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Blu-Ray Review - WOLF CREEK: The Complete First Series

Small screen spinoff from the cult Australian horror movie.






Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)



I struggle to think of another show that manages to translate the spirit of grindhouse cinema to the small screen in quite the way Wolf Creek does. It hits the dusty Outback ground running and maintains a high level of quality through most of its short run, making it essential viewing for Ozploitation fans.


In the 1970s, a new wave of filmmakers emerged in Australia. Some worked in the realm of arthouse (Peter Weir), others preferred grindhouse (Brian Trenchard Smith), but all delivered movies that were explicitly Australian, often using genre fare to explore the country's colonial guilt. In movies like Long Weekend, Picnic at Hanging Rock and Wake In Fright, we're presented with the idea that, try as they might, white people will never truly settle in Australia, a sense that the very land itself is incompatible with the European idea of civilisation.

Director Greg McLean revived this tradition in his 2005 thriller Wolf Creek, setting the action around an ominous giant crater that seems to share similar mystical powers as the hanging rock of Peter Weir's cult film. In McLean's movie, the area around the crater is home to Mick Taylor (former Aussie heartthrob John Jarratt cast very much against type), a gruff hunter who roams Australia's vast Outback picking off humans as though they were rabbits or 'roos.



The film was grounded somewhat in truth. Every year, over 3000 people vanish in the Outback, never to be seen again, and there have been several murders many locals attribute to a serial killer. Combining out of their depth tourists with vast, open terrain, it's hard to think of an area of the world more accommodating of a serial killer than Australia's Northern Territories.

It's this idea that fuels Wolf Creek, its 2013 sequel, and now this TV series, produced by Australia's Stan Network. The TV format arguably suits this type of storytelling more than a movie, the extended length allowing it to open up as wide as the landscape it takes place in.

From the pre-credits sequence of the pilot episode, Wolf Creek lets us know what we're in for with an explosion of violence at the hands of Mick Taylor that results in the slaughter of a family of American tourists. There is one survivor however, 19-year-old Eve (Lucy Fry, who starred in McLean's horror misfire The Darkness), presumed dead by Taylor when the river washes her wounded body upstream. Waking in a Darwin hospital, Eve vows to take revenge on Taylor and skips out on the flight back home arranged by local cop Sullivan (Dustin Clare).

Thus begins a game of cat and mouse between Eve and Taylor, with Sullivan doing his best to discourage the former while tracking the latter himself. Think The Fugitive, if a large degree of sexual tension existed between Richard Kimble and Lieutenant Gerrard, and the one-armed man continued to kill people throughout the show's run.



Eve is one of the most interesting genre heroines we've seen in recent times, in cinema or TV. Starting out as a typical moapy teen, she develops over the course of six episodes into a female Mad Max, roaming the Outback in a series of increasingly beat up vehicles, carrying an array of weapons, and with a half dingo mongrel in tow (a nice nod to Richard Franklin's Ozploitation classic Road Games). A former decathlete whose budding career was cut short by an addiction to painkillers, Eve uses her athletic skills in her pursuit of Taylor, leaving her own trail of corpses along the way. The more the show develops, the closer Eve comes to mirroring the villain she's after, as she becomes so intent on revenge she comes dangerously close to losing her own sense of morality.

There are some elements that suffer from the show being limited to six episodes. Eve's painkiller addiction is merely hinted at and never really affects her, while the attraction between Eve and Sullivan seems to come out of nowhere and that's ultimately where it leads.

For the most part, the show plays out as one long movie, save for the fourth episode, which slows things down for a 'bottle episode' and interrupts the pacing of the overall narrative. But the rest of the episodes will have you hooked. The first five are directed by Tony Tilse - who did some impressive work on another TV spinoff from a cult movie series, Ash Vs Evil Dead - and he keeps things moving along with a fairly rapid pace without ever letting the show seem superficial, while Wolf Creek creator McLean takes over for the extended finale.



I struggle to think of another show that manages to translate the spirit of grindhouse cinema to the small screen in quite the way Wolf Creek does. It hits the dusty Outback ground running and maintains a high level of quality through most of its short run, making it essential viewing for Ozploitation fans. I guarantee you'll have the show's theme tune - Lisa Salvo's cover of Who Killed Cock Robin? - stuck in your head for a week after viewing.

With an ambiguous ending, the show is open for a second season; I certainly look forward to more of this bloody Down Under mayhem.



Wolf Creek: The Complete First Series is available on VoD, DVD, Blu-ray and download to own on October 10th.




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