There is something so quintessentially Australian about Wolf Creek. Not because I’d say it’s reflective of our lived experience (most of us live in/near our cities on the coast, after all), but because it taps into the nation’s cultural mythos so effectively that it just speaks to me on some level that transcends personal experience and marks it as ours, somehow – right down to the fact that two of the main characters are British backpackers. For me this is great, because I’m so used to seeing everything through an American lens that seeing a bit of my own country (both good and bad) reflected back at me is kind of soothing (before all the blood and stuff, anyway). It’s also so rare that I wish it happened more often.
This personal point of view also makes me extremely interested in Ben (Nathan Phillips), whose complexity as a young man straddling that line between the machismo expected of Australian men and his own more nuanced personality – for which Phillips should receive a lot of credit, since this complexity is based less on script writing than on how he plays Ben – I don’t think I ever really considered in earlier viewings of this movie. It’s also to the credit of the filmmakers that for all that he’s presented as somehow deficient (being from the “poofter capital of Australia” and not talking like Mick (John Jarratt)), he’s also the only character that does right by his female companions, Liz (Cassandra Magrath) and Kristy (Kestie Morassi). I tip my non-fedora hat to that.
Of course, in contrast there’s Mick. Mick, who changed the way that we all view John Jarratt forever.
But, let’s face it: that’s probably a lot of words spent something that you’re less interested in than the blood and stuff, right? 😛
Much like the weather here, the tone of Wolf Creek changes from a sense of stillness into a storm, with only a couple of rumbles of warning. And that’s right about the point where my Australia-specific references die off, because what follows is a blend of stillness (largely thanks to the environment/setting) and brutal danger, which manages to feel unending even with such a small cast of characters.
Despite my good feelings for this film though, I can’t help but wonder how much of that is coloured by it being an Australian film. There are actually a lot of aspects of Wolf Creek that mirror the exact events you’d expect to find in any ‘people take a wrong turn on a country road’ type of horror movie, which could make it less engaging for people who don’t feel that same connection to its cultural roots, even at the same time as it makes everything feel slightly more real for me.
I know one thing for sure: I’m finally going to get around to watching Wolf Creek 2.