Exploitation films rarely look this awesome – Australians know their genre stuff – but Wolf Creek 2 is a sad throwback to the bad old days of torture porn.
I defy you to name a great horror film that features a severed penis. Well, aside from Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover. I have seen many weird films in my day, and I have seen my share of severed penises (what a strange thought), and I’m having trouble thinking of a film that the introduction of a severed penis drastically improved the movie. In Wolf Creek 2, the film’s villain butchers and cuts up an innocent German tourist in the back of this flatbed truck, and he briefly waves around the man’s manhood. It’s gross and unnerving in a gut-wrenching kind of way. If that scene seems appealing to you, then, by all means, have at Wolf Creek 2.
The original Wolf Creek, to remind readers, was released in 2005, right during the height of the unfortunate trend in horror known as torture porn. Thanks to the Saw movies, horror had taken a particularly painful edge, wherein protagonists would not face their fears, but would be prodded, eaten, and tortured for the entire length of the film, often being murdered. One can easily see now that torture porn movies were a reflection of a national anxiety about U.S. prison camps, but at the time, they seemed gratuitous and blunt. Aside from their immediate visceral ickiness, the genre offered little in the way of insight or even actual fear.
Greg McIean’s Wolf Creek 2 is far more graceful than its forebear, and is certainly more professional. Both films are Australian productions, and Aussies know their genre material better than almost anyone. They can shoot blood, car crashes, and monsters better than just about anyone (the Italians may have them barely beat). As such, the car chases, the car crashes, the practical gore effects, and the variety of horrors is rich, colorful, and awesome to behold. The film’s villain, Mick Taylor (played again by John Jarratt) is a gleefully sadistic supercriminal whose propensity for violence and joy in iniquity can rival some of the best movie slashers. He’s Freddy Krueger with stubble and a beer habit. He also has the slashers’ ability to teleport to where the story needs him, often appearing on the road many miles ahead of where he was mere minutes before.
The film follows Mick as he murders just about everyone who pisses him off, mostly non-Aussie foreigners. In the film’s most entertaining scene, he quizzes a victim on Australian history, offering to cut off a finger for every missed answer.
But for all the appeal of the visuals and the entertaining sadism of the main character, Wolf Creek 2 still sadly comes up empty, mean-spirited, and even a little morally irresponsible. It’s a depiction of bloody horror without function, purpose, or even general dramatic thrust. The goal of the movie is not to explore fear or tell a story, but make you squirm in your seat. This kind of grindhouse appeal can be enough for some audiences, but I sometimes require more of a statement to be made other than “It hurts when outback psychopaths stab you a bunch.”