- Monthly Theme: Highbrow/Lowbrow
- The Film: Wolf Creek
- Country of origin: Australia
- Date of Australian release: November 3, 2005
- Date of U.S. release: December 25, 2005
- Studio: The Australian Film Finance Corporation, et al.
- Distributer: Dimension Films
- Domestic Gross: $16.1 million
- Budget: $1 million (estimated)
- Directors: Greg McLean
- Producers: George Adams, et al.
- Screenwriter: Greg McLean
- Adaptation? Not really. The film is loosely inspired by the real-life Backpacker Murders and the Peter Falconio case.
- Cinematography: Will Gibson
- Make-Up/FX: Charmaine Connelly, et al.
- Music: François Tétaz
- Part of a series? There is a 2013 sequel entitled Wolf Creek 2.
- Remakes? No.
- Genre Icons in the cast? Yes. Australian genre star John Jarratt (Dark Age, Picnic at Hanging Rock, etc.).
- Other notables?: No.
- Awards?: Best Actor [Jarratt] at the 2005 Austin Fantastic Fest. Best Score at the 2006 Australian Screen Music Awards.
- Tagline: “30,000 are reported missing in Australia every year. Some are never seen again.”
- The Lowdown: Sometime in 2009 Kristine and I started our “Horror Movie Club,” watching a horror movie every couple of weeks together. Things went smoothly until we hit our first snag: a late-night screening of Wolf Creek that rattled Kristine to the bone and still, to this day, remains the only movie we’ve watched that has scarred her for life. The film follows three twentysomethings (two British backpackers and an Aussie native) as they go on a cross-country road trip. They stop off at Wolf Creek National Park, the site of a gigantic crater made by an ancient meteor strike. Once there, their car mysteriously stops working and all their watches stop, stranding them in the middle of nowhere until Mick, a random towtruck driver (and Crocodile Dundee-esque bushman) stumbles upon them and takes them back to his camp. He promises to fix their car and send them on their way, but instead he drugs them. Our main heroine, Liz, wakes up bound-and-gagged in a tool shed. She manages to escape from the shed but, in trying to both rescue her friends and find a way for them all to get away from Mick’s compound, runs into numerous difficulties. Commonly cited as yet another depraved example of “torture porn” and derided by film critics like Roger Ebert and Moira Macdonald, Wolf Creek follows a Texas Chain Saw Massacre-like template for blending slasher, survival horror and exploitation elements to produce a pretty grueling experience.
If you haven’t seen Wolf Creek our discussion will include massive SPOILERS.
Kristine: I was talking to my boyfriend and he asked what movie we were chatting about and I told him the secret history of you and me and Wolf Creek, which he found fascinating and was curious as to whether we would talk about the fight. And I was like, “Of course! It is an integral part of the mythology of Sean and Kristine. Duh!” and he was like, “Okay then.”
Sean: Um, can you characterize one person being mad as a fight?
Kristine: Shut up I am not done. So then he asked me, “It sounds like it was so upsetting to you, I am surprised you would choose to revisit it. Would you ever watch it again?” and my honest answer was, I have been very curious to revisit Wolf Creek since I have watched a lot (by my standards) of horror since then and you’ve commented that I am much less sensitive then I once was. So, up until today, my answer to his question would be, “Yes, I would watch it again.” But then today I watched the trailer and I wanted to die. I forced myself to watch the clips and it was terrible terrible terrible. So my answer now is… now way.
Sean: You have PTSD.
Kristine: I will never put myself in that position again. I am like that shell-shocked butler on Downton Abbey who is all, “They can’t make me go back, don’t send me back.” I thought I was fine, and all my original feelings were just from being a novice, but nope.
Sean: Tell me about watching the clips.
Kristine: First of all, I started watching them with earbuds like you suggested but that was too scary, so I took the earbuds out, because background noise made it less scary and less immediate. And my desk faces the window and I had to stop the clip and draw the blinds because the window faces the street and the fucking headlights were scaring me and I thought Mick’s face would pop up in the window like it does in the car with Liz. And then I realized that the bathroom is directly behind me so I had to shut that door because the sink mirror was scaring me. It was like, an ordeal.
