Tag Archives: Oz

Return to Wolf Creek

Until last week, I hadn’t seen the original Wolf Creek in approximately 12 years. That viewing just shocked the fuck out of me with its brutality and, despite the 3.5 star rating I stand by, I didn’t care to sit through it again.

Then along came the Wolf Creek TV Series, two seasons, that pretty much kicked the shit out of the cumulative peaks of all the other slasher TV shows combined. I decided to strap on my backpack, break in the hiking boots, pack a knife, and venture back to the original movie.

Knowing in advance that neither Liz nor Kristy will survive slightly reduced the tension watching their various attempts to escape from Mick. Yes, they should’ve at least tied him up when he was out cold; Yes, she wasted some time watching the camcorder footage, but do you want a slasher film or not, armchair critics? (And fuck alla y’all with the misogynistic “they r stupid bitchezzz!” comments at this juncture).

wolf creek liz

Wolf Creek fools us into believing Liz will be the final girl based on her actions thus far, and so when Mick magically appears in the backseat of the car she finds (again, it’s a slasher film, people) and knifes her in the back, it’s still shocking. Mick’s banter while this dying girl tries to crawl away elicits a mix of laughter and shock from most people, more so when he takes her fingertips off and then renders her a head on a stick. That said, it occurred to me that Liz doesn’t necessarily die there and then (a worse fate, you might argue) and it’d be kinda neat if she turned up in Wolf Creek 3 in a wheelchair and was rescued. Dare to dream, I guess. It’s an especially vicious turn of events, heightened by Cassandra Macgrath’s excellently acted reaction, something we’re normally spared in contemporary American slasher movies. The above still really triggers a feeling of repulsion for me.

Final girl reigns seem to be passed along to Kristy, who is momentarily rescued by a motorist, then commandeers his car for herself – even re-watching it I prayed that there was some kind of alternate cut where she was going to make it. Alas, she too is once again sent through the never ending mangle of horror, but (mercifully?) shot by Mick before taking any more of his abuse.

wolf creek kristy

The outcome of Ben being the only one who lives is part of what makes Wolf Creek stay with you. We’re so accustomed to a final girl, that it seems almost perverse to see Ben totter to freedom, although it’s worth noting he doesn’t encounter Mick again, nor does he seem bothered about searching for Liz or Kristy at the camp. His survival is pretty much incidental, even a little “unfair” in light of what we saw the girls go through – Ben suffers the least yet gets to live on. His character returned in the first series of the TV show, having gone mad over the intervening years.

Wolf Creek still stings like a hard slap and as much as I wish one of the girls had emerged as the heroine, the deviation from the standard rules is what sets it apart. Mick, after all, is presented as a heterosexual predator of nubile young women, that one of them isn’t able to rise up and bury an axe in his balls is a necessary jagged little pill of the reality of the events the film is based on. Greg McLean has made an excellent film, it’s just hugely uncomfortable viewing.

Maybe I’ll watch it again in 2030.

Welcome to Australia

wolf creek tv series 2016

WOLF CREEK (TV SERIES)

4 Stars  2016/288m

Directors: Tony Tilse (5 episodes), Greg McLean (1 episode) / Writers: Felicity Packard & Peter Gawker / Cast: John Jarratt, Lucy Fry, Dustin Clare, Jessica Tovey, Fletcher Humphrys, Deborah Mailman, Jake Ryan, Richard Cawthorne, Eddie Baroo, Matt Levett.

Body Count: 24


TV was the new movies in the 2000s, with bigger budgets, drawn out arcs sucking in squillions of viewers that your favourite movie could never. Legal dramas, police procedurals, mafia families, drug dealers, vampire hunters, and trundling along at the rear, like the runt of the horror litter it’s often seen as, slasher tales.

First came Harper’s Island, then Scream – The TV Seriesand the risible Scream Queens, the subtley titled Slasherand now from down under, Wolf Creek.

On the back of the pair of brutal homegrown Aussie flicks, which chronicled the never ending killing spree of the outback’s answer to Freddy Krueger, Mick Taylor, as he raped, pillaged, and knifed nubile tourists who ventured beyond the city limits. Based on the real crimes of backpacker murderer Ivan Milat, Wolf Creek‘s gritty and repellent presentation of vulnerable outsiders thrown into a truly nightmarish situation resulted in a film even found too intense to return to.

wolf creek tv series mick taylor john jarratt 2016

At the end of Wolf Creek 2 in 2013, Mick once again evaded capture and death and lived to hunt another day. The TV series starts with Taylor doing what he does so well: Killing. Selecting the American Thorogood family, who unwisely park their huge RV at a billabong where pre-teen son Ross is almost chomped by a saltwater crocodile, Mick shoots the reptile and is invited to supper. While Mom and Dad chatter, 19-year-old daughter Eve finds their guest a bit much and goes to lie down with some music.

