Wolf Creek (film)
Australian theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Greg McLean|
|Produced by||David Lightfoot
|Written by||Greg McLean|
|Music by||Frank Tétaz|
|Editing by||Jason Ballantine|
|Studio||FFC Australia/Film Finance Corporation
South Australian Film Corporation
True Crime Channel
Best FX (Boom Sound)
Emu Creek Pictures
|Running time||99 minutes
104 minutes (uncut version)
Wolf Creek is a 2005 independent Australian horror film written, co-produced and directed by Greg McLean, and starring John Jarratt, Cassandra Magrath, and Kestie Morassi. The story revolves around three backpackers who find themselves held captive and subsequently hunted by a serial killer in the Australian outback. The film was ambiguously marketed as being "based on true events", though the plot bore elements similar to the real-life crimes of Ivan Milat and the 2001 murder of Peter Falconio.
Wolf Creek premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2005,and premiered in Australia in March 2005 in Adelaide. The film was later screened at the Cannes Film Festival the following May, and was released in cinemas across Ireland and the United Kingdom in September 2005. In its home country of Australia, the film received a general release in November 2005, apart from the Northern Territory, out of respect for the trial surrounding the murder of Peter Falconio. The film was purchased for distribution by Dimension Films in the United States, where it was released on Christmas day 2005.
Upon release, critics such as Roger Ebert dismissed the film for its raw depiction of violence, particularly against women, with several stating they walked out of their screenings; other critics praised the film's grindhouse aesthetics and called its straightforward depiction of crime and violence "taboo-breaking". Despite receiving mixed reviews, the film was nominated for seven Australian Film Institute awards, including Best Director (for McLean). In 2010, it was included in Slant Magazine's list of the 100 best films of the decade.
In Australia in 1999, two British tourists, Liz Hunter (Cassandra Magrath) and Kristy Earl (Kestie Morassi) are backpacking across the country with Ben Mitchell (Nathan Phillips), an Australian friend and contrarian from Sydney. Currently in Broome, Western Australia, they constantly get drunk at wild, extravagant pool parties and camp out on the beach. Ben buys a dilapidated Ford XD Falcon to facilitate their road journey from Broome to Cairns, Queensland via the Great Northern Highway.
After stopping at Halls Creek for the night, the trio make another stop at Wolf Creek National Park, which contains a giant crater formed by a 50,000-ton meteorite. While exploring the crater, Ben and Liz kiss, after various hints from Kristy.
Hours later, upon returning to their car, the group discovers their watches have all suddenly broken and the car won't start. Unable to discover the problem, they prepare themselves to sit out the night. After dark, a Crocodile Dundee-styled man named Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) comes upon them and offers to tow them to his camp to repair the car. After initial hesitation, the group allows Mick to take them to his place, an abandoned mining site several hours south of Wolf Creek. Mick regales them with tall stories of his past while making a show of fixing the car. His manner unsettles Liz and Kristy, although Ben is less concerned. While they sit around a fire, Mick gives the tourists drugged water which he describes as "rainwater from the top end". The water causes the tourists to eventually fall into unconsciousness.
Liz awakens late the next afternoon to find herself tied up in a shed. She manages to break free as night falls, but before she can escape the mining site, she hears Mick torturing Kristy in a garage, and witnesses him sexually assaulting her. Liz sets the now-dismantled Falcon on fire to cause a distraction and goes to help Kristy while Mick is busy trying to extinguish the blaze. She then manages to shoot Mick with one of his own rifles, blasting him in the neck and apparently killing him. The women attempt to flee the camp in Mick's truck, but a wounded Mick stumbles out of the garage and blasts at them with a double-barreled shotgun, before giving chase in another truck. The girls evade Mick in the bush by rolling his truck off a cliff and hiding, before returning to the mining site to get another car. Liz leaves the hysterical Kristy outside the gates, telling her to escape on foot if she does not return in five minutes.
Liz enters another garage and discovers Mick's large stock of cars as well as an organised array of travellers’ possessions, including video cameras. She watches the playback on one of them and is horrified to see Mick "rescuing" other travellers stranded at Wolf Creek in almost identical circumstances to her own. She then picks up another camera which turns out to be Ben's, through viewing some of Ben's footage, the recording ends focusing on a scene with Mick's truck in the background, indicating he'd been following them long before they got to Wolf Creek. She gets into a car and attempts to start it, but Mick shows up in the back seat and stabs her through the driver's seat with a huge knife. After more bragging, he hacks three of Liz's fingers off in one swipe, then picks her up and headbutts her into near unconsciousness. He then severs her spinal cord with a knife, paralysing her and rendering her a "head on a stick." As Liz lies motionless on the garage floor, the camera dwells on her appalled gaze and laboured breathing. Mick then interrogates her as to Kristy's whereabouts until he would kill her offscreen.
