Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek is probably among the best "slasher movies" of the past 10-15 years, which isn't enough to actually make it worth recommending.

Part of the problem is, I'm not sure what a "slasher movie" is. Everyone says it as if it means something or means something that everyone understands as the same, but I don't think that's true at all.

I suspect part of the reason is that it was coined as a pejorative and holds that ring in most people's ear. I had a conversation with someone with generally decent taste who liked horror movies and even gory movies, but hadn't seen either The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or Halloween because they were "just slasher movies". It was during that conversation that I realized I don't know what it means.


Is it any story that focuses on a psychopathic killer with a blade weapon who kills multiple people? Should he also be dismissing Psycho and Peeping Tom as "just slasher movies"?

Is it any story that exists only to line up a group of young people for the slaughter? Since it clearly roots in pejorative, what if it has more to say but still uses that structure? What if there is no slashing involved? Does it have to be gory? Do they have to be teenagers? What genres lie on the outside?

Without those answers, I wouldn't be able to say what the best "slasher movie" on the last 10-15 years is.

It could be Scream if that counts, despite its more post-modern and satiric intentions. Honestly, despite a recent onslaught, I'm not looking at a lot of competition. High Tension is probably the best directed, but is brutally marred by its ridiculous ending. Honestly, to my best recollection, the best movie I'm confident is a "slasher movie" from that period is Wrong Turn, which I can't say is more than just "pretty good".

Wolf Creek is serviceable in general. I respected the fact that it made an attempt at developing the characters before the action got started. Unfortunately, the two women were scripted without any differences until well after the ordeal began. I know, we were constantly told that Kristy was an organization Nazi, but that was not demonstrated by her actions even once. Aside from their appearance, they were indistinguishable until they were attacked. Ultimately, even House of Wax made the attempt to develop the characters before the bloodletting began. I'm not sure how many points I'm willing to dole out for the mere attempt.

I thought they missed an opportunity to really capture the vast emptiness of the Australian Outback, but it didn't feel any more isolated than the original The Hills Have Eyes, which was in a much, much smaller area of isolation. I didn't much notice the cinematography except the same over-reliance on that vague blue tint that every cheap horror movie of the last decade has relied on.

In the end, the script relies on us to believe that the otherwise smart and self-reliant Liz character would feel that two whacks on the back were a killing blow of some sort and yet still believe she's smart and/or self-reliant. It all leads into a anticlimax of such vast proportions as to be ridiculous.

In fact, the climax is not only bad, but would seem to prove the kinds of misogyny charges that horror movie makers and fans have to fight so often. I suspect this was more laziness than misogyny, but it was an irresponsible kind of laziness.

And all of this makes it sound like I hated it more than I did. The actors did a good job, despite the script, especially John Jarratt as the killer. Except at the ending, the pacing was excellent. Like I said, one of the best "slasher movies" of the last 10-15 years.

Just not really good enough to recommend.

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