I know I am pretty darn late to the party with this movie, but it’s worth discussing regardless. I’ve been on the fence about this movie for awhile. It seems to be the type of movie that people have strong reactions to. People either hate it or love it. As a general rule when a horror movie divides audiences like that I tend to fall on the hate side of things. That being said, a few movies have surprised me so I thought why not.
I think part of the reason why people have such a visceral reaction to this movie is because it leads you into a false sense of security. At least half of the movie is simply spent following the main three characters around. There are a few bumps along the way, but for the most part you are watching a vacation flick. Then once they meet the killer the crawl is still rather slow. Liz wakes up and sees her friend Kristy being tormented by Mick the killer. Nothing he does is over the top however, and they make a fairly quick escape. At this point the film feels more like a thriller than anything else. Maybe a slightly darker thriller than say your mom and dad are used to, but still more thriller than horror. Liz and Kristy are trying to escape and go through a number of scenarios to pull this off. It’s not until the movie has less than half an hour left before it becomes the “gore porn” I was expecting.
Staring with the attack on Liz things movie quickly and violently. Mick begins to mentally and physically torture the group. It’s raw, heart wrenching, graphic, and non stop. In addition to the slow build up I was also not expecting the movie to get so graphic because it’s 2005. While I was prepared for gore porn, in the last decade movies have really kicked it up. What would have seemed over the top and graphic in 2005 would pale in comparison to movies today. Not the case with Wolf Creek, despite it’s age this is actually one of the most “awful” movies I’ve ever seen.
While I can’t say that I liked this movie I do have to say it surprised me. The build up to a final intense climax works very well. I’ve ranted on this particular choice with horror movies before. It’s extremely easy to do wrong, and even when done right doesn’t always guarantee success. Wolf Creek does it very effectively. The end of this movie is agonizing, and while the start is not amazing it’s solid enough to carry you through to that moment. Ramping up so drastically also works well. If you are going to have a very slow climb to the climax that climax needs to make a massive impact, and in this case it does.
The other factor about this movie for me is that it really plays with my expectations. Being a horror fan I’ve seen a large number of horror films in my lifetime. There are certain expectations that one has when going into this type of film, and Wolf Creek effectively turns them on their head. I spent the entire movie assuming that Liz was going to be put in a final girl like role just as one example. Now it’s easy to say that because it’s a foreign made horror film that my expectations were sure to be wrong, but that’s not always the case. I’ve seen a number of foreign horror films that do follow the more standard American “rules”, especially with the slasher genre. I can’t tell if the movie is brilliant or just simply not American.
In spite of all this I am still on the fence. I can certainly see why a lot of people hated it. It gets very violent unexpectedly, and I tend to dislike gore porn (this is no exception). Yet it does so some rather clever things and made a hell of an impression. I tend to believe that it’s more unforgivable when a horror movie is boring than when it’s bad, and this one is not boring. To my surprise I am not able to pick a camp between the love it and hate it people… I am truly on the fence about it.
I would say that any horror fans that have avoided it for whatever reason should really give it a chance. While it won’t ever be my favorite (not even top 10), it’s worth a watch for fans of the genre.