The Australian outback has provided the Wolf Creek universe with a terrifying, swallow-them-whole landscape across both film and TV for the past 12 years now. When director, producer and writer Greg McLean first unleashed his horror concept (and debut feature film) to the world back in 2005, word-of-mouth was swift and excitable, championing Australian horror as a distinctive genre, built upon by equally chilling flicks like Snowtown and The Loved Ones. The bluntness combined with the terrifying unknowns of bleak remote towns or giant expanses of outback provided a unique canvas of terror through which to really communicate these feelings of helplessness and horror; in Wolf Creek’s case, this was taken a step further, accentuated by affable stone-cold killer Mick Taylor (John Jarratt).
This is what made Wolf Creek such a big hit and, though it wasn’t reviewed quite as well overall as it’s commercial success and genre-defining impact, one of the most endearing horror films of the 2000s. The film sequel threatened to undo all that goodwill with its ostentatious action-horror tone, but then McLean did the best thing he could have possibly done to keep the franchise alive; he spun it into a six-episode mini series for Stan. And it was a hit; pitting a young female backpacker (played exceptionally well by Lucy Fry) against Taylor to completely switch it up into psychological horror territory, threading together a compelling and bloody revenge tale that teased out sides of Taylor not seen on the big screen.
I’m overjoyed a second season has arrived, it too only six episodes long for binge-worthy purposes. But things are much, much different this time around, and as McLean told The Iris just a few weeks ago, closer to why Wolf Creek was originally conceived in the first place.
Survival-horror is the tone for the second Wolf Creek miniseries, taking a bus load of tourists and throwing them smack bang in the heart of Mick Taylor’s territory. If we’ve learned anything about Mick is that he just plain doesn’t like “outsiders”, taking joy in hunting them like the many predators which populate the country and killing them in brutal, unrelenting ways that escalate as the episodes roll on.
Though the most impressive and pleasantly surprising thing about this series is not just the return of Mick Taylor (and Jarratt is in very fine form here) but the balance and quick-witted development contained within this script. It’s entertaining, at times genuinely funny, and almost always tender in balancing and building towards this survival-horror tone.
This is particularly evident in the first episode. A group of tourists embark on a bus tour throughout the outback and by the end of the episode the tour guide is dead (that isn’t necessarily a spoiler since it’s in the trailer, don’t @ me). McLean, who directed the first two episodes, handles everything that happens before this quite effectively, contrasting a playful outback adventure (the tourists) with the sheer horror (Mick) that awaits and playing both off of each other to ramp up the tension. The two slowly converge to the episode’s big cliffhanger and the tension doesn’t let up as the miniseries goes on.
In a way (a very superficial way) this reminded me of the difference between the first two Jeepers Creepers films, at least initially. Though, rather than using a bus load of people as a cheap way to up the body count, McLean has successfully used a group with different individual psychologies to juxtapose against Mick and open him up in a similar way Fry’s character did last year. Not only that but the script draws some interesting dynamics between the tourists themselves, rather than pushing them as one big group; this means that throughout the course of this survival-horror we get to see how these different people react to an extremely hellish situation that’s still real enough to dig into the viewers primal fear of helplessness. It’s like one big character study-slash-experiment in the outback, with Mick – as blunt and determined as ever – the control.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
All six episodes of Wolf Creek Season Two are now available only on Stan.