Sean: I am squirming with delight.
Kristine: Oh, and I had to get the cats in and close and lock the balcony door and my cat Boyd was dawdling and I was like, near tears, begging him “Please please Boyd come in! I don’t want to have to go out and get you!”
Sean: If Mick did pop up in the house to get you, you would throw Boyd at him to distract him so you could get away. Like when you shoved me towards the man with the chainsaw at the Haunted Corn Maze.
Kristine: Do you remember how much I hated going outside after we first watched the movie at your house? And I had to drive home by myself and I was constantly looking in the rear view mirror and losing my shit.
Sean: The yard at that house was a scary nighttime yard.
Kristine: Oh god that yard was scary.
Sean: Admit you would sacrifice Boyd to Mick.
Sean: You would go toe-to-toe with Mick in a dark, shadowy house? To rescue Boyd?
Kristine: Umm… I plead the fifth.
Sean: You would cat-rifice Boyd!
Kristine: So, I think we have established that this movie still terrifies me, but what we don’t know is why. Is it scary to me partly because of PTSD from how scared I was the first time we watched it? Or if I watched it for the first time not as a horror movie novice, would I have the same reaction? Is there something innate to the film that I am reacting to? We’ll never know…
Sean: We will know when we watch one of Wolf Creek’s sister movies for the first time.
Kristine: Shut. Up.
Sean: But just for the record, High Tension was no big squids for you, and I think pre-Wolf Creek you would have been upset by it.
Kristine: True. I think you’re right on both counts.
Sean: What in the clips was so upsetting for you this time around?
Kristine: You know what was upsetting about the clips. You selected them. But I will detail if you insist.
Sean: Yes, I want to know which setpieces still affected you.
Kristine: Because I think of Wolf Creek as an object of abject disgust and terror, I forgot how likeable and relatable the cast is. That was upsetting to revisit.
Kristine: The rednecks in the gas station was something I had forgotten.
Sean: I’d forgotten about that too.
Kristine: It is really effective at setting the scene that these kids are on their own. It’s like they’re in a war zone of sorts. They are not safe and not just because of Mick. Mick is not an anomaly, he is a pure manifestation of this environment. That’s another thing I had forgotten.
Kristine: And then when I got to the first torture scene, I just remembered all of the trauma. Kristy’s scene in the garage/warehouse/whatever while Liz watches is just… beyond the pale.
Sean: Yeah, I think Liz waking up locked in the shed, bound and gagged, and then going outside and hiding, watching what he’s doing to Kristy…. that sequence is the most upsetting for me. It is horrible horrible horrible.
Kristine: I love Kristy. And the scene where Liz is saying they have to go back to the complex after they have escaped. It makes sense (because they need a car) but Kristy’s reaction is so right on and true. Even though Liz is awesome and rescued her, she still didn’t go through what Kristy went through, and if she had, she would never have suggested going back (and dying for it). I also forgot one of the scariest scenes is when Liz finds the video cameras and other belongings of previous victims. It powerfully reminded me of the scene in Silence of the Lambs when “American Girl” is in the well. She already knows she is fucked, right? But then she sees the fingernails of the other victims and then she really really knows she is fucked, and her panic goes from “10” on a 1-to-10 scale to like “10,000.”
Sean: I just want to point out how effectively Wolf Creek pulls the old “Janet Leigh in Psycho” trick (of killing the heroine first), but because it does it an hour into the movie, it is so shocking.
Sean: I mean, Wolf Creek = the rare Final Boy. Did Ben’s crucifixion still bother you?
Kristine: Ben’s crucifixion did still bother me, of course, but less so then the first time. I think it was the sheer gore that freaked me out the first time. I mean, that shit was gross. Plus the dog and the half-eaten corpse, etc. The second time it still sucked to watch but not as much, because Mick is not there doing it to him, it is less terrifying and more just gruesome.
Sean: You know what scene I still find unbearable?
Kristine: Tell me.
