review for Wolf Creek on AllMovie

Wolf Creek (2004)
by Jason Buchanan review

Wolf Creek isn't so much the kind of horror film that a guy would take his date to see in hopes that she would cling to his arm as it is the type of film a guy would take a girl to see in hopes of ending the relationship. In short, Wolf Creek isn't an enjoyable stalk-and-slash effort like the self-conscious Scream or I Know What You Did Last Summer films, but an effective exercise in fear more along the lines of such downbeat horror dramas as Open Water or the 2004 trapped-in-the-wilderness French frightener Calvaire. Unlike the unsympathetic yuppie blowhards of Open Water, however, the relatively carefree young adults that set out across the Australian countryside in Wolf Creek are as sympathetic as they are believable -- and when an innocent crush begins to develop into something more for two of the travelers, the honesty and gentle awkwardness of their first kiss quietly draws the viewer in before all hell breaks loose. Though impatient genre fans may complain that first-time feature director Greg McLean spends a little too much time on character development in the opening act, more forgiving viewers will likely appreciate the contrast between the youthful fun in the sun of the opening scenes and the seemingly eternal darkness suffered by the characters after falling in with a madman whose earthy, easygoing charm masks a monster whose depravity knows no bounds. The hypnotic ferocity of veteran Australian actor John Jarratt's outback psychopath has all the makings of an iconic cinematic psycho -- creepy quips and unsettling stare all accounted for -- and though one could see Jarratt's sadistic slasher getting his own frightful franchise thanks to a fairly ambiguous ending, the film's reality-based origins and good taste will likely make this a one-off deal for the capable actor. Make no mistake, the violence here is grim, and the horrific suffering that those characters endure is made even more palpable by the fact the film was loosely inspired by real-life events. While that fact alone may be enough to assure that Wolf Creek is not going to make the "must-see" lists of more sensitive viewers, when all is said and done McLean's debut feature is as lean and tightly wound as its geographically menacing title. There's not much fun to be had at Wolf Creek, but the fact that it offers one of the most visceral and unrelenting survival horror stories to hit the multiplexes in some time is difficult to deny.