go".  They were going for "wacky and endearing," but all they got was "annoyingly over-the-top".
Writer/director Greg McLean has said that "[Mick Taylor was] the most interesting thing about the first movie."  That would explain the direction this one took.

I have already fallen into the same trap as the writers.  Thus far, I have only focused on Mick Taylor.  So let's talk about his victims for a second.
We start with German backpackers Rutger and Katarina (who sort of reminded me of Lizzy Caplan) hiking to Wolf Creek, camping along a trail, and getting attacked by Mick Taylor.  Rutger is killed and hacked up while trying to protect Katarina.  (This raises a question.  Mick has a house with a "workshop", so why does he hack-up Rutger out in the open?  It's dark, and the chances that someone would come across their path is minimal, but there's still a chance that someone could see the atrocities being committed, especially since Mick has the huge floodlights on his truck on.  Not hard to miss when you're surrounded by flat land.)  Katarina is able to escape and makes it to the road, where she is discovered by Paul, a handsome British tourist in a jeep.  Paul tries to drive off with Katarina, but Mick appears and shoots her.  And so, roughly 20 minutes into the movie, who we thought would be our two main characters are dead.  This aspect reminded me of 2009's Friday the 13th.

What followed was a series of scenes featuring Paul trying to get away from Mick.  Most of these were terrible.  An example: we have seen Paul driving his jeep off road a lot.  It has been established that his jeep can handle the Australian terrain.  And yet there is a long scene in which he is chased by Mick in a semi truck (which is definitely NOT an all-terrain vehicle), but for some reason decides to stick to the road.  If I haven't made myself clear, the road is the only place the semi can go.  And yet he stays on the road as Mick tries to kill him with a semi.  So, basically, it turned into The Hitcher for about 15 minutes.  (Maybe that's why they named one of the characters Rutger?)  “Just go off road,” I repeatedly screamed at the TV.  Paul never heard my cries.

During this chase scene, Mick hits/runs over a herd of crossing kangaroos.  As he did his, he was spouting off one-liners like John McClain (if John McClain killed kangaroos instead of terrorists).  This was supposed to be funny.  It most definitely was not. 
Again, this goes back to the lack of connection with Mick.  I don't really have any connection to the character, so why would I like when he runs down kangaroos and makes jokes about it?

There were also a fair number of standard slasher complaints.  "When you knock him out with a hammer, make sure to finish the job."  Things of that nature.  But, if you're a fan of slashers, you've become accustomed to overlooking this faulty logic, so I won’t dwell on them here.

That's not to say the movie was all bad.  The performance by Ryan Corr (as Paul) was tremendous.  There's a long scene of him being terrified, but also trying to humor Mick.  His face fluctuates seamlessly between laughter and pure terror.  It was the best scene in the movie, and Corr carried it.  (Fun fact: Corr had a very small part in Where The Wild Things Are.)
I also really liked Mick's lair.  It was filled with terrible tools to do terrible things.  It was a small, claustrophobic room that offered little chance of escape.  Because, even if you did escape out of the oh-so-tempting door, all you would run into would be a series of winding corridors filled with previous victims, bloodthirsty dogs, and booby-traps.  These corridors weren't on the level of House of 1000 Corpses, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 or True Detective, but they were still pretty creepy.

This wasn't a very good movie.  There were a few redeeming qualities, but not many.  If you liked the first one, you'll probably like this one.  The key to enjoying this movie hinges on one question: do you like Mick Taylor?  If you do, you'll like it.  If you don't, your views will probably be a lot like mine.

Rating: 1.5/5

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