Mick makes quick work of the parents and little brother, and goes after Eve, who, as a committed athlete, bolts for her life, but is shot down in the distance. Unable to find her body, raspy-voiced Mick chalks it up to croc bait and burns down the RV and disposes of all evidence of murder. Eve is rescued by some birdwatchers the next day.

wolf creek tv series 2016 lucy fry

Detective Sullivan Hill is assigned to the case and carries an ever-growing folder of possible crimes committed by the anonymous psycho in the outback. His attempts to put Eve on a plane back to the US are foiled when she runs away, steals the folder, buys a van and takes off in the direction of the crime.

Over the next few episodes, Eve follows Mick’s trail of murder around the desolate outback of the Northern Territory and Western Australia, while Hill follows her. She befriends a stray dog (named ‘Dog’) and finds herself in a series of bizarre and deadly situations, from being arrested for possession of weed (which was left in the van she bought by its previous owner), escaping prison, stealing cash and a gun from a biker gang, facing off a would-be rapist, solving a murder, and researching Mick’s previous murders. Each episode has a small arc within the greater story, as Eve goes from teary victim to woman warrior.

wolf creek tv series 2016

Of course, this journey is anything but smooth: Eve steps in bear-traps, is attacked by horny blokes at least twice, bitten by a venomous snake, and almost murdered by a crazy subterranean dweller. She also finds time to go all Daniel LaRusso with an outback saviour, who teacher her the aboriginal way of throwing a spear – something that’ll come in handy later, of course.

Original creator Greg McLean declared that Wolf Creek in this incarnation is less about Mick than it is Eve, and, wisely, the killer is limited in his appearances, cropping up here and there, stalking and killing a few poor folks as his and Eve’s paths grow ever closer to crossing: After a couple of episodes, he is aware someone has survived and is out to find him, he murders her would-be rapist, they ask about one another at the same roadhouse, with Hill just a heartbeat behind.

wolf creek tv series 2016

Elsewhere, the hoodwinked bikers are chasing her, allowing for an amazingly funny interchange when one of them catches up with her, proclaiming he needs a woman to give him kids instead of killing her. The Wolf Creek movies featured generous slabs of dark humour from Mick, but additional skits from background players here do a lot to endear the viewer to the production.

As things wrap up in the final two episodes (of a perfectly pitched six), Eve tracks Taylor to a drinking hole, which also – a little too conveniently – is frequented by a mad local known as Jesus, who is revealed to be Ben, only survivor of the first movie. Weird that they never ran into one another? She is finally able to put a lid on the biker situation, and follows clues left by Mick to lead her to the Wolf Creek Crater and then his lair.

wolf creek tv series 2016 john jarratt lucy fry

The only arguable flaw at this juncture is the appearance of Mick’s backstory in black and white flashbacks to his childhood, which serve as the starting point to his murderous career. It denigrates his repulsive character to some degree, almost drawing sympathy from the audience, and aligning him even closer to Freddy Krueger than before, as he appears behind Eve with a few witty remarks at his disposal, further cementing the similarity.

So it comes down to survivor versus legendary maniac in a final showdown that seems over a little too soon, and lacks an amount of finality that points towards a second series in the future – but how can Mick survive what Eve finally does to him?

wolf creek tv series 2016 dustin clare

Much IMDb crying occurred over the series being too slow, Eve not being ‘right’ to take on Mick, and him not being in it enough. However, keeping the tempo of the films over almost five hours is never likely to work and would not be sustainable, and largely physically impossible for the characters. It was 100% the right decision to keep Taylor in the shadows as much as possible. Eve is also the perfect opponent – an outsider in every possible way, a recovering opiate addict, and an unlikely survivor.

Easily the best slasher series on virtually every level, from the lush production values, use of the agoraphobic Australian landscape, where, despite so much space, there’s still nowhere you can run. Jarratt, Fry, and the impossibly handsome Clare all put in excellent performances, and every bit-parter makes an impression, Dog included. Given this was almost the 700th slasher ‘thing’ I’ve seen, for me to find it so fresh and binge-watch over two days underscores just how much I loved Wolf Creek. So great.

wolf creek tv series 2016 lucy fry

P.S., that full frontal nudity? It’s a guy.

