21 October 2012

You Call That A Knife?!

Steve Irwin was a conservationist, and a proper fucking nutcase, who spent his entire life caring for animals and then doing his best to piss them off. There's no denying that the man knew his stuff although even I'm aware that most creatures don't like being poked in the eye for fun... and higher ratings. I don't mean to insult his television shows but should an animal documentary really have so much in common with Jackass? The only thing missing from The Crocodile Hunter was a beard of pubes and a cast of bruised ball-sacks. I presume Irwin's risky method of teaching was intended to prove that animals aren't simply monsters and so won't just kill for no reason. Unfortunately however this lesson seemed somewhat undermined when one of them decided to freak the fuck out and left him for dead on a beach.

The irony of course was that of all the creatures that he annoyed, the identity of his killer was both surprising and anti-climactic. The man made a living from dry humping Crocodiles and pissing about with snakes and yet in the end he was murdered while paddling with a stingray. No offense to that odd looking fish but if the sea had vaginal flaps, I strongly suspect they'd look alike. The fact that Irwin was killed by the ocean’s equivalent to a meaty cape just goes to prove one thing- Australia is fucking dangerous.

Wolf Creek was a 2005 horror movie telling the story of a group of tourists who went missing in the Australian outback. The film is allegedly “based on a true story”, which technically isn't lying but only in a Bible-y sort of way. They're both completely true unless you're after any facts or honesty at all. It's sort of like how The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is based on the factual story of Ed Gein who didn't live in Texas and didn't massacre anybody with a chainsaw. Not that this is a problem by the way. Due to the films content, if it was based on a true story, Wolf Creek would be horrifically exploitative and as morally sinister as R Kelly offering to child-mind with a full bladder and a throbbing erection.

In a way, Wolf Creek is a film of two halves with the first section being spent getting to know our three main characters. The group consists of two British girls named Liz and Kristy and an Aussie, surfer type dude called Ben. Liz and Kristy are played by two Australian actresses who are about as convincing as Brits as George Lazenby was when he played James Bond in OHMSS. In 1969 the only way 007 could have seemed more Australian would have been if he'd killed Blofeld with a boomerang, drank a can of Fosters, committed infanticide and then blamed it on a dingo.

Accent aside however, Liz and Kristy are genuinely believable characters that I completely bought throughout. It's a credit to them too, that after thirty minutes I also very nearly stopped staring at the freakishly large stalactite chin attached to Liz's face. I don't mean to make a big deal out of it but there was one point when, despite all evidence to the contrary, I convinced myself Liz might actually be played by Bruce Campbell. The third character of Ben was an Aussie played by an Aussie so it's hard to criticise him. He's a bit of an idiot but not in an unlikeable way- more in an adrenaline junkie kind of way. It's not that I dislike people who surf in an ocean infested with sharks, it's just that the term, “adrenaline junkie” is clearly the polite way of saying someone’s a knob-head. Oh and by the way, did I mention Liz's huge chin? Honestly if you stuck a nipple on the end of it, I reckon she'd have herself a pretty sexy face-boob.

Anyway so like I said the first half of the film is all set up with the three tourists having decided to take a road trip into the outback. We learn the dynamics of the characters and watch as Ben develops a crush on 'Liz the chin'. During their journey, one of the sites that they intend to stop off at is a giant meteor crater known as Wolf Creek. For anyone unsure, a meteor is basically a giant rock that falls from the sky and not, as my friends genuinely assumed, a type of dinosaur. After I corrected them they laughed at their mistake and then informed me that they'd actually gotten it confused with the dinosaur known as a Minotaur... I need to get myself some new fucking friends.

As soon as they get to their destination, things start to go a little wrong. Their car mysteriously breaks down leaving them stranded and alone in the middle-of-fucking-nowhere. Considering how dangerous that country is, with its venomous spiders, massive snakes and boxing kangaroos, if I were them I'd have accepted my upcoming death a lot more quickly. It's at this point that the main villain of the film finally arrives and in the form of a friendly, old-school style Aussie bloke called Mick Taylor.

Played by John Jarrett, Mick may well be my favourite horror character of the last decade or so. To my mind, his only main competitor would probably be Jigsaw from The Saw series, but in honesty he really pisses me off. He preaches to everyone about savouring life and yet spends all of his time building torture chambers instead of going to chemotherapy. Although even beyond the stupidity of his motives, I think what annoys me most about Jigsaw is just how much of a pretentious, bald cunt he is. Mick on the other hand is a great laugh and if it wasn't for all the killing and craziness, he'd make great company down at the pub. Being an Australian archetype, he's kind of like a cross between Mick Dundee and Jack the Ripper. He's a violent crazy bastard but fuck it at least he's having fun. I guess it serves as a good reminder of Australia's history as a giant prison. Even the friendliest of people there are descended from a British convict and so shouldn't be trusted… kind of like scousers.

