51) Wolf Creek (2005) Dir: Greg Mclean Date Released: December 2005 Date Seen: February 12, 2010 Rating: 2.75/5
It's fitting that filmmaker and genre enthusiast Mark Hartley (Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!) is quick to point to young Aussie writer/director Greg Mclean as the leader of a non-existent resurgence in "Ozploitation" cinema. Mclean's Wolf Creek exploits the exoticism of its outback setting so mercilessly that he sucks the terror out of his sporadically gripping slasher film at almost every turn. Wolf Creek guilelessly announces the fetishistic nature of its kind of nationalism in a type-set prologue that rattles off statistics about how many people go missing without a trace every year in Australia. This is the first sign that we're not in the land of Beck's and Crocodile Dundee. The second is not coincidentally also the film's second most memorable variation on the unwritten Mad Libs slasher formula: Mick Taylor (Jed Jarett), its Bowie knife-wielding, wide-brim hat-wearing bushman killer. He refuses to be pigeonholed by the film's trio of giggly, punch-drunk and gratingly acquiescent young things he stalks and tortures over the course of the film. Mick spits back "Now this is a knife," when he's got one of them good and cornered but earlier on is more than content to obliviously babble endlessly about how to kill 'roos and pigs, joking that it has to be done, just like killing tourists. This out-of-work, down-on-his-luck sadist is as Australian as a vegemite sandwich but don't antagonize him by saying so or else you'll vanish like all the other statistics.
That kind of brainless self-othering is frankly more than a little tedious. We're meant to jump to the same conclusions as the ill-fated tourists because, well, the shoe fits and Mick walks, talks, stabs and drives around like a murderous Dundee look-alike. Mclean panders to foreigners and then punishes their onscreen proxies for making the simple mistake of connecting the dots. Unlike the hillbillies in The Devil's Rejects, Rob Zombie's superior contemporary grindhouse throwback, Mick never convincingly reveals his persona to be a sarcastic mirror of the assumptions that are projected onto him. He is genuinely affronted when Ben Mitchell (Nathan Phillips), the one native among the young victim and hence naturally the sole survivor, mentions that he reminds the group of Paul Hogan's benevolent macho. He's not even a semi-thoughtful manifestation of foreigners' loaded, naively sleazy dreams of the land down under. He's just a nasty tourist trap.