Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Texas Chainsaw 3D has us thinking about “real horror” movies.
Wolf Creek (2005)
One of a surprisingly distinguished list of films to get an “F” from the CinemaScore polling outfit—Steven Soderbergh’s Solaris, Killing Them Softly, Bug, and The Box are others—the Australian horror film Wolf Creek was released on Christmas Day in 2005, and proceeded to piss in the eggnog. In a rare zero-star review, Roger Ebert likened it to a carnival sideshow performer who bites the heads off chickens (“No fun for us, no fun for the guy, no fun for the chicken.”). Taking a page or nine from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, writer-director Greg McLean covers the “true story” of three young thrill-seekers who get kidnapped, tortured, and worse by a “bumpkin”-type in the Outback. And much like its classic predecessor, its crudeness is deliberate and highly skilled.
Set near Wolf Creek National Park, home to a giant crater created by a meteorite, the film takes its time establishing the interplay between two British tourists (Cassandra Magrath and Kestie Morassi) and their Australian friend (Nathan Phillips) before bringing a local (John Jarratt) in for the kill. McLean doesn’t go too deep into Jarratt’s psyche, but he exploits a natural tension between condescending city-folk and their rural counterparts, and inserts a sliver of wit here and there, like a moment when Jarratt appropriates the most famous line from Crocodile Dundee. Like other “real horror” films, Wolf Creek operates without a safety net, offering no assurances that the torment will end with good triumphing over evil. In an age where thousands can get wiped out in a single digital effect, the film counters with the raw desperation and anguish of just a few in peril, and aims purposefully to disturb and repulse. It’s a reminder that real horror and evil exists in the world, and needn’t always be processed as entertainment.
Availability: DVD and Blu-ray, the former touting a special “unrated edition,” which is movie-ese for “bilk you suckers for more money.”