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‘Wolf Creek’ is Frighteningly Good
November 10, 2017  | By David Hinckley  | 3 comments

The Wolf Creek horror series has a dirty little secret: Sometimes in life, the bad guys win.

That may or may not be the case in the six-part Wolf Creek miniseries that became available Thursday on AMC’s streaming network Shudder.

It was definitely true in the popular 2005 and 2013 Wolf Creek movies, where serial killer Mick Taylor (John Jarratt, top) became one of those seemingly indestructible on-screen psychopaths who was always one lethal step ahead of victims and would-be avengers.

“Mick represents all the repressed evils of modern society,” says Greg McLean, who created the series and has directed most of it. “He’s all the things we pretend don’t exist in a PC world, compressed into one horrific figure.

“And that’s scary.”

In the Shudder miniseries, which ran in Australia and on the Pop network last year, Taylor kills a family of American tourists on a sightseeing trip in a remote corner of Australia.

Except he doesn’t kill them all. Teenage daughter Eve Thorogood (Lucy Fry, left) survives. Sometimes working with, and sometimes working around, Police Detective Sullivan Hill (Dustin Clare), she sets out for revenge.

The hunt becomes tense, with blurry lines between cat and mouse.

“We basically made a revenge Western story,” says McLean. “But with different twists. Because it’s six hours instead of the two hours you’d have in a movie, we get to explore different characters and get into more of Mick’s story.”

Unlike other death-resistant horror movie figures like Freddy, Jason, or Michael Myers, Mick isn’t a grotesque monster who appears out of nowhere brandishing a lethal weapon. He’s closer to the bloke next door.

“He’s actually an engaging guy,” notes McLean. “He gets his victims to trust him and even like him. He’s clever with words, and he’s got a good sense of humor. He says things that would be very funny if he weren’t killing someone at the same time.”

Truth is, says McLean, “He’s a guy who likes what he’s doing. He enjoys his work.”

Which makes him all the more frightening.

“My original idea for Wolf Creek was to take familiar heroic characters and turn them on their head,” says the Australian-born McLean. “Mick is Crocodile Dundee turned inside out.”

He created Mick, he says, with the hope he could become an ongoing character, and a second TV series is set to air in Australia next month. At the same time, McLean says Mick will not overstay his welcome.

“I already have an endpoint in mind,” he says. “John and I don’t want to go into ‘Mick in Space’ territory, where things just get silly. When we don’t have something that feels new and different, we’ll wrap it up.

“It’s always better to do a couple of great ones and end it because if you do crappy ones, that kind of diminishes what you did before.”

Although the success of Wolf Creek has branded McLean as a horror director, his latest film, Jungle, explores survival in a wilderness where the adversaries are not maniacal killers.

“I come from an arts background,” he notes. “I enjoy all genres. I like drama and fantasy, too.”

That said, he has no regrets about focusing on horror, and he thinks the form deserves more respect than it often gets.  

“Horror isn’t just one genre,” he says. “Some horror stories are artistic and thoughtful. Some just set out to be entertaining. I like them all. You can enjoy Sharknado 5, and you can enjoy Hitchcock.

“But because most people think of horror only in terms of exploitation films, it’s harder to get recognition when someone makes an intelligent horror film.

“Many of them are wonderfully well-made. I’m hoping that perhaps It will win some awards. That would be a lift.”

McLean notes that he visits different horror genres within the Wolf Creek series. .

“For the first movie, we reverted to exploitation,” he says. “This can create misogynistic elements, but we tried to flip that to make it surprising.

“It did use graphic horror. But then the second film had much less because now viewers know what Mick can do, so we don’t have to see him actually do it. There are things people only think they’re seeing.”

Here, too, less is more. “We didn’t have any restrictions on what we could show,” McLean says. “But we didn’t want to overdo it. When that happens, you diminish the impact.”

One thing that didn’t make any difference, McLean adds, was moving from film to television.

“There’s no difference today between doing a TV series and making a film,” he says. “You have to do both to the same level of quality.”

And in either one, the bad guys can win.

AMC hasn’t made any announcement yet about whether the second Wolf Creek TV series will be shown on Shudder, which offers a regular menu of thrillers, suspense and horror films, and has been moving into imports and original programming.

[Footnote: For older viewers who remember Mick Taylor as the British blues guitarist who played with the Rolling Stones, McLean says it’s unlikely Wolf Creek’s Mick Taylor will end up there. “At this point,” he says, “it would be a tricky transition.”]

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Maureen Barrens
Really felt your absence when Liz Smith died. She deserved a column by you. Liz understood. All of it. Hope your life is all it should be. M
Nov 15, 2017   |  Reply
Jim Rhoads
I watched Wolf Creek on the POP network and I thought it was a really good series. Production values were very high and they kept the story tight.
Nov 14, 2017   |  Reply
I didn't even know Shudder existed until now and yet a quick search shows it was introduced in 2015!
Nov 14, 2017   |  Reply
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