On Wednesday night, ABC’s show At The Movies decided to not present a televised review of Greg McLean’s locally produced sequel to his 2005 film Wolf Creek.
That David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz chose not to review the film among the four presented on the show is their choice. An interview with McLean and leading actor John Jarratt was provided on their website, and Stratton had earlier reviewed the film for The Australian, giving it two stars.
McLean took to Twitter to express his feelings about the omission from the show, claiming he was ‘curious’ to see their review of Wolf Creek 2, though expressing surprise that they didn’t review it, saying that it was a ‘first’, as if all locally-made films have a right to be reviewed publicly on At The Movies. Jarratt later complained that it was snobbery, and elitist behaviour from Pomeranz and Stratton, saying it’d have a better chance of acknowledgement if it was a subtitled film – again ignoring Stratton’s earlier review of the film.
Jarratt has form for this kind of reaction. After the run of the original film, it was nominated for a large amount of AFI awards (now renamed as the AACTA awards), however Jarratt missed out on a Best Actor nomination. He took to the press over perceived injustice, in a similar fashion to his comments yesterday about the non-review.
Jarratt seems to have lost the plot over his involvement in what is now the Wolf Creek series, claiming hypocrisy from Pomeranz and Stratton, citing their campaigns over the years for the right to screen highly controversial and subversive films. This is ridiculous. The right to see a film is wholly different to the desire to review it. Reviewers are not held to a mandated responsibility on geographically relevant films. To align reviewers with ‘support’ of the local film industry is a fallacy, and Jarratt should really stop complaining about the industry that has provided him with a living.
McLean is different, in that he is clearly seeing this as further promotion for an already heavily promoted film. At The Movies’ decision to not review the film is not censorship, nor snobbery, nor is it remotely controversial. It’s a matter of taste, which is what reviewing essentially is about.
For me, this changes nothing. I see no reason to go and watch Wolf Creek 2, just as I saw no value in my experience of watching the original. Made on a small(ish) budget, and making a healthy profit, Wolf Creek was a horror film of its era. Exploiting its connection to the Ivan Milat backpacker murders, cynically referencing other, greater horror films, and eschewing any meaningful plot development for a lop-sided two-act stream of unrepentant gore, Wolf Creek tapped into the endurance horror experience of the mid-2000s. Not really concerned with scares or terror, McLean crassly showed his audience time and time again what was horrific, forcing the audience to watch torture, as if this was entertainment.
I hated it. I hated everything it aspired to be. But I acknowledge that it’s just my opinion and personal taste. I want more from horror. Actually, no, I just want horror. Wolf Creek wasn’t it.
I don’t try to hide that I despise what has happened to the horror genre in cinema in the last decade, and that I hope we’re through it now and can go back to something that engages the audience and engages story more. Unfortunately McLean seems to be committing the cardinal sin of sequels, in that he’s fallen in love with the hype around the original, and has inflated that aspect for the sequel.
Wolf Creek 2, by McLean’s own admission, is more focused on Jarratt’s character. He’s made the film about the villain – ludicrous for a horror film. The audience knows who this character is, from the beginning, they know what he does and what he likes – so why make him the main character? There is no room for development, no arc, no change. Stories need to show change. Otherwise what do you have? Torture, on screen, for two hours.
Australian cinema has more to offer than this. Horror cinema has more to offer than this. McLean has tried to claim this is his political statement, that the film is thoughtfully commenting on the state of the union in our country. Crap. Layering a mock-nationality test over a torture scene is base, facile reasoning about the world. If McLean really wanted to make a statement about Australian politics, he wouldn’t love his monstrous creation so much. If McLean thinks making two films about torture is tantamount to the Jerilderie Letter, then he’s more of a fool than I thought. He might think this is a Big Political Statement, but the audience isn’t going for that. They’re feeding off Jarratt’s violence, and McLean’s voyeuristic camera.
Wolf Creek 2 is the death of ideas. It is the nadir of originality. I don’t need to see it to know this. After the original, McLean made Rogue, a derivative Jaws-knock off about a giant crocodile. Made for $26 million – an enormous budget for Australian cinema – it made just over $4 million back. Returning to Wolf Creek is a sign that there isn’t much else. Everything has been amplified. More villain, more torture, more gore, more more more more. Why? Because racist Australians? Come off it.
If Australian cinema wants to be celebrated, then it needs to celebrate ideas. New ideas. Something rather than flogging old ones to death in a torture pit, severing their spines and gloating over their corpse while charging $20 a ticket.