Heart of Darkness: Wolf Creek 2

By Dolgopolov, Greg | Metro Magazine, Autumn 2014 | Go to article overview

Heart of Darkness: Wolf Creek 2


Dolgopolov, Greg, Metro Magazine


In Greg McLean's terrifying sequel, we see how the land is neither complicit in the killings nor a source of salvation. Instead, it is a playing field that Mick Taylor and his victims have to navigate and negotiate amid neck-and-neck struggles, writes Greg Dolgopolov.

John Jarratt's Mick Taylor is a straight-out psychopath with a twinkle in his eye. Once we have arrived at this diagnosis, we invariably want an explanation as to why. What led this experienced bushman to become so evil? Was there an inciting moment? Wolf Creek 2's (Greg McLean, 2013) opening scene provides a possible explanation. Sitting concealed by the edge of an outback highway, two cops are waiting for an easy mark. When Mick's hunting truck comes past doing less than the speed limit, they decide to have some fun with the mutton-chopped hick anyway. They chase, harass and ridicule him, then issue him with a ticket as he is 'not from around here'. His response to the offence makes sense--a simple man, humiliated, made to feel like an outsider, bullied by the authorities, will eventually snap. And when he snaps, it is with a high-powered rifle at long range and then with a long knife and then with petrol as he burns the rogue cops alive. We thus come to understand Mick as a psychopath with an anti-authoritarian cause. We also better comprehend his love-hate relationship with backpackers--his source of company, succour and perverted entertainment --whom he sees as having a similar 'outsider' status and, thus, as deserving of the same treatment he had received. Mick is all about equal opportunity.

At the beginning of Wolf Creek 2, we are informed that the film is 'based on actual events'. Even for such a highly charged genre flick, it is hard to deny that events such as the ones we witness have resonances in reality and, more importantly, in our mythological perception of the outback. McLean cites the case of serial killer Ivan Milat as being a rich source of material, (1) and there are indeed striking similarities between Mick and Milat--particularly their shared hatred for backpackers and their wiliness, bushcraft and apparent joviality. Clearly, the Wolf Creek franchise is not being sponsored by Tourism Australia. But in a curious twist, instead of scaring tourists away, the movie is having the opposite effect: travellers are going out of their way to visit the remote Wolfe Creek Crater, 150 kilometres from the Halls Creek township. (2) Tourist operators don't bother mentioning that the majority of the filming took place in South Australia's Flinders Ranges. (3)

The first part of the film follows a young German couple (Shannon Ashlyn and Philippe Klaus) who are backpacking around Australia. Their arrival at Wolf Creek does not feel ominous in quite the same way as that of the schoolgirls in Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 1975)--while it is overwhelming and desolate, the landscape does not seem threatening. Lacking their own transport, the backpackers set up camp in the bush. Their intimacies in the tent are sweet and seemingly private. But that all changes when Mick rocks up to give them a friendly warning that they are in breach of the national park's regulations. When he offers to help them out, we quickly realise that his charm conceals the duplicity of hospitality. The death by stabbing, then decapitation, of the young German chap is gruesome, but the dismemberment (it's worth highlighting that when Mick fillets a body, he keeps all the parts --especially the male member) is particularly vile as his girlfriend is forced to watch. From an international-relations perspective, however, it is pleasing that, throughout this ordeal, there is no evidence that Mick hates Germans these kids just happen to be available as objects on which he can play out his perversions.

Mick is nothing if not game and he is always up for a chase, even in the dark. When the woman escapes into the bush, Mick gets down and dirty, chasing her in his truck. …

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