Warning: The following review contains spoilers. Do not proceed if you are afraid of gruesome murder or finding out plot points.
It seems like the Wolf Creek television series pilot, which airs on Pop on October 14 at 10/9 central, should be considered in two different ways: as a television show that aims to capture the essence of the eponymous cult horror films—which first introduced us to the psychotic Aussie murderer Mick Taylor (John Jarratt, who reprises his role for the TV series)—and as a standalone entity; another television series launching independent of the films. In regards to the first consideration, the Wolf Creek pilot definitely captures the same level of creep as the films (which is to say very high). And as a standalone TV pilot, it seems like a good shot at pleasing horror fans, or anybody who’s into a story of vengeance that burns slow and is marked periodically by horrific murder. It’s sort of like Kill Bill meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
What most fans of the movies probably already know is that they were based on a true story. There was indeed a serial killer in Australia who, in the ’90s, murdered somewhere between seven and twelve backpackers. And while the movies obviously take extensive liberties with the original story, the pilot brings things to the level of, “c’mon now, who would be crazy enough to do that?” This is because the pilot introduces us to our central protagonist—played by Lucy Fry (Vampire Academy, 11.22.63)—a 19-year-old girl named Eve who witnesses her family get murdered in one of the most violent ways imaginable and then decides she’s going to turn around and hunt down the man who killed her family. Oh, and she’s from America, so Australia isn’t even her native country; just where she does her serial-killer hunting. Again, she’s 19.
If you can get past that conceit—and the story tries hard to help the audience with that mainly by emphasizing the fact that her parents were cops—then you get on the ride and enjoy the thrill of the hunter becoming the hunted. (This dynamic doesn’t quite get off the ground in the first episode, but we know where the story’s going.)
After Eve’s family is killed toward the beginning of the story, we’re taken on a long, well-paced trip of her life post familial slaughter, as she develops a friendship with a hunky (but humble?) police officer, Sullivan Hill, who’s played by Dustin Clare (Spartacus: Gods of the Arena). As her friendship with Hill materializes, so too do her feelings of sadness over the loss of her family, and anger toward their killer.
We watch Eve become obsessed with the mysterious man who killed her family, going so far as to attempt to run down a blue truck through the streets—Taylor’s same iconic blue truck from the films—and even chase a man into a strip joint, where she screams out for help before realizing she found the right type of hat, but the wrong guy.
The performances from most of the cast are really solid, with Fry and Clare playing well off each other. The relationship between the two will obviously be critical for the series, and their dynamic doesn’t seem too stilted or overly dramatic. Although it will still be interesting to see what direction Executive Producer Greg McLean—who also wrote and directed the films—takes the impending love story.
The biggest draw for most people who’ve seen the films however, will probably be Jarratt. Expectedly, Jarratt delivers the same Mick Taylor he does in the films—bowie knife and all—although we actually get to delve a bit deeper into his psyche now. We get some black and white flashbacks of him alone, angrily kicking around his shed, drunk as a skunk. It’s obvious he feels pain in the flashbacks though, and it’s interesting to have the story elicit sympathy for a guy who kills entire families and even has a signature technique known as “head on a stick” (this involves one’s spine. ‘Nuff said).
The only real criticism with the show compared to the movie—and this may simply come down to the six-part TV format—is how well we get to know Taylor’s victims before they’re murdered. It seems that a big part of what made the original Wolf Creek unique in the horror genre was the fact that we spent so much with the characters before they were thrown into the serial killer-fueled fire. That first film had roughly an hour of story before we got to the blood and the screaming; this pilot serves up the biggest helping of that horror—the murder of Eve’s family—up front, before we really know them. But odds are, the series will do plenty of flashbacks so we get to know the family better. Which will be great, because then we’ll have Eve’s motivation for going all Beatrix Kiddo on a lunatic locked down, and we can focus on the thrill of the two-way chase.
3 out 5 Burritos from Down Under:
Wolf Creek premieres on Pop TV at 10pm. Are you going to tune in? Let us know in the comments below!
Images: Lionsgate Television