WOLF CREEK (Season Two, 6 episodes) (2017)
Starring: Tess Haubrich, Matt Day, John Jarratt
Directed by: Greg McLean, Kieran Darcy-Smith, Geoff Bennett
Written by: Nick Parsons, Shanti Gudgeon, Mark Dapin & Greg Haddrick
Debuted on Stan, Lionsgate Distribution in the US
Mick Taylor (John Jarratt), outback hunter and predator of tourists, takes a bit more of an active role in WOLF CREEK, Season Two (currently available to watch on the SHUDDER Network). And despite my previous reservations about overexposing the character, this works a treat and provides an entertaining and gripping few hours of television.
With police attention to his rampant murder wave increasing, Mick seemingly makes a counter-intuitive move on a whim and kidnaps a busload of tourists (after he feels their tour guide has offended him). After drugging them all, he strands the group in the outback, planning on sadistically picking them off at his leisure. But the cross-section of people – including conflicted married American couple Rebecca and Danny (Tess Haubrich & Charlie Clausen); the German Vebber family of Oskar (Julian Pulvermacher), Nina (Felicity Price) & daughter Emma (Josephine Langford); Canadian friends Kelly (Laura Wheelwright) & Michelle (Elsa Cocquerel), and forensic psychiatrist Brian (Matt Day) – are willing to fight for their survival, and the chase ranges far across the hellish landscape (our cast decreasing through attrition) eventually winding up back at Mick’s very lair.
I was a bit worried about the second season of WOLF CREEK after reading a short blurb discussing the ways it differed from the first, imagining an Aussie Freddy Krueger-styled Mick quipping his way through episodic slaughter and reduction of the cast (“this week – the gay couple!”). But I couldn’t have been more wrong. Again, the show’s creative staff have proven themselves up to the problematic task of crafting an ongoing narrative around a sociopathic killer, here even sowing the seeds of a potential third season (as the police dragnet continues to close). From the slow, near-elegiac acoustic cover of Men At Work’s “Down Under” now serving as the show’s theme, to a small (but not too lengthy) increase in Mick’s screen time, to some tantalizing hints of oddity (more on that in a moment), Season Two of WOLF CREEK is just as, if not more, entertaining than the previous season. The larger cast (“13, my lucky number” enthuses our killer) serves a double purpose – yes, more fodder for Mick’s depredations, but also a larger variety of characters to rattle around in a plot that can neatly be broken in half. Initially it’s a survival narrative (with Mick proving himself a symbolic descendant of General Zaroff from THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, interested in the challenge of hunting humans) and then the last two episodes settle into more of a slasher narrative (in both setting and dynamics) as the surviving characters find themselves stalked in an isolated mining compound, essentially forming what might be considered a more complex take on WOLF CREEK 3.
“There are moments of brutality in this excruciatingly grueling ordeal of wills…”
There are a number of interesting ideas at work in this story – initially we see the tourist group divide by peer groups, then we begin to perceive them more as individuals, even as their numbers drop. The cartoonish flourishes of the first season are stripped away (no criminal biker gangs, for example), to be replaced by savage questions of personal survival that rarely have the time to be considered in narratives of this type (are the injured liabilities? Is mercy killing a just action?). There’s even a great bit where Brian, the psychologist, tries to slow down an entrapped Mick by peppering him with “therapy talk.”
The visuals have more of a focus on Australia’s natural beauty, starting with a wider variety of location shooting (fitting for a tourist run) before we settle into the unforgiving brush scrublands of Mick’s chosen stalking grounds. There are some moments of brutality in this excruciatingly grueling ordeal of wills (although the show doesn’t necessarily dwell on gore) and orchestrated chaos, not to mention some fine stretches of suspense near the climax (including many “what would you do?” situations). And then there’s Mick himself, whose skill at duplicity, marksmanship and nasty tricks gets more of a spotlight, as he confuses and isolates the group, even finding himself tested when the “victims” turn the tables on him, during which he proves to be a resourceful mechanic and tracker.
Perhaps most interesting for the show’s future are two minor tangents. The first is a return to the films’ idea that the Wolf Creek meteor crater seems to exert an indeterminate malign influence on people and things near it (earlier, a comet and the ghostly “Min Min lights” are featured as well). This leads to an interesting discussion between Mick and a miner about Australia’s “introduced species” that “need to be wiped out.” Even more intriguing, however, is a plot tangent involving a trio of aboriginal hunters who are aware of Mick and wary of his power, dubbing him an evil Dingo spirit man and demon. I won’t say any more, but there is the slightest hint that makes us question if perhaps Mick may be something more than human.
So, if you’ve enjoyed the WOLF CREEK films or the first season of the show, I can confidently say that you won’t be wasting your time. And now let’s see if they cook up something good for a third season, as the noose tightens…