Blurbs-of-interest: Jarratt also featured in Next of Kin and Needle.

Some films I frankly can’t be bothered to say much about

I’m just tired, okay?

butchered 2003 dvd

BUTCHERED

2 Stars  2003/18/76m

A.k.a. BludgeonThe Hazing

Director: Joe Castro / Writer: Eric Spudic / Cast: Susan Smythe, Elina Madison, Phoebe Dollar, Juliet Bradford, Ben Belack, Christopher Michaels, Adam Crone, Tracy Ray, David Alan Graf.

Body Count: 10


What did they do to the eyes of everyone on that cover?

The sophomoric slasher effort from the production group behind Maniacal. Although again shot on video, Butchered generally has slightly better production values and a better script.

Whereas the earlier film played like a student’s take on Halloween with a million and one references to other slasher pics, this time around Hell Night seems to be up for the Xerox treatment as college students Lynette and Barbara agree to spend the night in an old manor house to pledge their sorority (which only has two sisters anyway). We already know that a maniac hiding behind a creepy Darkness Falls­-like mask lurks in the walls of the house, which is due to be converted into a theme park ghost house, as a luckless derelict and the new owner find out.

The sorority sisters and their horny boyfriends turn up to scare the pair witless and end up as additional prey for the killer, who, according to an inexplicably well-informed pizza boy, is the mute daughter of the last owners. Andrew Garth she is not, but there are some amusing kills, including a machete in the mouth and a repetition of the bashed-in head as seen in Maniacal.

Cheap and cheerful with a definite love for its genre, just in need of a cash injection.

*

the driller killer 1979

THE DRILLER KILLER

2 Stars  1979/18/96m

“It will shatter you!”

Director: Abel Ferrara / Writer: N.G. St. John / Cast: Jimmy Laine, Carolyn Marz, Baybi Day, Harry Schultz, Rhodney Montreal.

Body Count: 13

Laughter Lines: “I’ll tell you what you know about: You know how to bitch, and how to eat, and how to bitch, and how to shit, and how to bitch!”


One of the grand daddies of the ‘Video Nasty’ saga in 80s Britain, this is a grimy study of a highly strung artist (played by director Ferrara under the pseudonym Jimmy Laine) living with his girlfriend and a permanently-wasted bimbo spiralling into insanity, as phone bills, abortion charges, his never-finished painting, and the crappy punk rock band rehearsing downstairs at all hours push him closer to the brink.

Acquiring a Porto-Pak, he takes a power drill to the homeless residents of New York City, boring holes into them to vent his fury at the world. Appearing shortly before the slasher movie outburst of 1980, The Driller Killer doesn’t adhere very closely to the genre rules that would soon make themselves known through popular examples: The main character is the killer, and there is no offbeat motive set deep in the past. Instead, irritations slowly build up until he boils over and runs around town offing eight hobo’s in one night!

The intact version of the film was eventually released on DVD in the UK in 2002 and, aside from maybe two of the drillings, isn’t the blood feast it was painted to be by hysterical moral guardians of the Whitehouse ilk. On the contrary, the scene in which the three roommates indulge in the world’s grossest pizza is far more stomach churning than anything the drill gets up to.

Unfortunately, the flippant scenes of essentially unrelated happenings serve only to annoy and steer the focus away from what could be an interesting character portrait.

*

freak out 2005

FREAK OUT

2.5 Stars  2005/15/99m

“It’s cheap n’ nasty!”

Director/Writer: Christian James / Writer: Dan Palmer / Cast: James Heathcote, Dan Palmer, Yazz Fetto, Nicola Connell, Chilli Gold, James Hicks, James King.

Body Count: 22-ish

Laughter Lines: “I don’t like horror films anymore, they’re for babies.”


A camp, vegetarian psychopath is adopted by horror loving nerd, Merv (Heathcote), and his slacker buddy Onkey (Palmer – who co-wrote). They attempt to turn him into a maniac killer of Jason proportions.

This film successfully skewers many genre clichés and turns them on their head, but is ultimately toppled by its inherent cheapness, which makes it look like a drawn out sketch show clip. The unrelenting satiric Brit humour is hit-and-miss and shares common ground with the fly-on-the-wall like approach that made the likes of The Office and Green Wing successful, albeit on a more juvenile level here.

