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Wolf Creek

Up The Creek

It seems the latest trend in horror films is to somehow find a way to incorporate some version of the phrase, "based on actual events" into the opening credits. Clearly, there is a school of thought that the inclusion of this phrase inevitably lends credibility to the story and makes the film somehow critic proof. Studio executives must think that ill-conceived plot contrivances and shoddy story construction can be overlooked simply because the film was "based on actual events".

Enter Wolf Creek, the latest horror film to be "based on actual events". The film starts out promisingly enough with some powerful shots of a barren, vacant wasteland that is the Australian outback. A howling wind whistles through the trees further contributing to the profound sense of isolation. If someone gets lost out here, they're pretty much up the creek.

Three light hearted, college aged kids head out on a road trip into this backcountry with plans to hike, camp, and get high (in no particular order). The kids aren't too interesting, but they're not unlikable either. Naturally, things go south shortly into their journey and they find themselves neck deep in a nightmare that will likely claim all of their lives.

The nightmare writer/director Greg McLean unleashes in Wolf Creek admittedly has some genuinely terrifying moments. But, McLean unfortunately stumbles on what is often the Achilles' heel of most horror films: suspending disbelief. The good horror films make the actions of the victims at least vaguely plausible given the circumstances. Wolf Creek is rife with all kinds of decisions the characters make that fall into one of the three following categories: inane, unintuitive, or otherwise just plain stupid.

It becomes increasingly difficult to identify with the characters in Wolf Creek as they continue to make decisions that actually make their situation worse, when they could have easily made a better decision and quickly avoided much of the nightmare they endure.

On the upside, the cast of Wolf Creek is decent. While there isn't much to these road trippers, they seem believably horrified at all the right times. However, the real standout in Wolf Creek is John Jarratt as the quirky but helpful Mick Taylor who pulls a Jekyll and Hyde becoming a sadistic monster after towing the roadtripper's stalled car. Jarratt is convincing as a good Samaritan and an unrelenting sadist.

Unfortunately, the glut of poorly thought out plot contrivances derails what could have been a truly riveting horror film. What happens to the kids ceases to be horrifying when it becomes abundantly clear how easy it would have been for them to escape in the first hour or so of their captivity. Wolf Creek aspires to be The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes, but aspiration is not the same as execution.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars