Director: Greg Mclean (2005)
Starring: Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi, Nathan Phillips, John Jarratt
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US
Torture porn is a phrase, as a rule, you won't see much of down in the Review Hole. Us horror fans get enough bad press without the implication that we're "getting off" on said torture, our hands fiddling about in us grundies as an Eastern European crook sticks a hook up some poor girl's nose. Torture has its place in cinema, but for me, it can't just be there for the sake of it. I'm generally quite uninteresting in watching torture guff unless there's some overriding point, rhyme or reason for it. Either throw in a good storyline (Martyrs), do it well (Takashi Miike) or torture Danny Dyer (Severance). Otherwise, I'm not interested. We'll just have another Grotesque, Hostel or - BeJebus Forgive - Craptivity on our hands. Nice as torture is, it wears its welcome out fast.
Wolf Creek was amongst the first of the modern lot to do torture. But that didn't stop it from feeling like something we'd seen a hundred times before. Mostly because there's next to no storyline there. Liz, Christie and Ben are backpacking through the Australian outback when they become stranded at the eponymous Wolf Creek. Stereotypical Ozzie bushman Mick Taylor finds them and offers the unlucky youths a lift back to his camp. Before you can make a racist joke about Fosters, shrimps or barbies, he's strung the three of them up and makes busy with the torture.
Like an evil Crocodile Dundee, Mick locks poor Ben up in a shed (torturing guys mustn't do it for him), ties up the girls (not very thoroughly in Liz's case) and sends the phrase "head on a stick" tumbling into the modern horror lexicon. It's unremittingly grim stuff. The movie's first hour lets you get to really know and like its protagonists. Then, when Mick Taylor arrives, it spends the remainder of the running time bullying the shit out of them. They even have the the cheek of making the most annoying character (bloody Ben) be their only survivor.
Having Ben survive feels like a move designed to infuriate. And not just because Nathan Phillips is a really irritating actor (see the similar but far superior Dying Breed for Phillipsness at its worst), but rather because he really doesn't deserve to survive. He completely disappears for all of the horror scenes, bypassing his share of the torture and violence. I'm no feminist, but it really does feel like the movie is as uninterested in watching Ben as Mick is in torturing him. That said, I get the feeling. I'm completely uninterested in Wolf Creek. The first hour is pretty dull, whilst everything post-Mick is dull in an entirely different way. It's a very self-consciously provocative move for a very self-consciously provocative movie.
So see gentle readers, here we can see why the term "torture porn" - especially when applied to a movie such as Wolf Creek - is an inaccurate and silly one. After all, pornography titillates, not encourages an early bedtime. Wolf Creek is dull, smug, humourless and cruel in a very artificial sort of way. Well made and directed as it is, it's one of the most overrated horror movies of the past ten years. Like Haute Tension and The Devil's Rejects, it's a movie I've rewatched and tried to 'get' many a time. And repeatedly I've found myself unable to get past the pointlessness of it all, blinded by the grotty cinematics and almost banal violence.
Up Wolf Creek without a paddle, if you will JOKE DELETED FOR CRIMES AGAINST HUMOUR.