By dawn, a barefoot Kristy has reached a surface highway and is discovered by a passing motorist. He attempts to help Kristy, but is suddenly shot dead from far away by Mick, who has a sniper rifle. Mick then gives chase in a fast Holden HQ Statesman, prompting Kristy to take off in the dead man's car. She succeeds in ramming Mick off the road, but he coolly gets out of the car and shoots out Kristy's back tire, causing the car to flip over into the bush. A disoriented, dazed Kristy climbs out of the wreckage and attempts to crawl away, but is coldly shot dead by Mick. He bundles Kristy's body into the back of the wrecked car with the body of the dead motorist. Mick then torches the car before calmly driving off.
The action then cuts to Ben, whose fate until now has not been revealed. He awakens to find himself nailed to a mock crucifix in a mine shaft, with an aggressive, caged Rottweiler in front of him. He manages to painfully extract himself from the crucifix and enters the camp in early daylight. Ben escapes into the outback, but becomes hysterical and dehydrated, eventually passing out beside a dirt road. He is discovered by two shocked Swedish travellers who take him to Kalbarri, where he is airlifted to hospital.
The ending 'reveals' that no trace of Kristy and Liz were found despite several major police searches. Early investigations were disorganised and hampered by confusion, lack of physical evidence and the alleged credibility of Ben. After four months in police custody, Ben was cleared of all suspicion. The film then ends with the silhouette of Mick Taylor walking into the sunset, rifle in hand.
- Cassandra Magrath as Liz Hunter
- Kestie Morassi as Kristy Earl
- John Jarratt as Mick Taylor
- Nathan Phillips as Ben Mitchell
- Guy O'Donnell as Car Salesman
- Geoff Revell as Graham (petrol station attendant)
- Andy McPhee as Bazza (pervert in petrol station)
- Aaron Sterns as Bazza's mate
- Michael Moody as Bazza's older mate
- Gordon Poole as Old Man
- Guy Petersen & Jenny Starvall as Swedish backpackers who help Ben
- Greg McLean as Policeman (cameo)
Wolf Creek is set in a real location; however, the actual meteorite crater location is called "Wolfe Creek", and is located in northern Western Australia. It is the second largest meteorite crater in the world from which meteorite fragments have been recovered. Wolf Creek was filmed almost entirely in South Australia; however the aerial shots of the crater in the film show the genuine Wolfe Creek crater.
Several strange occurrences happened during the production of the film. One particular location that was used during the shooting of the travellers' drive to Wolf Creek had not seen rainfall in over six years; however, once the crew arrived and shooting proceeded, it rained for three continuous days, forcing the writer, director and actors to incorporate the highly unexpected rainfall into the script. According to Greg McLean, the fact that it was raining and gloomy in an otherwise dry, sunny desert area gave the sequences a feel of "menace". Star Kestie Morassi also mentioned several odd occurrences during an audio commentary for the film, including the fact that there was a full moon on the first night of shooting the film and over a year later, when the film premiered at Sundance there was also a full moon.
The rock quarry where Mick's mining site is located was the site of a real-life murder, which stirred up controversy from the local residents who mistook the film as being based on that crime. According to director McLean and others, John Jarratt went to extremes in preparing for his role as Mick, in a bid to emulate, as close as possible, the real-life serial killer Ivan Milat: he spent significant time alone in the isolated outback and went for weeks without showering.
The sign on the front gate of Mick's mining site reads "Navithalim Mining Co."; Navithalim spelt backwards reads: Milaht Ivan, evidently referencing Ivan Milat.
Since the film had a relatively low budget, many of the action scenes involved the real actors; for example, after running through the outback when her character escapes, star Kestie Morassi ended up with hundreds of thorns and nettles in her feet. During the shooting of Morassi's torture scene in the shed, her non-stop screams and crying began to discomfort and unsettle the crew; executive producer Matt Hearn said that the female members of the shooting crew were brought to tears by it, as if someone were actually being tortured.
Basis in reality
Wolf Creek was marketed as being "based on true events."