Sean: When they’re in their broken down car and the headlights appear. I just want to point out that Wolf Creek never explains the loss of power to their car. It’s like, a bit of magical realism there. This unexplained phenomenon that Mick is exploiting.
Kristine: Right, and their stopped watches. That’s because, like I said, Mick is of that place.
Sean: Like the crater site has these weird properties that have created the perfect environment for a Big Bad Wolf to exist in.
Kristine: Exactly. See, that’s kind of cool.
Sean: But the link to the meteor makes it kind of sci-fi and I love that little detail. Did Kristy’s roadside execution still bother you? I think that long shot of the whole thing is pretty effective.
Kristine: Yes, it is an amazing scene. So fucking horrifying. And so the opposite of Liz’s death scene, right? Which is so intimate?
Kristine: Which death scene was worse?
Sean: I mean, they’re both bad for different reasons.
Kristine: I can’t believe I am saying this, but I think Kristy’s is worse even though that seems impossible to say anything is worse than the ‘head on a stick’ scene.
Sean: All the car chase stuff feels so claustrophobic despite taking place in the middle of the huge, vast Outback, because there is no way she is going to get away….
Kristine: Remember when she is so elated that she might have escaped him?
Sean: It’s brutal.
Kristine: Plus, because of what she went through earlier, you root for her extra hard.
Kristine: We’ve focused so much on my intense reaction to Wolf Creek. I think we should talk about your thoughts a bit. Actually, more your reaction when you first saw it and why you choose it for our horror movie club. I know you saw it in the theatre, right?
Sean: I went to see this in Gainesville (I was at grad school) when it was playing in the theater, at night, with three girlfriends and I remember us all loving it and on the ride home seeing scary-looking Mick trucks in traffic and dying and laughing.
Kristine: Are they all horror gals?
Sean: Leah and Meg, yes I would consider them horror fans for sure. Our friend Georgia was also with us, and she is not really a horror fan. But I think just the adrenaline of all of us made it an exhilarating experience. I mean, Leah and I also saw The Descent together in the theater, thinking it might be dumb, but then we were like ‘That was amazing’ and were dying with joy.
Kristine: The Descent is amazing. But I think seeing Wolf Creek in the theatre is less scary then seeing it at home. Anything is less scary then seeing it at Sean’s house at night and then you have to walk through a scary yard of creeping vines and abandoned fountains to your car.
Sean: Weird, most people would say seeing a movie in the theater is more intense, wouldn’t they? At home you can pause and take a breath – which you insisted we do at least twice, if memory serves, during Wolf Creek. Also, during The Descent if memory serves.
Kristine: Well, in the theatre there are other people. You are more aware that it is an event. When did I insist on pauses? Do you remember at what point in the movie?
Sean: Oh god I don’t remember time stamps, just that you did. You always pause movies 20,000 times. You’re like, I have to wipe this crumb off the couch. PAUSE. I have to take a sip from this drink. PAUSE.
Kristine: But what was your reaction to Wolf Creek when you saw it with your gfs in Gainesville?
Sean: My reaction to it was that I was deeply impressed at what an effective, gripping experience it was. I really liked how the first 25 minutes were more of a roadtrip movie and then the horror kicks in. Just like how the first half hour of The Descent is a caving adventure film and then the monsters show up and it all takes a turn. Wolf Creek does something that a lot of slasher movies don’t bother to do: it takes the time to set up its characters before the horror starts. I, like you mentioned earlier, found the three actors in Wolf Creek to be really likable, believable and naturalistic. I liked how much time we got to spend with them. And I thought the movie was well-shot, lovely to look at in those early moments. It has a really well-developed sense of place (another thing most slasher movies skimp on). But I was also weirded out by how intense the horror elements were. I mean, it was a really fun way to see it, with friends all squealing and dying in the movies. But it did affect me and stay with me longer than most horror movies of this ilk do. It is not a disposable, forgettable experience. It leeches into you.
Kristine: So then it did haunt you. I mean, when you were home alone and not with the ladies… were you like, ‘Mick is outside?’ Or, more aptly, ‘The world is a brutal and terrible place’?
