Wolf Creek (film)
Australian theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Greg McLean|
|Produced by||David Lightfoot
|Written by||Greg McLean|
|Music by||Frank Tétaz|
|Edited by||Jason Ballantine|
FFC Australia/Film Finance Corporation
South Australian Film Corporation
True Crime Channel
Best FX (Boom Sound)
Emu Creek Pictures
|Distributed by||Roadshow Entertainment The Weinstein Company Dimension Films|
104 minutes (Unrated version)
|Country||Australia, United States|
|Box office||$27.8 million|
Wolf Creek is a 2005 Australian horror film written, co-produced, and directed by Greg McLean, and starring John Jarratt. The story revolves around three backpackers who find themselves taken captive and after a brief escape, hunted down by a near feral serial killer in the Australian outback. The film was ambiguously marketed as being "based on true events"; the plot bore elements reminiscent of the real-life murders of tourists by Ivan Milat in the 1990s, and Bradley Murdoch in 2001.
Wolf Creek premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2005, and premiered in Australia in March 2005 in Adelaide. It was 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.
On release, 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 these early 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 Broome, Western Australia, 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 from Sydney. They constantly get drunk at wild, extravagant pool parties and camp out on the beach. Ben buys a dilapidated Ford XD Falcon for 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.
Hours later, upon returning to their car, the group discovers that their watches have all suddenly stopped and that the car will not start. Unable to solve the problem, they prepare to sit out the night. After dark, a rural man named Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) comes across them and offers to tow them to his camp to repair the car. Initially hesitant, 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 their 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 eventually causes the tourists to fall unconscious.
Liz awakens late the next afternoon to find herself gagged and tied up in a shed. She manages to break free as night falls, but before she can escape from the mining site, she hears Mick torturing Kristy in a garage, and witnesses him sexually assault her. Liz sets the now-dismantled Falcon on fire to distract him, and goes to help Kristy while Mick is busy trying to extinguish the blaze. When he returns Liz manages to shoot Mick with his own rifle, the bullet hitting him in the neck and apparently killing him. The women attempt to flee the camp in Mick's truck. But before they can do so, Mick stumbles out of the garage, revealing the gunshot was somehow not fatal and that he is still alive. He proceeds to shoot at them with a double-barreled shotgun before giving chase in another truck. The girls evade Mick by rolling his truck off a cliff and hiding behind a bush, 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 "helping" 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, and while viewing some of Ben's footage, she notices 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 bowie knife. After more bragging and furious about his truck getting wrecked, he hacks Liz's fingers off in one swipe, and headbutts her into near unconsciousness. He then severs her spinal cord with the knife, paralyzing her and rendering her a "head on a stick". He then proceeds to interrogate her as to Kristy's whereabouts before killing her (offscreen).
By dawn, Kristy has reached a highway and is discovered by a passing motorist. He attempts to help Kristy, but is shot dead from far away by Mick, who has a sniper rifle. Mick gives chase in a fast Holden HQ Statesman, prompting Kristy to take off in the dead man's car. She succeeds in running Mick off the road when he catches up, but he gets out of the car and shoots out Kristy's back tire, causing the car to flip over. A disoriented Kristy climbs out of the wreckage and attempts to crawl away, but is immediately shot dead by Mick. He bundles Kristy's body into the back of his car, along with the body of the dead motorist, and torches the wrecked car before driving off.
Ben, whose fate until now has not been revealed, 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 extract himself from the crucifix and enters the camp in early daylight. Ben escapes into the outback, but becomes dehydrated, and eventually passes out beside a dirt road. He is discovered by two shocked Swedish travellers who take him to Kalbarri, where he is airlifted to a hospital.
A series of title cards states that despite several major police searches, no trace of Liz or Kristy has ever been found. Early investigations into the case were disorganised, hampered by confusion over the location of the crimes, a lack of physical evidence and the alleged unreliability of the only witness. After four months in police custody, Ben was later cleared of all suspicion. He currently lives in South Australia. The film ends with the silhouette of Mick Taylor walking into the sunset with his rifle in hand.
- John Jarratt as Mick Taylor
- Cassandra Magrath as Liz Hunter
- Kestie Morassi as Kristy Earl
- Nathan Phillips as Ben Mitchell
- Guy O'Donnell as Car Salesman
- Geoff Revell as Graham (gas 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 and Jenny Starvall as Swedish backpackers who help Ben
- Greg McLean (cameo) as Policeman
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, but 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, such as 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.
On Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator Wolf Creek has a "rotten" score of 53% based on 110 reviews with an average rating of 5.6 out of 10. The critical consensus states: "Though Wolf Creek is effectively horrific, it is still tasteless exploitation." The film also has a score of 54 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 26 critics indicating "mixed or average reviews". CinemaScore audience polling gave the film an "F".
Critic Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-times gave it a 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.
Awards and nominations
|AACTA Award||Best Direction||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|
|Best Original Music Score||Frank Tétaz||Nominated|
|Best Sound||Des Kenneally||Nominated|
|Saturn Award||Best Horror Film||David Lightfoot||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 30 August 2013 at the Venice Film Festival. The film was given a wide release in Australia on 20 February 2014.
Screentime and Emu Creek Pictures announced the TV series adaption of the film franchise in February 2015. John Jarratt returns in his role as Mick Taylor, and the series was written, directed and produced by Greg McLean. The character of Ben Mitchell, the survivor of the original film, appears in the series played by Fletcher Humphrys—known as "Jesus" due to his crucifixion wounds, Mitchell helps Eve track down Taylor by directing her to the Wolf Creek crater. The six part miniseries premiered on the video on demand portal Stan on 12 May 2016. The series will air in the US on the Pop network in October, 2016.
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