Face-Off: Wolf Creek vs. Wolf Creek 2

Earlier this month, a six episode mini-series continuation of the WOLF CREEK franchise hit the Australian streaming service Stan. While we wait to hear how fans without a Stan subscription might be able to watch the series, I thought this would be a good time to look back on the two films that are readily available around the world, Greg McLean's 2005 directorial debut WOLF CREEK and the sequel he made eight years later, fittingly titled WOLF CREEK 2.
The characters we follow into the Australian outback, and into the territory of serial killer Mick Taylor, are a trio of young friends on a three week road trip: British girls Kristy and Liz and their Australian pal Ben, who Liz has a crush on and is ready to reciprocate those feelings when she reveals them. They're a fun-loving group, and McLean spends a lot of time focusing on their interactions so the audience can connect with them.
We start off with Rutger and Katarina, a German couple backpacking through the outback while Rutger tries to figure out his life. They're sweet in love and it's quite endearing to see how much enjoyment Katarina gets out of the locations they visit. They eventually make way for British tourist Paul, a hapless would-be hero who ends up trying to survive by telling Mick jokes and playing a game of Australian trivia with him.
He's a bit eccentric, but Mick Taylor is actually an entertaining, somewhat charming guy when he first meets the tourists. He lures them in with a promise to help them with their car troubles, but the pleasantries and chuckles go away when he binds and tortures his guests for his own amusement. He's a sleazy sadist and so capable at what he does that it can be infuriating. Mick is a fantastic horror villain, and John Jarratt's performance is incredible.
Jarratt slipped back into the character with ease, and Mick is still having a lot of fun as he continues to decimate the people who cross his path. He doesn't do much charming this time, he barely tries to conceal his evil, it comes to the surface quite quickly. In fact, Mick strays close to going too far over-the-top here. The way he's constantly cackling while doing terrible things is reminiscent of a late in the franchise Freddy Krueger.
The violence starts late, but when it flares up it is brutal. There are beatings, stabbings, finger choppings, gunshot wounds, car crash, crucifixion... And everything else seems like nothing compared to one particular act of violence that Mick calls "making a head on a stick".
There's violence right up front in the sequel, and it's turned up to 11 throughout. People are stabbed, blown up, dismembered, decapitated, heads are blown apart, fingers removed, and we see it all in gory detail. Not even a troop of kangaroos is safe from Mick, he mows them down in a semi truck.
WOLF CREEK gets off to a slow start, building a creepy vibe as the tourists get deeper into the outback, meeting odd locals and telling stories of UFO activity in the middle of nowhere. It helps us bond with the characters and creates a feeling of unease, but seems slightly too long. We may not want to see the tourists get hurt, but that's sort of what we're watching it for, so the fact that we don't meet Mick until nearly 40 minutes in and don't see him do anything villainous until almost the hour mark gives the feeling that some things could have been trimmed.
There is very little beating around the bush in WOLF CREEK 2. McLean knows why we came back for a sequel, he knows how the audience reacted to Mick Taylor the first time around, so he gives us Mick committing acts of violence early and often. We do spend some time with Rutger and Katarina, but after 15 minutes give or take Mick is back in the picture and the film is non-stop action, suspense, terror, and torture from that point on. Rather than go for another slow burn, McLean delivered a sequel that is a harrowing, relentless thrill ride.
The tourists have some fun banter and Mick is somewhat amusing at times, but for the most part this is one bleak, dead serious film. When Mick reveals his true nature, it becomes absolutely horrifying and features a moment so appalling and unnerving that it instantly earns a place in the horror hall of infamy. This is a rough, frustrating film to endure.
The violence is still brutal and Mick is still a despicable scumbag, but WOLF CREEK 2 has a much livelier tone than its predecessor and a heavy dose of absurd humor. With things like the aforementioned kangaroo scene or a moment where Mick is chopping up a body while listening to "I Fall to Pieces", you're not meant to take this one so seriously.
WOLF CREEK and its sequel are both great films, and they're different enough that horror fans seem to be split on which one is the superior viewing experience. While I would say that WOLF CREEK 2 is more entertaining in several ways, when it comes down to it I have to give the edge to the first movie and its darker, more horrific approach to the story of Mick Taylor.

Which WOLF CREEK do you prefer? Or do you not like either of them? Share your thoughts on these films by leaving a comment below, and if you've watched the mini-series feel free to discuss that as well. If you have any ideas for future Face-Offs, I would be glad to hear your suggestions. You can contact me at [email protected].



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