Sean: No, not like that. But I remember they dropped me off and I spent like three hours on my laptop reading about the backpacker murders and being scared.
Kristine: Did you love it? Being scared? Even though it is “based” on real human misery?
Sean: Yes I loved it. Here’s the thing: I had already heard about those backpacker disappearances at some distant point in the past and so when I was in the theater watching Wolf Creek I had this weird feeling of déjà vu/recognition. I think the almost cinema verité style of the movie helped with that, and that’s really nothing new. As we saw when we watched it, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre did this decades earlier. But again, what Texas Chain Saw doesn’t do that Wolf Creek does is give you a sense of the characters, and make you care for them. The kids in Texas Chain Saw are disposable bodies, they’re ciphers. But in Wolf Creek they’re people, and so the impact of what happens to them is visceral and gut-wrenching. I felt like I couldn’t breathe during some of the sequences. This is why I feel like the arguments about Wolf Creek being perverse and morally bankrupt are problematic. But anyway, the fact that the movie was inspired vaguely by reality made it scarier and more haunting. And I was almost more scared reading about the Backpacker Murders afterwards at home. All I can say is, I was deeply affected by the idea that you could go off to hike in the desert and some Bad Man could get you out there and you’d be wiped off the earth. No one would ever find out what happened to you.
Kristine: That makes sense. So, why did you choose it for us to watch, and when you did, did you know I was in for it? Did you know I would lose my shit?
Sean: Honestly, it didn’t even occur to me that you wouldn’t love it, because the friends I had seen it with all loved it. I thought it would be like when we watched The Descent: you squealing and dying during the movie, but exhilarated afterwards. You loved The Descent, and you were panicking and freaking out while we were watching it. But you watched Wolf Creek almost numbly, and then died afterwards. Your freak-o reaction to Wolf Creek was totally surprising and scary in and of itself. But also, fascinating. It was the first time in a long time that I realized, “Oh right, horror movies can be traumatic for people,” which is like, obvious but I had forgotten that.
Kristine: Tell me about it because I don’t remember much except being completely convinced that you had deeply and purposefully injured me. And more so then anything else, I remember feeling that you had betrayed some unspoken promise that existed that if I went on this journey with you (into horror movie club), that you would protect me. Isn’t it ridiculous and dramatic? But that is how I felt.
Sean: I don’t think you will like it if I recount how I remember your reaction.
Kristine: It’s ok, you can. I already know it was crazy. But I don’t feel bad, because doesn’t it just show the power of horror? So I really am the poster girl. Fear is irrational. Isn’t that the lesson? I feel like you might not have 100% “bought” that reaction… but after my freak out, you realized it is a thing of truth.
Sean: Yes, let me say first that I think it is “normal” for some people to be traumatized by horror movies. You know my sister – who is physically strong and a confident, assertive person – is like, so afraid of horror movies. Wolf Creek would send her to the psych ward. So I am aware that some people aren’t just cut out for it, and I would never try to impose Wolf Creek on someone fundamentally opposed to horror movies as an experience. I chose it for our horror movie club because, I thought, well the whole point of this is to expose you to all the different kinds of horror movies out there, of which this is one. I took it for granted that you were down for that. But, as I remember it, your post-Wolf Creek reaction wasn’t some big weird explosive thing actually. Instead, you were really mean and bitchy to me afterwards. There was this low-grade, passive-aggressiveness in you that I was like, Um… what is going on here? You did not come out and say “I am upset” or even, “I am upset with you.”
Kristine: Well, that sounds about right. That is my defense mechanism when I feel wounded.
Sean: You just lashed out at me and were mean and kept making very weird accusatory statements about random things. And it took me like 15 minutes to realize you were mad at me (keep in mind, my boyfriend does complain I can be slow on the uptake).
Kristine: Really? What did you think my problem was?
Sean: I was just like, Why is K being so bitchy? I had no idea. But it wasn’t fun.
Kristine: Were you all, “Is Kristine on the rag?”