The best laughs come courtesy of the killer himself, known only as Looney, who is never without his orange jumpsuit, potato sack headdress, hockey mask and carries a spatula as his weapon of choice – his polite observations (in a voice that sounds like Bungle the Bear from Rainbow) and apparent obsession with Larry Hagman supply ongoing chuckles.

Considering the 99 minute run time, the three secular killing sprees are over in seconds with little concern for convincing effects work although there is a high body count and plenty of sloppy gore.

Ultimately, Freak Out parodies the less obvious of slasher movie conventions with fair success, but The Hand of Death Part 25 did the job better. Worth the once over for some cheap laughs – most notably the scene with The Blair Witch Project stage play.

*

NEXT OF KINnext of kin 1982

3 Stars  1982/86m

“Some films take their audience to the brink of terror… This one crosses the border.”

Director/Writer: Tony Williams / Writer: Michael Heath / Cast: Jackie Kerin, John Jarratt, Alex Scott, Gerda Nicolson, Charles McCallum, Bernadette Gibson, Robert Ratti, Debra Lawrance.

Body Count: 8


Spooky goings on abound at the Montclare Retirement Home, a lush estate recently inherited by Linda (Kerin) after her mother passes away: A resident is found at the bottom of the bathtub, and our heroine keeps seeing a mysterious figure hanging about on the grounds, finding her taps have been left on in her sink and her bath, and in an especially eerie moment, someone breathing on a separate house telephone during a call… Is she going mad?

Some of her questions are answered in her late mother’s diaries that fear ‘something evil’ is lurking about the place and the local Doctor is being quite secretive about some of the past events that occurred. Drawing quite heavily from Black Christmas, the slashing in this film doesn’t kick in until the hour mark, instead substituting violence to build a respectable level of tension and define even the most ancillary characters enough to fear for their safety.

Moments familiar from Halloween, The Shining, and Psycho help with the somewhat rushed climax (where the sound of the running down the halls is used to great effect). The finale goes a bit awry although Linda finally kicks-ass, there are still several loose ends that are never made any tighter, but this is one little gem that has somehow remained out of circulation for a while.

Look out for a pre-Mick Taylor John Jarratt.

*

slaughter night sl8 n8 2006

SLAUGHTER NIGHT

2.5 Stars  2006/90m

A.k.a. SL8 N8 (Slacht Nacht)

Directors/Writers: Frank van Geloven & Edwin Visser / Cast: Victoria Koblenko, Kurt Rogiers, Jop Joris, Steve Hooi, Linda van der Steen, Carolina Dijkhuizen, Serge-Henri Valcke, Emiel Sandtke, Lara Toorop.

Body Count: 12


In the mid-1800s, a child murder named Andries Martiens terrorised a region of Holland, decapitating seven children in an attempt to utilise black magic that would help him enter and exit hell. He was caught before he could off his eighth and final victim.

In the present, Kristel and her father are involved in a car accident one night: She survives, he doesn’t. Guilt-ridden, Kristel volunteers to collect some of his belongings from his office in nearby Belgium and takes four college friends with her. She discovers her late dad was penning a book on Martiens and had become fixated with a local mine where the killer had been recruited as a sort-of working suicide bomber, to rid the mines of excess methane by going in with a live flame. Death row inmates who survived this task were pardoned, but not in his case and Martiens was duly executed.

Kristel is advised to ‘take the tour’ of the mine and drags her pals along with her. Spooky occurrences abound and the party are stranded below ground where they unwisely decide to tinker with the Ouija board that Kristel’s father owned. This dumbfounded act unleashes Martiens’ vengeful spirit, which snappily possesses one of the group and uses them to start offing the others, leaping to a new host if the poor schmuck is killed. There’s lots of blah about the occult, uncollected inheritance, treasure, and a few grisly kills sprinkled throughout.

The Netherlands isn’t famous for its horror output. Amsterdamned (which one of the cast members here was in) was passably entertaining, as is SL8 N8, which, in Dutch, translates to the English title and neatly ties in the need to eight victims etc…

A sort of Long Time Dead by way of My Bloody Valentine affair. In Dutch. Okay once.

Blurbs-of-interest: Butchered: Elina Madison was in Curse of the Forty-Niner; Joe Castro directed Maniacal and The Jackhammer MassacreFreak Out: Dan Palmer was in Small Town FolkNext of Kin: John Jarratt played Mick Taylor in the Wolf Creek movies and TV series, and was also in NeedleSlaughter Night: Serge-Henri Valcke was in Amsterdamned.

