You'd look at Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) and see a rapist, an unrepentantly sadistic serial killer, and, hell, maybe even a cannibal. Far as Mick himself is concerned, though, he's an exterminator. These tourists, this...vermin from all corners of the world swoop in and infest Australia. They piss on its proud history, they scar the country's natural beauty, and they sneer at those who call Australia home, all in the name of a good time. To Mick, disemboweling some drunken, hornball, Eurotrash tourist really isn't any different than a common house mouse tearing itself apart on one of those glue traps.
Doesn't even matter that barely-twentysomething-year-old German backpackers Rutger (Philippe Klaus) and Katarina (Shannon Ashlyn) aren't those kind of tourists. They remain in hushed awe of Australia's breathtaking beauty and want to explore every inch of it they can. They respect the land and its laws. They take care to pitch their tent outside of protected national parks. Maybe they don't know how to properly douse a fire, but it's not willful ignorance or anything. They're even polite to Mick at first when he stomps into their hopelessly remote camp and tells them that they need to leave. After a couple of minutes of increasingly heated discussion, though, things stop being polite and...well, start getting real. Out comes the knife. Time for Mick to get to work.
|...and not a "This is a knife!" to be had.|
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With a quick glance, maybe that sounds an awful lot like the first Wolf Creek: introduce some tourists intruding upon the Outback from overseas, Mick storms in to try to clean house, and barrel drums of stage blood get sloshed around in the process. If director/co-writer Greg McLean had started hammering out this sequel within a few months of Wolf Creek storming into theaters, maybe that sort of retread would've been disinterestedly dumped on us as some lazy cash-in. Nearly a decade has passed, though, and McLean and company took advantage of that time and a considerably larger budget to get this sequel right.
The first Wolf Creek was pretty much split down the middle between setup and carnage. The idea is that viewers would have a chance to really get to know these characters, so later in the movie when they'd be hunted, tortured, and slaughtered, their torment would matter, but the pace of the movie often plodded along as a result. Wolf Creek 2 feels a hell of a lot more efficient. These German tourists are introduced in a montage without a word of dialogue and still feel fully formed. Mick enters the fray a hell of a lot more quickly, and he's introduced in a much more compelling way. Wolf Creek 2 teases viewers with the idea that maybe he's not that bad a guy. He's not doing anything wrong -- not even speeding -- when a couple of asshole cops take out their boredom and frustration on him. Not saying they deserved...well, this:
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...but on some base level -- even having witnessed all the atrocities and hellish torment that he inflicted in the first Wolf Creek -- I was rooting for Mick. Hell, even when he first starts chatting up Rutger and Katarina, I thought that maybe he really would've dropped them off in town, safe and sound, if only they'd accepted his offer with a smile. Mick isn't some boogeyman from down under this time around; he's the central character, so to some extent, you kind of have to like the guy, at least before he starts disemboweling some poor bastard or threatening to carve a fuckhole into another.
Aside from its desolate Australian backdrop, a cackling, sadistic serial killer, and his choice of prey, just about everything has changed with this sequel. Arriving at the peak of the popularity of movies like Saw and Haute Tension, the first Wolf Creek fetishized suffering. Its back half alternated between unnerving suspense and unblinking, unyielding, agonizingly long sequences of torment. By and large, this sequel abandons that "torture porn" approach altogether. There's still some of that near the end -- mashing together a trivia contest with a fucking angle grinder -- but Wolf Creek 2 is more fascinated by high octane action. There are multiple high-octane car chases, one of which redefines everything I thought I knew about roadkill, along with several colossal, fiery explosions and daring vehicular stunts that'd leave Mad Mex green with envy. The first movie seemed more interested in what happened when Mick finally wrapped his hands around his prey, but Wolf Creek 2 is more enthralled by the chase. This sequel also does a phenomenal job defying expectations. So many of these movies stick to the same general formula: introduce a bunch of red shirts, watch them dwindle one by one, the survivors find a massive stack of driver's licenses that suggests how many people this madman had butchered before, and blah blah blah blah. Wolf Creek 2 is a hell of a lot more elusive. Saying more would delve too far into spoiler territory, but it hardly ever took the twists and turns I was dead certain it would. It's also worth noting that Wolf Creek 2 makes its share of nods to the first movie, but it very much stands alone. You don't need to have seen the original to fully appreciate this sequel.
