Sliver

Two carefree British backpackers, Liz and Kristy, party down in Western Australia then drive to the Outback with their Sydneysider cohort, Ben. The Outback, however, is no place for holiday. With its extreme climate and poisonous creatures, this vast and daunting land can prove deadly to tourists…especially if they come upon local Mick Taylor, the antithesis of Crocodile Dundee.w-2

Bloody Rundown

Written and directed by Greg McLean, also a co-producer, Wolf Creek is an independent grindhouse gore that claims to be based on actual events. While not completely accurate, the film parallels the true-life serial killers Ivan Milat and Bradley John Murdoch, both of whom, at different times, murdered tourists in the Outback.      

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Wolf Creek’s gut-wrenching brutality is visceral and believable; the gore is uncompromising. Although regarded as an “Ozploitation,” Wolf Creek veers from archetypal exploitation insofar that there is nothing campy about this well-made realistic film. The unconventional narrative and cinematography lends to the gradual buildup of the suspense. Nothing is anticipated; even the antagonist does not appear until the film’s second half. McLean’s planning was impeccable; he storyboarded every shot. In spite of the meager budget, the cinematography, production design, special effects, along with McLean’s astute direction, culminated into an exceptional film.    

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The realism of the film is due in part to the first-rate performances. McLean permitted his actors to improvise some of their dialogue. Surely this artistic freedom augmented their performances. McLean wanted to create an “iconically Australian bad guy,” a counterpart to Freddy, Jason, and Michael. To prepare for his portrayal as the sadistic serial killer, Mick Taylor, John Jarratt spent four months creating and honing his character’s signature laugh. A quintessential Method actor, Jarratt lived in the Outback and refrained from showering for six weeks.

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(It should be noted that Jarratt also starred in McLean’s creature feature Rogue (2007).) Jarratt stated that the “portayals” of the three victims “are heroic” and reminded him of “veal.” Indeed, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi, and Nathan Phillips delivered fully committed depictions of Liz, Kristy, and Ben, respectively.

wolf 15The desolate setting of the Outback serves as a fifth character, one that is just as inhospitable and sinister as Mick Taylor. Mysterious and otherworldly, the Wolf Creek Crater, which spans over a half a mile in diameter with a depth of almost 200 feet, is a fitting backdrop to the primal evil that befalls the characters. At the start of filming, it rained for the first time in ten years. McLean was able to work this last-minute oddity into the production, as it rained for twenty-one days of the twenty-five day shoot.  Wolf Creek is perhaps the scariest export out of Australia.

Die-Anne’s Diatribe

Convincing, relentless, and excruciatingly terrifying, Wolf Creek is too painful not to watch.

Plot Mutilator

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The film’s ominous prologue reads:  “The following is based on actual events. 30,000 people are reported missing in Australia every year. 90% are found within a month. Some are never seen again.” This statement imparts credibility to the film’s claim that it is based on a true story.    

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Set in 1999, the film begins in Broome, Western Australia, with a montage of three young adults reveling in the debauchery of their carefree vacation. Liz Hunter and Kristy Earl, two British tourists, team-up with their new friend, Ben, who hails from Sydney, for a road trip to the Outback. Ben buys a dilapidated station wagon and they head out to Wolf Creek National Park, which encompasses a huge crater created by meteorite.

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While in route, the trio stops at a “caravan park” in Halls Creek. Over a campfire, Ben discusses the alleged UFO sightings of the Outback. The next morning, they depart on their 6 ½-hour drive to Wolf Creek. During their final fuel stop in Emu Creek, Kristy privately goads Ben about his underlying crush on Liz. Prior to the trip, Kristy had teased Liz about this growing fondness. While Ben goofs off filming with his camcorder, the girls venture into the roadhouse where they are jeered by three Outback rogues. Ben arrives, and with his good nature, he is able to divert a brawl after the rogues request a “gang bang” with Liz and Kristy. The tourists then drive off, laughing off the tension.

As they arrive at Wolf Creek, it unexpectedly begins to rain. After parking their car, they take an umbrella and supplies for the three hour hiking trail to the crater. They reach the crater and Ben explains, “You’re looking at one of the biggest meteorite craters on the planet. They reckon the explosion from the impact would’ve been like 200 nuclear bombs going off at the same time. Some guys discovered it scouting for an oil company in 1947.” The trio then smokes a joint and waits out the rain. Liz takes off for a walk; soon, Ben follows. They then kiss.

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After heading back to the car, they discover that both Ben and Kristy’s watches have stopped at 6:30 pm. Furthermore, the car is dead. They settle in the car for the night and contemplate if these bizarre incidents are associated with UFOs.

Later, flashes of bright lights stream through their car windows. Freaked out over the possibility that this may be a UFO, the scared trio are briefly paralyzed with fear until they recognize that the lights are from a truck.

They are relieved to meet the affable and hilarious Mick Taylor, welcoming his help. Mick deciphers that the two “Sheilas” are from England, and then jokes that Ben’s hometown is the “Poofta capital of the world.” He tries to fix their car, but it is in need of a new part. Mick offers to tow them back to his camp to repair the engine, but they are reluctant as they don’t “have a lot of cash.”  Mick assures the tourists that the repair will be free of charge.

Baffled about the long drive, they finally reach Mick’s camp, an abandoned mine complete with various shafts, sheds, and garages. They set-up camp around a fire and Mick tells them tales of his life in the Outback. He explains that he used to work as an animal control hunter, killing various vermin, wild boar, and kangaroos, revealing that “roos” are “everywhere around here now. Like tourists.” They toast “Fair dinkhim” over cups of rainwater that Mick has drugged. The trio quickly falls asleep.