The clever thing about the film however, is that Mick never quite becomes an anti-hero. After meeting the three main characters at Wolf Creek, he proceeds to take them back to his home and torture them. However, where other films have fallen in love with their villain, at no point here do you find yourself on his side. An example of this sort of character could be Hannibal Lector who started off as a creepy cannibal before evolving into a loveable, dapper gent with an insatiable taste for face. Despite Mick being such a laugh, there's a moment where 'Liz the chin' points a gun at him and all you want her to do is blow his fucking head off. This is probably due to the films genius of allowing us to get to know the victims in the first half. Now that we've formed a bond with them, it's less enjoyable to watch them die. That's coincidentally also why in reality I never learn the first name of any whores.

In a way, the difference between Wolf Creek and most other slashers is the same as the difference between Saw and Saw 2. Rather than being presented with a gang of talking meat, we are watching likeable humans who we want to see survive. In Saw 2, the conflict isn't how are the victims going to get away but rather how are they going to die. The traps are too complicated, the characters too weak and the investigating detective is Donnie Wahlberg. If I was being held hostage and my only chance of hope was a member of 'New Kids on the Block', I'd probably leap eyes first into the pit of needles just to save time.

The point that I'm starting to drag out is that for the viewer, watching the violent scenes in Wolf Creek is actually less of a sadistic pleasure and more of a masochistic endurance test. Just to clarify, an example of sadism would be the derivation of pleasure from burning Piers Morgan for his corruption with fiery copies of the News of the World. Masochism would be like forcing yourself to wank with a knife up your arse whilst staring at a picture of Britney Spears's snaggletoothed vagina.

The very first torture scene in Wolf Creek is voyeuristically shot through the crack of a broken window. Like the cupboard scene in Blue Velvet, this isn't done to titillate the audience but rather instil a feeling of helplessness, fear and realism. There's no close-ups or kinetic flourishes to remind us that this is actually a movie. Instead it's filmed amateur-porno style with a handheld grittiness that's more reminiscent of a news story than a Hollywood film. By underplaying everything that happens, it really helps to highlight the nihilism of our world and the pointlessness of life. Mick kills for seemingly no reason at all and does so apparently free of any civilised consequences. There's probably not a God and the loneliness and pointlessness of Mick's killings really do highlight just how little everything really means. However, as depressing as that might sound don't forget that Wolf Creek is still a righteous chucklefest in comparison to the grimness and cynicism of the genuinely evil Sex and the City 2.

However it's not all just doom and gloom as visually, the film looks genuinely phenomenal. This is mostly down to the gorgeous scenery that the Aussie landscape has to offer, although its vastness does still highlight how insignificant we all really are. I guess as a country, Australia is a bit like Ted Bundy- there's no denying that it is fucking dangerous, but it can scrub up well when it needs to. In fact it could be argued that the whole of Wolf Creek is simply about the clash between civilisation and the wildly uncivilised. In a way, Mick is the face of the outback with his final shot almost highlighting his connection to the uncontrollable wilderness. It seems that he feels as genuinely comfortable in that environment as a drunk Lindsey Lohan does when facehugging a camera lens with her vagina. I suppose everybody just has their natural place in this world.

Wolf Creek came out during the height of the 'gorno' craze and so was unfortunately and wrongly placed into that category. The only thing that Hostel did was spend ninety minutes chopping its characters up and then boring my tits off. This is something that was proved to me when I had a girlfriend who told me how genuinely clever Hostel Part 2 was. The fact that she also once asked me, “Where about in England is Down South?” may indicate the level of intelligence required to enjoy that crap franchise.

In the end I'd say Wolf Creek is actually a lot closer to something like Jaws than any of that 'gorno' bollocks. Both are less explicit than you might remember with the camera actually instead focusing more on the suffering of the victims than the actual injuries they've sustained. In the way that Jaws has put me off ever going back into the sea Wolf Creek too has ensured I'll never go backpacking anywhere ever. Not that I had any plans to visit Australia anyway. Beyond all the murderous wildlife and psychotic loners, you've got to question the morals of a country willing to inflict Kylie Minogue onto Western civilisation. I know I enjoy the masochistic pleasure of enduring Wolf Creek, but listening to that Aussie midgets hollow, pointless warbling is just a pain too far.

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