Film Review: Wolf Creek 2

A brutal and admirably grueling serial-killer thriller, this Australian import is also repetitive and ultimately a little dull.

This sequel to Greg Mclean's nine-year-old Wolf Creek, inspired by the "backpacker murders" that claimed the lives of at least seven young people in the early ’90s, returns to the scene of the crime, a desolate outback of dusty roads and endless miles of scrubby grassland that looks strikingly like the American West until a herd of kangaroos hops through. It's also strikingly handsome—more so than its predecessor—and features striking sound design that relies heavily on the harsh and distinctly menacing caw of Australian ravens, which truly sound like Hell's own emissaries.

Wolf Creek 2 begins with a neatly nasty but of business: Bored and restless, two highway patrolmen spot a rattletrap pick-up truck barreling down a desolate New South Wales highway. The driver is just under the speed limit, but what the hell: "He doesn't know that," the senior officer smirks. So the pair of them take off, anticipating an entertaining game of roust-the-redneck that doesn't go at all the way they imagined, because they're messing with sociopath Mick Taylor (John Jarratt, of long-running Australian TV series “McLeod's Daughters,” which picked up a small but dedicated U.S. cult following when it was released here on DVD), who's spent years viciously torturing and killing young people—foreigners and Australians alike—who decided to hitchhike through desolate but landmark-rich Belanglo State Forest before settling down to the workaday adult lives that await them back home.

While Wolf Creek hewed fairly closely to the reality of rampage—which was appalling enough to need no elaboration—Wolf Creek 2 is inevitably more a variation on a theme than a continuation of real-life killer Ivan Milat's story…inevitably, because he was caught and sent to prison, where he remains. That said, co-writers Mclean and Aaron Sterns (who also collaborated with Mclean on the 2007 killer-croc movie Rogue) focus on would-be victim Paul Hammersmith (Ryan Corr), loosely inspired by English backpacker Paul Onions, one of the first travelers Milat abducted, and manage to recreate the first film's brutal ferocity: Taylor may declare himself an "outback legend," but he's no Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger…he's just a dirty, ignorant, xenophobic rapist-murderer plying his trade in the back of beyond. And as in the first film, the victims are more human shooting-gallery targets, so blandly attractive and uninteresting that you can't wait for them to get picked off. Still, they're varied and well-played enough that their deaths have some weight—it's hard to imagine any but the most hardened gore-hound laughing or cheering when they meet their grisly fates.
Wolf Creek 2 is something of a slog: Even if you haven't seen the first film, you know what's coming from the outset—Taylor reveals his hand in the first scene and just keeps on doing what he does. His rants about sweeping Australia clean of foreigners, city slickers and assholes (categories which, taken together, encompass pretty much everyone who isn't him) are new, but don't feel especially organic: He's a murderer because he likes killing, and that's motivation enough. And scary enough, though not as scary as the bizarre 1960s song "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" which figures into one genuinely disturbing scene.

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