Spoilers Ahead! You Have Been Warned!!
After the surprise success of 2003’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, horror fans were “rewarded” with a deluge of grim and gritty torture porn flicks such as Eli Roth’s Hostel, Rob Schmidt’s Wrong Turn, and Rob Zombie’s The Devil’s Rejects amongst many, many others. In 2005, however, a real gem of this vicious little subgenre surfaced in Gregg Mclean’s low-budget Aussie shocker, Wolf Creek. The film saw the return of legendary Aussie character actor, John Jarratt who, as Wolf Creek’s resident baddie, Mick Taylor, chewed up as much scenery as (implied) flesh. It was a moody, disturbing, and, thanks to the sadly departed cinematographer, Will Gibson, a strangely beautiful piece of horror cinema that still stands as one of the best examples of the torture porn era.
While long rumored, 2013 finally saw the return of Mick Taylor with Wolf Creek 2, which also saw a more mature Mclean toning down the first film’s torture quotient while, at the same time, upping the ante in the action department, with more complex set pieces and chase scenes galore. So how does this new, turbo charged Wolf Creek stack up next to its decidedly darker and more intimate predecessor?
The film opens with a pair of bored highway patrol officers sitting at a speed trap on a desolate stretch of highway when a rusted out bucket of bolts passes by just a hair under the speed limit. Desperate for action, the cops decide to give pursuit, and pull over none other than Mick Taylor. Mick’s decidedly polite and cooperative, despite the boorish behavior of the police officers, but, once they hand him a ticket demanding he take his beloved truck off the road, Mick does what Mick does best, and dispatches the cops with extreme prejudice. It’s here that Mclean establishes that not even the police are safe from the outback maniac as Mick Taylor has zero fucks to give this time out.
We are then introduced to a pair of German tourists; Katarina (Shannon Ashlyn) and Rutger (Phillipe Klaus), who are making the familiar trek across the outback toward the storied Wolf Creek National Park. The couple decides to camp out for the night, but their slumber is interrupted by Mick, who makes quick work of Rutger, and then ties up Katarina so he can save her for later. Katarina, however, escapes while Mick is busy butchering her deceased beau, and makes it to the road where she flags down the jeep of yet another tourist, British student/explorer Paul (Ryan Corr). It isn’t long before Mick is in hot pursuit, but Paul manages to get the better of Mick off-road, sending his pursuer’s vehicle off into the brush. However, deadeye Mick manages to fire off a single shot from his high-powered rifle, killing Katarina, and leaving Paul low on fuel and spirits as he drives through the dark desert until dawn. Mick, of course, isn’t far behind, having procured a new, much larger vehicle for the hunt of his worthy “prey” in Paul.
With a sleight-of-hand first act that fools viewers into thinking Wolf Creek 2 will be following the same formula as its predecessor, Mclean quickly changes gears, with the second act dedicated to a cat and mouse desert chase that draws from everything from Spielberg’s Duel to The Most Dangerous Game. It’s a welcome departure, and Jarratt, especially, seems to relish his character finally embracing the “legendary hunter” that was hinted at in the first film.
Sadly, it all comes to a grinding halt in the film’s glacially paced final act, where Mick finally captures Paul and brings him to his subterranean lair where the two drink and square off over…well…Australian history. It’s here that Wolf Creek 2’s torture porn elements are once again back in play, seemingly for no other reason than to offer a bit of fan service. It’s a shame, as it really seemed Mclean was really taking the Wolf Creek mythos to new places, but it’s as if he just ran out of ideas and retreated back to the safety net of the first film. Just as with Wolf Creek, the sequel ends abruptly, leaving the door open for a third outing, but, judging by the way Wolf Creek 2 stumbles toward its conclusion, I’m of the opinion that we’ve probably seen just about all that Mick Taylor has to offer.