WOLF CREEK (Season One, 6 episodes) (2016)
Starring: Lucy Fry, John Jarratt & Dustin Clare
Directed by: Tony Tilse & Greg McLean
Written by: Peter Gawler & Felicity Packard
Debuted on Stan, Lionsgate Distribution in the US
Outback bushman (and sadistic sociopath) Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) is up to his usual tourist-slaughtering tricks in this television follow up to WOLF CREEK (2005) and WOLF CREEK 2 (20013). But this time, he finds himself hunted as well…
The Thorogood family from America is vacationing in the outback when they run afoul of a stranger who viciously slaughters them all, save their adult daughter, once-aspiring Olympian (now recovering opioid addict) Eve (Lucy Fry), who barely escapes with her life. Her claims of a killer in a distinctive blue truck dismissed by the police, she becomes a fugitive from the law after stealing a case-file detailing unsolved murders and disappearances throughout the outback for decades, intent on vengeance. Hot on her trail is Police Detective Sullivan Hill (Dustin Clare) who begins to suspect that perhaps Eve is right, even as she runs afoul of criminals, biker gangs and rapists in her attempts to catch-up to the wily and slick Mick Taylor, who goes about business as usual until he himself finds out that someone is looking for him.
“Mick Taylor…almost seems an inevitability, a savage manifestation of his chosen territory”
Crafting an ongoing narrative around a slasher/serial killer film character is not an easy task. Other than oddities like HANNIBAL (2013), the chosen gambits are to go “prequel/origin” (see 2013’s BATES MOTEL), present a vaguely related anthology concept (as in 1988’s FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES, which featured only the occasional “Elm Street” related episode, but did have Freddy Krueger as host) or opt out entirely and go somewhere else, as in FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE SERIES from 1987. And the reasons for this are pretty obvious. One, your focus characters tend to be a bit…uh, limited, let’s say, from a plot perspective, and delving into their backgrounds only serves to demystify them. Two, making them the antagonist sets up a near unsolvable conflict in which they *must* be defeated for audience closure, and yet never can be *decisively* defeated because they’re why audiences came in the first place. And I honestly had my doubts whether WOLF CREEK could survive as a series, without even a “fantasy” or “intellect/aesthetic” element (as in Krueger or Lecter) in Mick Taylor’s character to exploit…
But I’m happy to report that the first season of WOLF CREEK (currently available to watch on the SHUDDER Network) is enjoyable television (possibly aided by its rather wisely contained run of only six episodes not wearing out its welcome). It’s not flawless – given the show’s reliance on the sheer vastness of its setting as a plot point, there’s a *bit* more coincidence than audiences should be expected to swallow, and it sometimes egregiously employs lingering shots and slow-motion to risible lengths in the name of padding – but it does craft an interesting character in Eve, which makes up for the fact that the producers realized (again, wisely) that while audiences may come wanting to see more of the rough-edged, profane, sniggeringly sadistic but oddly genial Mick, featuring him on screen for too long might lead to diminishing returns. Instead, we follow Eve’s journey into lawlessness and obsession, with the killer’s early appearances only serving to assure us of his continued presence (and assured invisibility). Lucy Fry is affecting in the role, her character fighting off personal demons and maneuvering through a threatening world of male aggression while displaying a surprising amount of flaws and fallibility. This later aspect makes Eve & Mick’s inevitable confrontation, when it finally comes, seem validly suspenseful, instead of the fait accompli we might get in a film.
Sure, some of the tangents the season’s story takes amount to water-treading, but they also accentuate some of its better features. One is a nicely broad portrayal of a variety of Australian lives and the people who inhabit its cities and Outback. The other is that setting itself, which is effectively exploited for its stark visual beauty and sun-baked, Darwinian brutality. In fact, the show manages a nice balancing act, choosing as its point of access into the film’s narrative Mick’s anonymity, transience and meticulous approach to his attacks, which allow him a certain invisibility (as he’s not leaving evidence behind, and sometimes not even bodies) and which Eve challenges by choosing to focus on what slim details she can scare up when the police prove uninterested. And yet it does this without revealing too much about the character (although we do eventually get something like an “origin” for his madness), instead using occasional surprises (such as a scene involving two foreign women with a broken down truck) to illustrate that while he may be a sociopath, Mick is not stupid. Instead, given what we do learn about him, he almost seems an inevitability, a savage manifestation of his chosen territory.
I’d suggest watching the original film if you’ve never seen it (with the oddly uneven sequel being optional) before giving it a try, but if you’re so inclined I can attest that WOLF CREEK: THE SERIES would not be a waste of your time.