Girls school confidential

BLOODMOON

3 Stars 1989/18/101m

“The last full moon you’ll ever see.”

Director: Alec Mills / Writer: Robert Brennan / Cast: Leon Lissek, Christine Amor, Helen Thomson, Ian Williams, Craige Cronnin, Hazel Howson, Christophe Broadway, Suzie MacKenzie, Anya Molina, Samantha Rittson, Jo Munro, Michelle Doake.

Body Count: 10


Soppy Neighbours-esque romance is married to some Friday the 13th shenanigans in this fairly impressive Aussie flick that has the one major flaw of revealing the killer’s identity about a third of the way through the film.

The girls of St Elizabeth’s boarding school are being offed by a shadowy killer, who uses a length of barbed wire to garrotte them, along with the occasional boyfriend. Pretty daughter-of-someone-famous Mary is unknowingly high on the killer’s list.

The stalk n’ slash scenes are well handled, a standout being when two girls sneak into the school to steal an exam paper and run into the killer, who quickly dispatches one and chases after the other.

bloodmoon2

Bloodmoon, however, commits that cardinal sin of allowing one particularly unpleasant character to live, when hoards of comparably innocent ones have been laid to waste. Elsewhere, excess T&A negates some of the up-market style, but for an alt perspective teenie-kill film, it hits enough of the right notes. Just ignore some of the crimes against hair.

Sucks to be Soles

INNOCENT PREY

3 Stars  1983/87m

A.k.a. Voyeur

Director: Colin Eggleston / Writer: Ron McLean / Cast: P.J. Soles, Kit Taylor, Grigor Taylor, Martin Balsam, John Warnock, Susan Stenmark, Richard Morgan, Debisue Voorhees.

Body Count: 11


Poor P.J. Soles… As if being saddled with the worst perm in Texas isn’t enough, one night she spots her new husband’s car at a motel and decides to creep outside the window and find out if he’s cheating on her.

Her suspicions are confirmed when she sees him doing a young hooker, and then made worse when he produces a knife and slashes the girl’s throat as they climax. At home, she confronts him and as he makes a move to do away with her, the police spring up and cart him away.

Later, hubby escapes from prison and returns to the house to finish off P.J., doing in a few luckless cops as he goes. She evades him again but this time he flees, so she sees fit to take some time out down under and visits her friend Gwen in Sydney.

The Sheriff back home (Balsam: Arbogast! ARBO-FUCKING-GAST!!!) later informs her they found a burned body with hubby’s signet ring and all is well again. Only we know better: hubby set it all up and has hopped a ship to Oz, ever committed to his cause.

Rodeo P.J. – everybody loves her

As if this isn’t enough, the sub-Norman Bates landlord at Gwen’s place has hidden cameras all over the girls’ house and watches their every move, obsessed by the new arrival, and jealous of her burgeoning romance with single dad, Rick. When the first loon arrives, what will second loon do, I wonder?

Early on in the film, P.J. ponders that if there such a thing as a habitual criminal, perhaps she is a habitual victim. Hell yeah, sister! From the arms of one psycho into those of another! Innocent Prey should be suffixed The Misadventures of the World’s Unluckiest Woman. Nothing goes right for poor P.J., and when Gwen disappears, well, where else could she go!? These wackos gravitate towards her. And just wait for that final freeze frame. Come to my house, Peej, I won’t kill you! Promise!

Mass sludge of conveniences aside, Innocent Prey is a solid little thriller, sort of a proto-Sleeping with the Enemy by way of Terror Train, possibly explaining why it was released in 1991, seven or eight years after it was made.

P.J.’s always likeable charisma carries much of the weight, but director Eggleston – who later helmed weird arty-farty slasher Cassandra - builds up some palpable tension here and there, most notably in the scenes where Hubby comes back to the house.

A ridiculous film by any measure, but an entertaining one for sure.

Blurbs-of-interest: Aside from her role as Lynda, Soles was also in The Tooth Fairy and Uncle Sam. She also narrated the documentary Halloween: 25 Years of Terror; Martin Balsam was, duh, Arbogast in Psycho; Kit Taylor was in Eggleston’s other film Cassandra; Debi Sue Voorhees – playing the hooker – was Tina in Friday the 13th Part V and was also in Appointment with Fear.

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