`Wolf Creek' overflows its grisly banks

Movie Review

December 25, 2005|By CHRIS KALTENBACH | CHRIS KALTENBACH,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Wolf Creek is about a weird guy who sadistically kills people. Go figure.

Those who enjoy this kind of movie will doubtless want to experience it again and again. But this is a movie for genre fans only; there's not an aspect to it that should appeal to the rest of the world. It's neither original nor inventive, and while its young cast works hard, there's not even a standout performance worth recommending.

Based on "actual events" (and the fact that 30,000 Australians are reported missing every year), Wolf Creek is the story of three college-age chums who go off backpacking together in the Australian outback. Returning to their car after a night of fun and frolic, they're unable to get the darn thing started. Then salvation arrives in the person of a grinning local who offers to drag them and their car back to his home and effect the necessary repairs.

You've probably figured out already that this guy is not the good Samaritan he initially appears to be.

Writer-director Greg McLean takes his time setting up the story, both to acquaint us with the three hapless travelers and ratchet up the dread factor. And he shoots almost all of the film's first half in close-up, using a hand-held camera (shades of The Blair Witch Project, which is as much an inspiration for this film as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).

But there's nothing special about these three - two girls (Cassandra Magrath and Kestie Morassi) and a guy (Nathan Phillips) who are given to partying too hard and being a bit too cavalier about their own well-being. They seem likable enough, which I suppose makes their ultimate fate even more tragic. But for all the time we spend with them, that's not saying much.

And when the big, bad guy (John Jarratt) shows up, he's nothing special either, unless you long to see Crocodile Dundee use his monster knife in ways that are anything but comedic. He's not supernatural, he doesn't wear a mask, he's not an interesting character study (we're told nothing about him), and he's not especially inventive when it comes to maiming, torturing or killing.

Oh yeah, people die, in ways exceedingly grisly. And if that alone is enough to make you want to see a movie ... hey, Merry Christmas!

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

Wolf Creek (Dimension Films) Starring Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi, Nathan Phillips, John Jarratt. Written and directed by Greg McLean. Rated R. Time 99 minutes.

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