The abduction of British tourist Peter Falconio and the assault of his girlfriend Joanne Lees in July 2001 by Bradley John Murdoch in the Northern Territory are cited as influences. Murdoch's trial was still under way at the time of the film's initial release in Australia, and for this reason the Northern Territory court placed an injunction on the film's release there in the belief that it could influence the outcome of the proceedings. Many are misled into thinking that the entire movie is based on a true story, when it only had many influences from other murders around Australia, like the Ivan Milat Backpacker Murders and the Peter Falconio murder case.
Wolf Creek opened on 151 cinemas in Australia on 3 November 2005 (the film had previously been shown at a number of film festivals) and took A$1.225 million in its first weekend, making it the number one film for the weekend. In the United Kingdom, the film was given a modest release on 16 September 2005, and grossed £1,500,000. The film opened on Christmas Day 2005 in the United States and grossed $16,188,180 on American screens, while also garnering an extra $11,574,468 overseas, bringing the total gross to US$27,762,648.
Despite the film's commercial success, it has received a mixed reception from critics. Some critics were deeply offended by the film's brutality, while others praised it for its unorthodoxy and daring. Critic Roger Ebert gave it a rare zero stars rating, saying, "It is a film with one clear purpose: To establish the commercial credentials of its director by showing his skill at depicting the brutal tracking, torture and mutilation of screaming young women ... I wanted to walk out of the theatre and keep on walking". The Seattle Times film critic Moira Macdonald said that Wolf Creek was the first film she ever walked out on. She called watching the film "punishment" and wondered how someone's real death inspired this "entertainment". The Independent praised its departure from the generic rules of the horror film genre. Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw awarded it 4/5 stars. Time Out said "by making us feel the pain, Greg McLean's ferocious, taboo-breaking film tells us so much more about how and why we watch horror movies". They admitted, however, that the film was not for everyone. The film magazines Empire and Total Film gave the film 4/5 stars, with Empire calling it "a grimy gut-chiller that unsettles as much as it thrills, violently shunting you to the edge of your seat before clamping onto your memory like a rusty mantrap". Fangoria called it the scariest film of the year.
At Rotten Tomatoes, Wolf Creek has a 53% "rotten" rating based on 110 reviews.
Awards and nominations
|AFI Award||Best Director||Greg McLean||Nominated|
|Best Original Screenplay||Nominated|
|Best Editing||Jason Ballantine||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography||Will Gibson||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Supporting Role||Kestie Morassi||Nominated|
The original cut of Wolf Creek ran 104 minutes, approximately 5 minutes longer than the 99-minute cut that was released in cinemas. The extra footage in this cut included an additional scene at the beginning of the film after the party scene, in which Kristy awakens in bed next to Ben at a beach cottage the following morning; this created a romantic subplot between the characters, and was cut from the film for "complicating" matters unnecessarily.
The other additional footage took place when Liz returns to the mining site after leaving Kristy behind; rather than immediately entering the car garage, as she does in the theatrical cut, she finds a revolver and fills it with cartridges, and then explores an abandoned mine shaft in order to search for Ben. She subsequently drops her pistol into the shaft, and climbs down inside to find dozens of decomposing bodies. This explains why, in the theatrical cut, the revolver disappears after she enters the car garage. According to director Greg McLean, this scene was cut from the film after test screenings because it was "simply too much", along with all of the other gruesome events that had taken place prior. The scene in which Liz's spine is severed by Mick was also slightly longer, including more close-ups and shots.
When the film premiered in the United States on DVD, both an R-rated cut (which is identical to the theatrical release), and an unrated cut (which incorporates the aforementioned scenes) were released.
After the success of the first film, McLean postponed plans to immediately work on a sequel in favor of directing Rogue. Production was initially expected to commence in 2011 and John Jarratt was announced to reprise his role of Mick Taylor. In August 2011 Geoffrey Edelsten was announced as a private investor for the movie and that he would be funding A$5 million into the production of Wolf Creek 2 after reading the script. Later that same year Edelsten withdrew his funding, alleging that he had been misled by McLean and Emu Creek Pictures into believing that he would not be the largest single private investor, a claim the production company denied. Filming and production of Wolf Creek 2 was postponed until late 2012, when additional funding was made available through the South Australian Film Corporation.
Filming took place in late 2012 and early 2013 in Australia, and the movie had its world premiere on August 30, 2013 at the Venice Film Festival. The film is set for a wide release on February 20, 2014.
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