Review first published by Grolsch FilmWorks
“You take this piece of shit back to town, and then you get the fuck back where you came from! I don’t ever want to see your ugly mug back here again, you understand?”
The speaker is Gary Bulmer Jnr (Shane Connor), a Senior Sergeant serving the northern hinterland of Western Australia. Bored while out on patrol duty, he and his colleague Constable Brian O’Connor (Ben Gerard) pull over a utility truck on a trumped up speeding charge, and take sadistic glee in giving the non-local driver hell over the condition of his vehicle. What they however do not know – and we do – is that their cruel fun is being executed in the opening sequence of a sequel, Wolf Creek 2, and that their target is Mick Taylor (John Jarratt), the rape-happy bogeyman of Greg McLean’s first film, horrifically efficient with both the hunting knife and the high-powered rifle that we have already seen sitting in his truck’s cabin.
In this prologue, wide lensing shows off to good effect the vast, dry landscape into which people can so easily disappear forever (remember, both films are named after a giant crater that forms a geological analogy for the big holes that Mick leaves in the narratives of others passing through) – and this sequel is generally notable for the far broader ambitions of its sheer spectacle, as hunter and quarry circle each other in a far greater variety of outback environments than were ever seen in the first film.
Yet what is even more striking about the opening sequence is its moral inversion of the first film’s norms. Anyone who has seen Wolf Creek knows that Mick – a self-styled “pig shooter and general fuckin’ outback legend” – represents a monstrous subversion of the Crocodile Dundee-type bushman, luring foreigners in not so much for their tourist dollar as for the opportunity that they offer to mutilate, maraud and murder. Yet here, momentarily at least, he is presented as both outsider and victim, before he inevitably turns the bloody tables on these two coppers and goes back to what he does best – shooting pigs (both literal and metaphorical) and picking off tourists for his own errant pleasures. The point is that although Mick certainly represents a nightmarish extreme, he is also figured in this introduction as very much the product of his environment. After all, the xenophobia, insularity and cocky macho swagger which drive Mick’s actions are also shared by the local law enforcement.
So as we watch Mick invade the campsite of German couple Katerina and Rutger (Shannon Ashlyn, Philippe Klaus), or play Road Games with ‘Pommie’ traveller Paul (Ryan Corr), we are also witnessing a discourse on Australia’s passive-aggressive attitudes to the outside world, at a time when the nation is woefully mistreating refugees, closing its borders to immigrants, and enacting the kind of racist isolationism of which Mick could only approve. Pointedly appearing near the film’s end, the phrase ‘permanent resident’ encodes a status of naturalisation that is the holy grail for those hoping to move to the ‘lucky country’ – yet here it is grimly ironised to reflect the insanity of Australia’s current policy on its foreign guests. Ultimately Paul gets asylum alright, but perhaps not the kind that he was seeking.
“What’s wrong with you people?” Rutger will ask when a driver refuses to stop for hitchhikers in the desert. “What the fuck’s wrong with this place?”, Paul will echo when a vehicle ignores his attempts to flag it down. Yet later Mick will teach Paul “the first rule of the outback… you never, ever stop.” Nor for that matter does the film, hurtling along at a breakneck pace as its cat-and-mouse thrills unfold. Even the ending, a prolonged game of wits hinging, significantly, on questions of Australia’s colonial history and identity, is lent great tension by the (fulfilled) promise of dismemberment for the loser. Sniggering and snorting his way through endless acts of depravity with avuncular relish, Jarratt makes his self-reliant Mick utterly loathsome yet also – more disconcertingly – very funny. For beyond all the abuse and butchery, it is Mick’s highly qualified lovableness – his affable-seeming blokiness – that is the source of the film’s true horror, as we catch ourselves laughing, however briefly, with the most appalling kind of Antipodean bigotry.
“Welcome to Australia, cocksucker!” Mick will exclaim as he ploughs down kangaroos in the semi-trailer which he has murderously requisitioned in his pursuit of Paul. Like Wake In Fright (1971) before it, Wolf Creek 2 both deconstructs and perpetuates the myth of boorishly ugly hospitality Down Under, creating a monster who is a distorted yet recognisable part of the Australian character (especially in the current political climate). There are more decent locals to be found in McLean’s film too, but against the likes of Mick they never stand a chance. In ‘Liberal’ Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Australia, after all, there is little room for moderation.