The horror sequel is a much-maligned breed of film. Horror sequels must walk a fine line between respecting the original and breaking new and horrifying ground. Good horror sequels, and there are precious few of them, progress the franchise narrative, or at the very least the mythos. The lion’s share of sequels simply stir around the original formula, add some new faces (fodder for the killing machine), and some more elaborate death sequences. Which category – good sequel or bad sequel – Wolf Creek 2 falls in depends primarily on how you define progress. If you define progress as bigger scares, prepare to be disappointed. If you count progress as a much faster pace and higher body count, then Wolf Creek 2 is right up your alley.
2005’s Australian shocker Wolf Creek was an ugly and methodical film. It was also a startlingly effective one. It told the story of three friends road tripping through the Australian Outback who run afoul of Mick Taylor (John Jarratt), a serial killer who stalks, tortures, and kills his prey. The film took the time to get to know its protagonists before putting them through the meat grinder. Mick doesn’t show up until over an hour into the film. Wolf Creek 2 does away with the slow burn, replacing it with a bloody game of cat and mouse.
Wolf Creek 2 opens on two bored traffic officers who make the mistake of pulling over Mick Taylor to have a bit of fun with. The sequence goes about how you’d expect. It took the first film an agonizing 80 minutes to finally reach its first kill. The sequel starts the bloodletting less than ten minutes in. The rest of the film follows Mick as he rampages through the Outback. The film’s first act follows two German backpackers, but it doesn’t take long before a well-aimed rifle shot passes the role of victim onto Paul (Ryan Corr), a British student unlucky enough to be driving on the wrong road at the wrong time.
The film moves at such a breakneck pace that there’s little room for luxuries like character development. The film’s leads make good use of the material they’re given. Ryan Corr fills the role of Paul with enough charm, terror, and survivor’s spirit to keep the character from falling completely flat. Jarratt fills the role of Mick with a terrifying combination of manic anger and glee, making him one of the more compelling modern slasher villains. Unfortunately, that’s all he is here: as slasher. In the original, Mick was a vicious wolf in sheep’s clothing. The horror of watching him shed his amiable persona and reveal his inner psychopath is what made that film work. Wolf Creek 2 has no time for Mick’s friendly act. He’s one nasty bastard from beginning to end.
Wolf Creek 2 is bigger than the original in nearly every regard, and that’s precisely the reason why it’s not as scary. 2005’s Wolf Creek was uncomfortably realistic. The violence was unflinching and on a scale that was small enough to make you believe that something like this could really happen. Mick Taylor wasn’t a spirit or escaped mental patient, he was someone you could meet on the side of the road, and that was terrifying. In this film, Mick’s rampage tears across the Outback with such madness that any semblance of realism is left dead and twitching by the side of the road. Mick’s lair has evolved into a full-blown torture dungeon, complete with underground trap maze. Car chases gleefully plow through stampeding herds of CGI Kangaroos. This time around, there’s no confusing the film with real life.
While the sequel leaves behind the dirty realism of the original, it picks something up as well: a morbid sense of fun. Wolf Creek was not a film you enjoyed; it was something you experienced. Wolf Creek 2 is not so punishing. The film is bloody and bleak, but it’s peppered with humor and elaborate set pieces that feel more ridiculous than terrifying. If the idea is to spawn a sustainable horror franchise with Mick Taylor at the center, Wolf Creek 2 is a step in the right direction. Mick has evolved into an Australian Freddy Krueger, and the whole of the Outback is his nightmare.
The Verdict: 2 out of 5
Both Wolf Creek films open with the identical messages, warning that some people who venture off Australia’s beaten path are never seen again. Wolf Creek created a mythology out of these disappearances and Wolf Creek 2 seeks to expand on that mythology; in many ways it does. While it is still heinously violent, the film shoots for wider appeal and, for the most part, hits its mark. Wolf Creek was a film that stayed with you, one that you talked about for days. Its sequel is merely entertaining horror fare. The kills are brutal and the action is fast-paced. While horror junkies and fans of the original will surely get their kicks, if they go in expecting the same harrowing ride the original offered, they’ll be disappointed by the sequel’s lack of bite.