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Wolf Creek 2 Blu-ray Review (originally published 2014)

Lured by the promise of an Australian holiday, exchange student Paul visits the notorious Wolf Creek Crater. His dream Outback adventure soon becomes a horrific reality when he encounters the site’s most infamous local, Mick Taylor (John Jarratt). When Paul attempts to flee, Mick pursues him across a hostile wasteland and eventually drags him back to his underground lair. After seeing the true magnitude of Mick's monstrosity, Paul's only hope of surviving, where no one has before, will be to use every ounce of cunning to outwit the man behind the monster. (From Image Entertainment’s original synopsis)



Greg McLean’s original Wolf Creek (2005) was one of the better films made during the ‘70s style revival of raw-nerve horror that took the movie scene by storm during the early part of the new millennium. It succeeded in slowly burning its way from pleasant character beats to brutal horror, eloquently employed its “based on a true story” mythos, introduced long time Aussie star John Jarratt to international audiences, and helped drum up interest in classic Ozploitation movies (paving the way for Jarratt’s appearance in Tarantino’s Django Unchained, 2014). Its weaknesses were its narrative/structural familiarity (like most of the films of its era, it owned an almost excessive debt to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974) and its abrupt ending, which implied a sequel would be coming soon. Yet, the sequel never came. McLean spent his goodwill making a killer crocodile movie called Rogue that failed to inspire the same excitement Wolf Creek did. Finally, almost ten years after the original hints of the outback’s most frightening serial killer’s future adventures, fans have Wolf Creek 2 (2014). To say the iron has cooled is an understatement.


The new film opens strong with two crooked, asshole cops pulling Mick over to give him an unearned speeding ticket. The audience is, for the first time, allowed to root for this particular villain as he wreaks gory revenge on cruel authority figures. From here, however, it’s more or less business as usual. McLean plays a bit with the audience’s assumptions (specifically the way he teases us with familiar situations that have different results), but doesn’t subvert expectations or explore ‘mythology’ like Eli Roth did with Hostel Part II (2007, though parts of the last act appear to have been inspired by Roth’s sequel). Instead, we are treated to a series of vignettes with little connection outside of Jarratt’s character. Building the sequel around the villain’s point of view is predictable and a mistake, because, like most slasher movie killers, Mick works best in small bursts. The creepy charm of the nice guy Aussie stereotype is dropped too quickly, turning Mick into more of a flippant Freddy Kruger-like character (the protagonists are given basically zero introduction this time). Jarratt does well, though – the overexposure isn’t his fault and he really helps carry the super-tense mano-a-mano climax. Technically speaking, McLean’s skills as a visual storyteller are at a peak, especially when he is establishing the bleak isolation of the Outback environment. He also does countryman George Miller proud with some intense and inventive car chases. The scares are a bit tepid, but the gore is spectacularly graphic – more so than the original film, which left quite a bit to our imaginations. In the end, Wolf Creek 2 merely meets the lowest expectations, while also reminding us that McLean is still better at what he does than most of his contemporaries.



Video

McLean was an early adapter of the digital HD format and shot the original Wolf Creek on Sony HDCAMs. A near-decade later and he hasn’t given up on the format. Wolf Creek 2 was shot with Arri Alexa cameras (a 4k upgrade over the 1080i Sony cameras) and is presented in 1080p, 2.35:1 HD video on this Blu-ray disc. He and cinematographer Toby Oliver embrace the format’s clarity and super-sharp capabilities with expansive, highly-detailed images of the Outback and extensively textured close-ups. There are basically zero compression artifacts and even the under-lit, mostly black night sequences are clear of more than the lightest touch of digital grain. The palette is pretty organic and gradations are relatively natural, unlike a lot of other films shot digitally, which opt for super-soft blends (there are occasional ghosting effects during some of the more actiony shots).


Audio

The soundtrack is aggressive when necessary, like when cars are crashing and fires are raging, but it’s even better when the sound designers are fiddling with dynamic levels – the hiss and delayed splat of a far-off, high-calibre gunshot, the intimidating clang of Mick’s truck approaching from off-screen, or the crisp rumble of distant thunder. Dialogue is consistent and incidental noises are subtly integrated, aside from any stabs or slices, which are quite loud and juicy for maximum grossness. Composer Johnny Klimek’s dramatic score does its job well as it slides under the spooky moments and blasts over the chase scenes. Other music, like Steppenwolf’s ‘Born to Be Wild’ and The Tokens’ ‘In the Jungle,’ is spread widely over the speakers, including a relatively strong rear channel presence.



Extras

  • Deleted/extended scenes (24:00, HD) – These flesh out the victims quite a bit, especially the German backpackers

  • Creating a Monster: The Making of Wolf Creek 2 (52:10, HD)



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