As a horror sequel – and, possibly, the second entry in an ongoing horror franchise – Wolf Creek 2’s job is rather different from that of the first film. Wolf Creek spent altogether too long introducing its characters/victims, and slowly building tension, before introducing Outback madman and evil Crocodile Dundee counterpart, Mick Taylor, at which point, its beats set up, it played out in very dark and violent horror fashion, leading to one of the most effective and memorable horrors of the last decade, if not reaching the commercial heights of, say, Saw.
Wolf Creek 2, as a horror sequel, doesn’t have to introduce its villain, and indeed it doesn’t; the film cold opens with a very entertaining, totally irrelevant to the rest of the plot, skit in which Mick Taylor has an encounter with two highway patrolmen which goes about as well as one might expect. If we look at the first films in many long-running horror franchises – A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Saw, Halloween, even Alien or Jaws – their villains are dark, mysterious presences; but, in the transition from standalone horror to franchise, the villain becomes the main draw and moves from antagonist to, effectively, protagonist, and this is why Wolf Creek 2 opens with Mick Taylor, and takes about another forty minutes after that to even decide who its main good guy is. It doesn’t even matter who its main good guy is; the film’s main job is to reposition Mick Taylor from one-time antagonist to ongoing horror icon. I’d say that in most respects, it does a fantastic job. The only horror villain of the past decade who has been remotely as fantastic as Mick Taylor is, I would say, Michael Parks’ deranged preacher in Red State, and that’s not a film I can see turning into a franchise.
Mick can only be as good a villain, of course, as the actor portraying him can command, and John Jarratt’s reprise of his rôle here puts even his performance in the first film in the shade. He’s magnificent, funny, confident; he even manages to be likable while torturing backpackers and killing cops. It’s all in the bloke’s bloke swagger and humour. The humour is important here; we’re having fun with the character, and Wolf Creek 2 takes itself far less seriously than the first did. The first film was quite astonishingly dark, actually, with a brutality and an absence of winking-ness that made it feel more like something from the late 70s or early 80s than the 00s. The brutality is still on display here, but Wolf Creek 2 is one of the winking-est films I’ve ever seen, which I must admit became too much for me in the first half, with an absurd sequence involving a troop of kangaroo, an eighteen-wheeler, and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. It, and some other moments during the first half of the film, display a sense of humour which can only be described as “derp”.
The second half of the film, from when we enter Mick’s torture den onwards, more than makes up for it. I can honestly say that the second half of Wolf Creek 2 is one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen, and utterly blows the first one out of the water. For the most part, it’s a simple torture sequence, but with a fantastic added twist that takes what could have been a gory, torture porn-ish sequence, and turns it into a dialogue-led psycho-thriller, and one with plenty of black humour at that. It’s almost Pinteresque. I have to say, also, that credit has to go here to Ryan Corr as the victim in that sequence, who is believably terrified, yet at the same time, resourceful, charming, even funny – he never tries to overshadow Jarratt’s Mick for charisma though. It’s one of those rare and fortunate moments in cinema that you can say a particular sequence was just perfect, and while the film as a whole was far from perfect, its second half was still enough for me to say that this is one of the best horrors of the 10s.