Damn near everything about Wolf Creek 2 is bigger and better. The body count is staggeringly high by comparison. The stuntwork and the scale of its effects work eclipse the first movie. Its sense of humor is darker and sharper, with Mick standing out as the most talkative and most charismatic cinematic serial killer this side of Freddy Krueger. That it's such a uniquely Australian story makes it stand out that much more as well. My tastes lean way more towards slashers and less towards the agonizing sadism of Saw, The Collector, and the original Wolf Creek, so I definitely appreciate the shift in its approach to horror. Its final moments are admittedly disappointing, as if Wolf Creek 2 gave up and decided to just photocopy the last page or two from the first movie's screenplay, but other than that...? Highly Recommended.
This high-def presentation of Wolf Creek 2 goes straight for the jugular. For one, the image is razor-sharp and impressively detailed throughout. Unlike most horror flicks from the past however many years that drench the screen in a single sickly, undersaturated color, Wolf Creek 2's palette can be startlingly vivid, from the garish outfits some of those European imports are rocking to towering, orange flames to all those streams of dark crimson. The authoring of this disc is dead-on too: no heavy-handed filtering or processing, no artificial sharpening, no nasty moire effects or posterization, and no hiccups in the AVC encode.
Wolf Creek 2 hacks and slashes its way onto a dual layer Blu-ray disc at an aspect ratio of 2.39:1.
It's a nice enough looking disc, yeah, but Wolf Creek 2's lossless audio is even more of a force to be reckoned with. The clarity and fidelity of this 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack really don't leave any room for complaint. Every last element in the mix is clean, clear, and distinct, and the film's dialogue is balanced flawlessly even throughout its most chaotic sequences. Quite a bit of care has been invested in atmospherics, filling every speaker and furthering the sense that the punishing Outback is a character in its own right. The surround channels brilliantly reinforce overturning vehicles on the wrong side of a chase, desolate, desert wind, off-screen taunting in a subterranean lair, the reverb throughout the surrounding tunnels, all the way to the metallic clink of the chains on Mick's truck. Bass response leaves an even greater impression: the gallop of hooves as Mick stalks his prey on horseback, cracks of rifles being fired, and the gutteral growl of these trucks' engines. The sound design is outstanding, and that effort isn't marred by any unwarranted background noise or so much as the slightest flicker of distortion. No complaints.
The only other audio option is a set of English (SDH) subtitles. The smattering of German dialogue is captioned with burned-in subs in the body of the image.
- Butcher's Cut: Deleted Scenes (24 min.; HD): This lengthy reel really isn't about full-fledged deleted scenes so much as how the right cuts can make a hell of a difference. One of our victims groggily being dragged around by some unseen force is more effective in the final cut than it is here, where we immediately see who or what is lugging him around, exactly. In the finished film, Rutger and Katarina are introduced in a wordless opening montage, but the originally scripted version offered here has pages of dialogue that clumsily introduce the idea of all these tourists disappearing in the Outback. I do kind of miss the way the sequence as originally constructed better establishes the idea of tourists as a destructive, unwelcome force, but maybe that'd justify Mick's xenophobia a little too much. The bulk of this footage is oriented around early characterization, but there are a few scares scattered around in here, among them a hallucinatory nightmare and more memorably a far more gruesome look at Mick butchering his prey.
All of these deleted and extended scenes are presented in 1080p24, although bizarrely, the aspect ratio is around 2.66:1, with translucent pillarboxing bars seemingly indicating where the final 2.39:1 image would be extracted. That's a first for me.
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- Creating a Monster: The Making of Wolf Creek 2 (52 min.; HD): Clocking in close enough to an hour, Wolf Creek 2's making-of doc covers a hell of a lot of ground: the thought and mindset behind crafting a worthy sequel, effects work both digital and practical, stunts and fight choreography, visualization, lighting and cinematography, the score and sound design, and the critical importance of shooting on location in a movie like this. Interestingly, this doc follows the making of Wolf Creek 2 more in sequence rather than grouping everything by topic. With armies of digital kangaroos and the headaches of casting Australian actors who could pass for native Germans (they sure fooled me), the subject matter doesn't just feel like more of the same either. "Creating a Monster" is a terrific making-of piece that's well worth setting aside an hour to explore, but be warned that a couple of key interviewees chat in some cavernous space that make their comments a bit tough to understand.
This combo pack of Wolf Creek 2 storms in with an anamorphic widescreen DVD riding shotgun, and the set comes packaged with an embossed and partially metallic slipcover.
The Final Word
With its manic pace and a preference for blood-spattered action over slow-burning sadism, this sequel eviscerates every last complaint I had about the original Wolf Creek. Like a lot of followups, everything's bigger -- including the body count -- but director/co-writer Greg McLean and company don't stop there. Wolf Creek 2 builds on everything that made the first installment so memorable while refusing to settle for more of the same, and the end result is a flat-out better movie. Highly Recommended.