Serial-killing pig-shooter Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) is still terrorising the Australian outback, this time luring an unwitting British tourist (Ryan Corr) into his crazed world.
My steely determination to find something admirable in any new addition to my favourite film genre—horror—finally found its match in Wolf Creek 2. Like its vile central character, outback psychopath Mick Taylor, Greg McLean’s sequel exists only to indulge in its own pointless sadism.
"the character’s villainous nature morphs from menacing into cartoonish"
Many said the same very thing about the 2005 original, a domestic box office hit and genre festival favourite worldwide, that it was shallow, mindlessly numbing and generally pointless. I disagreed; it was a work that offered a skilfully rendered nightmare world, and one with deaths that truly shocked. The emotional involvement McLean generated for his three leads was, in hindsight, one of its greatest assets.
No such characters exist in Wolf Creek 2. For a while, we follow two sexy, fun-loving German backpackers (Shannon Ashley, Philippe Klaus) in some cute scenes that ultimately are overpadded, given their fate; the second and third acts centre on a torture porn cat/mouse game between Taylor and British surfer Paul (Ryan Corr), who over-commits to his role of stalwart 'final victim’ horror archetype with a shrill, hammy performance.
Why Paul is carrying his surfboard on a trek through the desert hinterland is just one of the many inconsistencies that dog Wolf Creek 2; fantasy films, even the most dark-hearted ones like this bloody wet dream, need to establish an internal logic of some sort. Take the opening prologue sequence, in which Taylor wreaks vengeance on two highway patrolmen (Shane Connor, Ben Gerrard) that issue him a traffic violation. This is the kicker to what should have been the plot, i.e. Taylor must use his bushman skills to flee the battalion of Federal officials who descend upon the area to catch a multiple cop killer. But it is never spoken of again; in fact, the denouement would suggest that the two dead cops haven’t even been missed.
Aussie acting legend John Jarratt knows a meaty lead role when he gets one and he goes all out once again to convey the cold-blooded meanness of Mick Taylor. As with the second outings for horror icons like Jason Vorhees and Freddy Krueger, Taylor is played bigger, louder and nastier than the first time around; similarly, the thin link to real horror is strained as the character’s villainous nature morphs from menacing into cartoonish. The only significant dialogue in the film is a 'getting to know you’ exchange between Paul and Mick; the actors relish the chance to play it real for a few moments, but the film is soon hurtling back down the path to boorish nihilism. And let’s assume Greg McLean was paying homage to Steven Spielberg’s Duel, George Miller’s Mad Max and Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in key scenes that recall iconic moments from those classics. McLean revisits the world of CGI animals that he created in the poorly received Rogue, in a well-staged, if sickening, sequence involving kangaroos and a semi-trailer.
There might be those that cite Mick Taylor as the ultimate 'Ugly Australian’, and his xenophobic rants against his victim’s nationalities some form of commentary on the nation’s racist underbelly. That’s hard to argue given the punishment he also inflicts upon several locals. The fact is, he’s just a killing machine with a bully’s 'charm’ who gets a big thrill out of doing what he does best. Greg McLean understands that and his film celebrates it.