'Wolf Creek 2' is less brutal than the original and plays its killer more broad
It is incredibly unusual for a sequel to take eight years, and it's even more uncommon for a sequel made after that kind of delay to actually be made by the creative team behind the original. Normally, if it had taken this long to get a sequel made, it would most likely be a whole new group of people working with a property, but here, we've got writer/director Greg Mclean back in the driver's seat, working with co-writer Aaron Sterns (who has worked with Mclean in other capacities on earlier films) and with John Jarratt, who once again plays outback serial killer Mick Taylor.
I hadn't seen the original in so long that I had to go back and find my original review to try and remind myself what my issues with it were. I knew I liked the original, but that something had made me hesitant to give it a whole-hearted recommendation. It's a brutal movie, with some truly horrible violence, but I admired the way Mclean handled it. He played rough, but for good reason, and the best moments in the film were genuinely difficult to watch.
The film had no third act, though, and that is one of those problems that I have real problems with when I'm watching a film, particularly one that works in so many other ways. The first film went out of its way to set up its characters and then to also hurt the audience by punishing them for any investment they made in anyone. Mick Taylor was presented as an animal, pure awful impulse given agency, and I liked that he wasn't a joke at all.
I'll never understand how talented filmmakers get completely derailed, and Mclean displayed real talent in "Wolf Creek." I enjoyed his follow-up film "Rogue" as well, although it was less successful overall. I've got a soft spot for giant crocodile movies, particularly when they star John Jarratt, and while the film wasn't perfect, it certainly shouldn't have knocked Mclean out of the director's chair for over five years. His return is almost a reboot for him, so it makes sense that "Wolf Creek 2" feels like an almost complete reconsideration of the original film and not just a sequel.
In the first film, we started with three kids who bought an old car and headed out to a remote section of Australia so they can see if all the stories about Wolf Creek are true. They've heard about possible UFO sightings and mysterious disappearances, but what they find is Mick Taylor. He makes his entrance a good ways into the film, and the perspective of the film remains focused closely on them.
This time, though, Mick Taylor is where the film begins. When we meet him in this film, he's being pulled over by a pair of cops in the middle of the outback, and they seem to take special pleasure in hassling the redneck. That's a mistake, of course, and as soon as they think they've got the upper hand, Taylor shows them exactly how wrong they are. In this movie, Taylor is played much broader, and he's sort of the absolute worst of Australia's national identity, cranked up loud and rowdy, and John Jarratt plays him with absolutely no fear. He doesn't hesitate. He doesn't try to show you Mick's good side. He's willing to play him as a truly awful force of nature and seems happy doing so.
This time out, Ryan Corr is the main character, playing a history major who stumbles across Mick at the worst possible moment, accidentally interfering with a kill that is already in progress. Once Mick shifts his focus to this poor stupid kid who just happened to cross his path, we start to get a closer look at this new version of the character. He now seems to speak for a certain type of white Australian who considers himself a "real" Australian, who is done with foreign tourists and encroaching change, who does his part for cleaning up his country by killing everyone who he feels does not belong.
The truth, of course, is just that Mick is completely insane, but trying give him a specific motivation this time and showing him as the face of national pride that has curdled and spoiled is an interesting take. Jarratt is very good at playing him as a big, broad character without tipping all the way over into cartoon, and without losing the edge that makes him a scary figure in the first place. He may talk more, and the new movie may demystify him, but it does not remove all the edge from him or from his actions. I'm not sure you could keep making these movies without doing that, but for now, it's definitely a strong take on the character.
If you can't handle extremes in your horror, "Wolf Creek 2" is not for you. It is definitely ugly in places, and it wallows in it a bit. Mclean doesn't really believe in soft-selling his approach to the violence in the film. There's a pretty outrageous car chase that ends up involving kangaroos in an unexpected way, but for the most part, Mclean keeps the action close and personal and brutal. It's a strikingly made movie, and if you ever wanted to convince someone not to go to Australia, you could play them a double-feature of this and "Wake In Fright." If they still go after that, they can't say you didn't warn them.
"Wolf Creek 2" is available now on VOD and will be playing limited theatrical dates starting May 16.