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The next day, Liz wakes-up gagged with her feet and wrists bound. Startled and distraught, Liz finally cuts through the plastic cuffs with a piece of glass shard. While attempting to escape, she overhears Mick torturing Kristy in the garage. She sets the station wagon on fire and as Mick rushes to put out the flames, she goes to the garage to free Kristy. Mick returns, but Liz, armed with a rifle, shoots him in the neck. She tries to shoot him again, but the gun jams.

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Liz and Kristy then break the number one rule in horror movies: They mistakenly believe the villain is dead. As they are about to depart in his truck, Mick appears with a shotgun, blowing out the windows. They try to run him over, but miss. Mick gets into another car and a chase ensues.  

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Kristy and Liz roll the truck off a cliff and hide by hanging beneath the ledge. Mick descends down the cliff to search for their bodies. Liz decides to sneak into Mick’s camp to find another car, and leaves Kristy, promising to return shortly.

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In one of the sheds, Liz discovers personal items of several victims. She plays a video on a camcorder and watches Mick helping other tourists with car trouble at Wolf Creek.

She then views footage from the Emu Creek gas station on Ben’s camera where Mick’s blue truck is seen in the background. Evidently, he had been stalking them for some time. Liz then searches for Ben and climbs down a mine shaft to find several bodies in various stages of decomposition. She then rushes out of the shaft and into a garage where there are several parked cars.

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Finally, Liz gets in a car but as she is about to depart, Mick, who has been hiding in the backseat, stabs her through the driver’s seat. Liz struggles out of the car where Mick slashes off three of her fingers. Mick head-butts Liz, screaming that she shouldn’t have destroyed his beloved blue truck. He then explains a Vietnam War torture method, head-on-a-stick, which was used to procure information from captive enemies. He severs Liz’s spinal cord, paralyzing her, and now rendering her a “head on a stick.” Mick inquires as to where Kristy is hiding.

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The next morning, Kristy is staggering down the highway. An elderly man stops and helps her in the car. From afar, Mick shoots him dead. Kristy manages to drive off in the man’s car, only to be chased by Mick. She smashes Mick’s car off the road. Mick then shoots out Kristy’s back tire, flipping the car. Kristy crawls out of the car and she is shot by Mick. He then sets the car on fire.

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Meanwhile, Ben awakens in a mine shaft nailed to a cross with two hungry, growling dogs in a cage across from him.  When he sees the half-devoured corpse nailed next to him, he realizes the victim was eaten by the dogs.  To escape such fate, Ben forcefully removes himself from the nails and flees the shaft. Finally, he stumbles near a road, where he collapses. Two tourists drive by and rescue him. He is soon airlifted to a hospital.

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The epilogue states, “Despite several major police searches, no trace of Liz Hunter or Kristy Earl has ever been found.  Early investigations into the case were disorganised, hampered by confusion over the location of the crimes, a lack of physical evidence and the alleged unreliability of the only witness. After four months in police custody, Ben Mitchell was later cleared of all suspicion. He currently lives in South Australia.” The film ominously concludes with Mick Taylor walking in the sunset of the Outback with his rifle, a befitting set-up for a sequel.

Moral of the story: Don’t trek through the Outback.

Deadly Details

Director ∞ Greg McLean
Producers ∞ David Lightfoot and Greg McLean
Screenwriter ∞ Greg McLean
Music ∞ Frank Tétaz
Cinematographer ∞ Will Gibson
Editor ∞ Jason Ballantine
Special Effects ∞ Connelly Make-up FX Team 
Studios ∞ FFC Australia/Film Finance Corporation; South Australian Film Corporation;
     403 Productions; True Crime Channel; Best FX (Boom Sound); Emu Creek Pictures; and,   
     Mushroom Pictures
Release Date ∞ October 2005 (Australia); Christmas 2005 (US)
Running time ∞ 104 minutes (uncut)
Country ∞ Australia
Language ∞ English
 
Cast ∞
John Jarratt as Mick Taylor
Cassandra Magrath as Liz Hunter
Kestie Morassi as Kristy Earl
Nathan Phillips as Ben Mitchell
Gordon Poole as Old Man
Guy O’Donnell as Car Salesman
Phil Stevenson as Mechanic
Geoff Revell as Petrol Attendant
Andy McPhee as Bazza
Aaron Sterns as Bazza’s Mate
Michael Moody as Bazza’s Old Mate
Andrew Reimer as Flashback Dad
Vicki Reimer as Flashback Mum
Isabella Reimer as Flashback Girl
David Rock as Irish Backpacker
Jenny Starvall as Swedish Backpacker
Guy Petersen as Swedish Backpacker
Paul Curran as Pool Party People
Christian McMillan as Pool Party People
Sean Gannon as Pool Party People
Aaron J. March as Pool Party People (as Aaron March)
Eddie White as Pool Party People
Geoffrey Yu as Pool Party People
Amy Schapel as Pool Party People
Teresa Palmer as Pool Party People
Bow Vayne as Pool Party People
Renee Chomel as Pool Party People
Simone Duntone as Pool Party People
John Henry Duncan as Pool Party People
Chloe Gardner as Pool Party People
Greg Sara as Pool Party People
Renee Luna as Pool Party People
Michael Soang as Pool Party People
Niesha de Jong as Pool Party People
Leesa Millhouse as Pool Party People
Alex De Rosa as Pool Party People
Darren Humphreys as Detective
Peter Alchin as Police Officer
Rory Walker as Roadhouse Guy
Jon Blaikie as Roadhouse Guy (as John Blaike)