Sean: Um… No, I didn’t think that. I don’t remember specific things you said after Wolf Creek (this was a while ago) but you were just like, “Well because of YOU…..”
Kristine: I remember something. I am remembering.
Kristine: I remember I didn’t want to leave because I didn’t want to drive home and see the headlights on the road. And I was housesitting a guest house with exposed windows that was corralled by a sliding metal fence (like the complex in Wolf Creek), and it had just gotten broken into and I didn’t want to go back there. But since I was in a panic, I didn’t think to explain this all to you. I just insisted on spending the night at your house (it was a weeknight) and you were like, Um, no. And I was like, You are a fucking monster. I didn’t tell you why I wanted to stay. I just said, I am not leaving. Kick your boyfriend out of bed, you have to sleep with me. And you were like, ‘Hell no.’
Sean: Oh right that sounds familiar… I can’t believe I wasn’t like, Let me get you some blankets for the sofa. I am a bad friend.
Kristine: Well…. You didn’t know why I was insisting. I mean, it does seem obvious now (you dummy).
Sean: I probably thought you were joking, dear. We do do the whole “exaggeration for comic effect” thing a lot.
Kristine: I think I didn’t want to give the evil any power by naming it. I was like, I am fine, but I am not leaving. FYI. And you were like, Get out.
Sean: Yeah this is coming back to me, that I thought you were joking but then you were being mean and I was like, What is going on here? We’re not doing a bit right now? I thought we were doing a silly bit about you not wanting to leave. And you turned on me like a feral wolf.
Kristine: When the truth came out, you said the immortal words: “You can’t be in a horror movie club and then be mad at me when we watch a movie that scares you.” Which, of course, is it in a nut shell but enraged me and I was all, ‘Yes, I can.’
Sean: Yes, this sounds like Kristine.
Kristine: I was all, If you betray me and betray your role as my mentor and guide, then I can bloody well be mad. Do not correct me with facts, sir. That was basically my reaction.
Sean: But my role as tour guide is to push you to the darkest boundaries of the psyche. To take you on a tour of the shadowlands.
Kristine: I love how you see your role in movie club as that of a Cenobite from Hellraiser. Isn’t that what Pinhead says his job is? Except also isn’t there supposed to be pleasure wrapped up in the pain? Where’s the pleasure, Sean?
Sean: Well, I was thinking of my role more as Rod Serling-meets-Lux Interior but… Tomato, tomahto. There was no pleasure in watching Wolf Creek?
Sean: You didn’t enjoy anything about it?
Kristine: I mean, it’s well made, acting is good, pretty and effective cinematography – who cares? Head on a stick. Okay, I have a serious question for you now.
Kristine: Looking back on it, do you think you screened Wolf Creek for me too soon? Answer honestly.
Sean: Only in retrospect did I consider it even a possibility. But…. no I don’t think so. I don’t think there would have ever been a “right time” to show it. I don’t believe in postponing. I am all: ‘Confront.’
Kristine: But you don’t think the time is right for me to watch Martyrs (thank god). So you do see a progressive scale…
Kristine: Um, there are so many things you don’t want to confront and you know it.
Sean: Name one besides the off-limits thing. And remember, we’re tallking about horror movies.
Kristine: Damn. I was going to say “family stuff.”
Sean: I would watch a horror movie about my family in two seconds. Bring it on. I mean, the whole thing is that horror movies are safe spaces to confront the things that in life would traumatize us. The purpose of horror cinema is to confront monsters and reckon with them. I mean, right? I think horror movies are cathartic and useful safe spaces.
Kristine: I agree with that theory. I mean, I think it rings true and it is true for a lot of people who watch and make horror. It explains why horror mirrors real life. Like Vietnam, Iraq, whatever.
Sean: Watching horror movies makes me less fearful, not more.
Kristine: You see reflections in horror, as in any other genre, of people working through their shit vis-à-vis art. I get that but that is not my experience with horror. I think part of that is, by coming to horror late I never incorporated horror into how I processed and coped with fear and terror. I process those emotions other ways. So, horror is something different for me.
