There is not one wolf in the film. But that doesn't mean there ain't no predator and prey.

Three friends: Ben, Lizzie and Kirsty are off on a hedonistic tour across the Australian outback. It's a pleasant enough trip, despite the usual country hicks making fun of them. Upon visiting the second largest asteroid crater in the world they ponder whether or not the rock was drawn to that part of the earth. What is it about the endless, lifeless desert? Why do so many people hike out to the middle of nowhere just to see it? Maybe they like feeling small and insignificant when compared to the infinite space above and the ominous desert around them. Such existential speculation is about to come back and bite them in the ass.

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Satisfied with their viewing of a big hole, they decide to crack on with the trip. But when they get back to the car it mysteriously won't start. By now they are getting a little freaked out, but relax somewhat when a Crocodile Dundee-type hickster comes along and offers them a tow back to his ranch, where he will fix their car for free.

At this point Wolf Creek drastically begins to resemble House Of 1000 Corpses, Wrong Turn and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The hickster's compound turns out to be a torture dungeon/mass murder burial ground. There are rotting bodies everywhere and the hickster is into Ed Gein-style rape and dismemberment.

Each of the three victims gets their own segment, in which they try to escape. I'll admit that this is the strongest part of the film, with some genuine moments of gut-wrenching tension and chills and brutal gore, but the victims make such dumb decisions that you'll more than likely be overcome with anger at their stupidity. You just know that they're gonna end up dead meat. And you just know that any kindly bystander that offers help is gonna buy the farm, too. So much of this will be the usual routine for horror fans. The hickster happens to be just as indestructible as any other slasher killer you may be familiar with and the psychotic country bumpkin thing is certainly nothing new.

Despite turning genre cliches on their heads and reversing expectations a few times, Wolf Creek is a dunderheaded exercise in routine horror. It takes ages to get going and doesn't add up to much in the end. But for a good bit, in the middle, the film delivers enough excitement to make it worthwhile.

However, I am glad that there are people out there who are ready and willing to make a non PG-13 rated horror, despite the end result being somewhat a disappointment.

Oh and it's NOT a true story, despite what the narrative and over-zealous ad campaign suggests. It's loosely based on separate real events, but has as much truth to it as Braveheart II.

Reviewed on: 16 Sep 2005
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Backpackers go looking for hedonism in the Aussie outback... and find horror.
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Anton Bitel ****

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Sundance 2005

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