Sean: Well, my sister and I had the same traumatic childhood and I find it cathartic to confront shit in horror movies and she would find it to be re-traumatizing.
Kristine: Yeah, I can see that, too. But even your sister’s reaction is still not mine. I am still not sure what mine is. Which is why I am so interested in the genre, what scares me, what doesn’t and why…
Sean: But you are all “Big potatoes” about most of the stuff we’ve watched since Wolf Creek, no?
Kristine: ‘Big potatoes’? Are you trying to slip in a Polish joke?
Sean: You are all “And a side of bacon alone on a plate. Not touching the potatoes!”
Kristine: Shut your fucking hole!
Sean: I am very pleased with myself right now.
Kristine: I will sever your spinal cord and not think twice. I will slice off your fingers with my potato-cutting knife and you will never type again.
Sean: So it was not cathartic for you to watch Wolf Creek?
Sean: You didn’t feel braver for it afterwards?
Kristine: Well, yes. I did. I’d like to know where you think Wolf Creek falls on the continuum of horror, in terms of extremity. Also, I must point out that you had me watch the Director’s Cut, which is more intense then the theatrical release.
Sean: No, we didn’t watch the director’s cut.
Kristine: Yes, we did.
Sean: That cut has a scene of Liz finding a pit of rotting corpses…
Kristine: We watched that. And also Kristy hooking up with Ben, which was not in the theatrical version.
Sean: If you say so.
Kristine: And the severed spine scene was longer.
Sean: Someone read Wikipedia.
Kristine: I did.
Sean: Okay, well I guess we did watch the more intense Director’s Cut. Sorry.
Kristine: Well… we discussed Wolf Creek and are still BFs.
Sean: So you asked about Wolf Creek’s place in the horror continuum. To have that talk is opening up a whole can of worms.
Kristine: According to you.
Sean: The answer to your question actually begs another question. I mean, you are aware of the designation “torture porn” right?
Kristine: Yes, but I have not seen any.
Sean: Yes, you have seen a “torture porn” movie. Wolf Creek. I think Wolf Creek fits that designation effectively, though I would argue that (a) the designation itself is problematic and (b) certain movies that fit comfortably within that category (Martyrs, Wolf Creek, Inside, A Serbian Film, maybe even the first Hostel) have more going on than critics of the genre want to give them credit for, even when they’re problematic. I mean, The Human Centipede, they’re not. I mean, does “torture porn” sound like a fitting designation for Wolf Creek to you?
Kristine: Yes. Even though a lot of the scares don’t involve gore.
Sean: Yes. Wolf Creek is remarkably gore-free.
Kristine: Like when Mick is hunting them. Sean, the number one scariest thing about Wolf Creek is the headlights. That’s what spooked me the worst that night and many nights after. He is out there.
Sean: What about High Tension? You were unmoved by that movie, and I think it would be a pretty grueling experience for anyone not prone to the horror genre.
Kristine: Yeah I don’t know. High Tension is more… gonzo grossness. It’s different somehow from Wolf Creek. I don’t know if I can articulate why. When the dad’s head gets decapitated in the staircase with the wardrobe? It’s like, too much, which makes it less scary. There was some element of comedy to it.
Sean: The murder of the family in High Tension is the torture-porniest sequence I think.
Kristine: The headlights, Sean. The headlights!
Sean: Your boy Ebert made a really interesting critique of Wolf Creek (which he also gave ZERO STARS to). He said “It is a film with one clear purpose: To establish the commercial credentials of its director by showing his skill at depicting the brutal tracking, torture and mutilation of screaming young women.” Like Greg McLean made Wolf Creek solely to entice studios to hire him to make other movies.
Kristine: Well, that is obnoxious of the director. Ebert is right. Though I do think the film has validity beyond that…
Sean: Oh that was my question. You think that sounds right?
Kristine: I think it is right, but not the whole right. It’s not wrong.
Sean: Well, its such a pessimistic way of looking at the movie.
Kristine: The difference between Kristy and Liz’s treatment and Ben’s is striking to say the least. You never see anything being done to Ben.
Sean: Ben was crucified, so let’s not act like he was skipping through fields of daisies in the movie.
Kristine: You didn’t see Mick doing it to Ben. The thing that terrifies me about Kristys death is not that she is dead. It’s watching Mick hunt and kill her and mock her. Same with Liz.
Sean: Um, he had to rip his arms off the nails.
Kristine: I’m talking about the experience, not the end result and also… Ben does live.
Sean: Well, exactly another way the movie subverts genre expectations, our Final Boy (who is also not “queer” or robbed of masculinity like other Final Boys are). I feel motivated to defend Wolf Creek from the Eberts of the world. I do not like when jerks call me depraved for liking something (see Michael Haneke).
Kristine: Watching things be done to women is a thing and that is a problem. Why do we not see Ben being abused and denigrated?
Sean: But Ebert and, I’m sure Haneke, would defend Peter Greenaway movies and David Lynch movies, which are equally if not more depraved than Wolf Creek in their treatment of women.
Kristine: I think things are done to men and women in those movies.
Sean: Here’s the thing: Ebert and his ilk just don’t understand horror and something you and I talked about back when we first watched this was…
Sean: Isn’t it more morally depraved to slicky aestheticize death and have the torture and murder of women have no impact (like all the teen-pop slashers, from Scream (Ebert gave 3 stars to Scream and Scream 2) onwards to Final Destination (he gave 3 stars to the first film) and Saw (which, okay, he gave two stars BUT he called “cheerfully gruesome”) movies and beyond)? Wolf Creek puts to the visceral shock and horror back in a slasher scenario, no?
Sean: It refuses to let us enjoy what is happening, while a movie like the House of Wax remake (which he gave two stars) pornographizes Paris Hilton’s dead body in a way that is gross and demeaning and mean-spirited. Those movies ask us to relish the torture of women. They present the torture of women as something inconsequential, something with zero impact and zero implications. Wolf Creek wants us to actually confront the torture and murder of women in a way that is truly nauseating and impossible to enjoy. And it does it without being a smarmy, didactic prig about it (á la Michael Haneke and Funny Games – I movie I actually liked just fine but was so put off by the moral sermonizing of the director – and also Ebert managed to cough up a half-star for it). And I honestly see no difference between Kristy and Laura Palmer. Or Kristy and Georgina Spica.
Kristine: But you feel Wolf Creek is enjoying you not enjoying. It’s sadistic to the moviegoer. It’s not just presenting some unvarnished reality and saying, Deal with it.
Sean: Well, there might be that, but is The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover ( a movie Ebert gave 5 stars to) not enjoying your discomfort at all the horrible things Michael Gambon’s Thief does? Is Twin Peaks not enjoying your horror at Bob’s brutal killing of Cousin Maddy? Or Wild at Heart (2 and 1/2 stars from the Eebs) enjoying our horror at Lula’s debasement or Blue Velvet (only one star here but still… a whole star!) not enjoying our horror at Dorothy Vallens’ debasement? I feel like there are basic high art/low art class conflicts at the heart of people like Haneke and Ebert’s moral grandstanding and no, Ebert doesn’t get a pass for writing Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
Kristine: Well, if he’s so invested in getting us to confront the horrors of the torture of women, why didn’t Greg McLean tackle a real problem – like scores of women in Juarez being brutally murdered and dumped in shallow graves? That’s “real” brutality.
Sean: Um…. I mean, you’re being a devil’s advocate right?
Kristine: I’m just sayin’, if your goal is to force the world to reconcile with the fact that violence against women exists…
Sean: I don’t think its fair to make that argument. No, that’s the wrong framing because this is about the slasher genre. The movie is in dialogue with a genre of film and is using the tropes of a specific genre and re-invigorating the genre with a fresh sense of shock and awe.
Kristine: I can accept that. But I am still wary of Greg McLean. He’s not a lady, and he most certainly is shady (copyright RuPaul).
The Girl’s rating: I want to travel back in time to stop myself from watching it.
The Freak’s rating: I like how bad this makes me feel.