WOLF CREEK: A New Horror Icon Was Born Twelve Years Ago This Christmas

Aussie Horror Wolf Creek was released on December 25th, 2005. The film follows two stranded motorists (Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath), who fall prey to a murderous bushman (John Jarratt).

The advertising heavily touted the film as being based on true events. Similar to how The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is known to be inspired by infamous serial killer Ed Gein, the “true story” aspect of Wolf Creek is that the film has elements that are similar to those of two separate murderers, Ivan Millat and Bradley Murdoch, who each killed backpacking tourists in the Australian outback between the years of 1989 and 2001. The similarities to the real-life events seem to end there. The story isn’t about Millat or Murdoch. Instead, we are introduced to fictional killer Mick Taylor for the first time.

   

Personally, I think the advertising team’s claim that Wolf Creek is based on a true events is quite a stretch. Like Texas Chainsaw, the film is inspired by real-life murders. The “based on true events” statement comes across as a now-standard marketing gimmick, to an otherwise dark, tense, and successful film.

Wolf Creek was directed by Greg McCLeen and stars John Jarratt (Boar), Nathan Phillips (Chernobyl Diaries), Cassandra Macgrath (TV’s Scare Campaign), and Kesti Morassi (Darkness Falls). McCleen and David Lightfoot wrote the screenplay and served as producers. Wolf Creek played at the Sundance and Cannes film festivals before its international release in the fall of 2005 and finally saw a wide release by Dimension Films in US theaters on December 25, 2005. Like many horror films, Wolf Creek received mixed reviews from critics upon its debut. The film currently has a 53% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Despite receiving widely mixed reviews from critics, Wolf Creek had some powerful names backing it when it was released to movie goers. Quentin Tarantino (Hateful Eight and Death Proof) praised the performance of John Jarratt:

John Jarratt delivers a performance that’s destined to go down as one of the great horror film heavies of the last 25 years.

And frequent Tarantino collaborator, Robert Rodriquez (From Dusk Till Dawn and Planet Terror) said that Wolf Creek

…is as real as horror gets.

Wolf Creek was produced on a budget of 1.38 million and went on to make 27.8 million at the box office, which made it a success for Dimension, who released the film. For decades it has seemed like for every hit horror film that comes out there is a stream of imitators that soon follow, and Wolf Creek was no exception. No doubt due in part to the financial and fan success of Wolf Creek, a string of Australian-set horror movies followed. Rogue (2007), Storm Warning (2007), Black Water (2007), Lake Mungo (2008), and Nature’s Grave aka the Long Weekend remake (2008) are some of the more notable titles and, in my opinion, are all worth checking out.

After Wolf Creek, McCleen wrote and directed the killer crocodile flick Rogue (2007) that proudly displayed “from the director of Wolf Creek” on its marketing. Rogue was praised by critics but failed to be a commercial success like Wolf Creek. McClean then took a break from directing until 2013. No doubt due to its success and large fan following that had only increased as time passed, Wolf Creek was finally followed by a sequel in 2014. The simply titled Wolf Creek 2 was also directed by Greg McLean and stars Ryan Corr (Where the Wild Things Are and Hacksaw Ridge), Phillipe Klaus (Devil’s Dust), Shannon Ashlyn (also of Devil’s Dust), and John Jarret, who reprised his role as Mick Taylor.

Synopsis:

A young man (Ryan Corr) matches wits with a sadistic killer (John Jarratt) who lives in an underground, booby-trapped lair in the Australian outback.

Wolf Creek 2 was distributed by Roadshow Film Distributors in 2014, and, like it’s predecessor, the film was a financial success. McLean went on to direct such horror titles as The Darkness (2016), The Belko Experiment (2017), and Jungle (2017). but he wasn’t done with Wolf Creek and killer Mick Taylor just yet. So it should come as no surprise that the series would live on. In 2016 the franchise saw another return of Mick Taylor, this time instead of a feature film, it was a six part Australian television series. Greg McLean returned to the franchise as showrunner and director, along with Tony Tilse. And, once again, John Jarratt stepped back into the role of Mick Taylor.

Synopsis:

An American family’s Australian vacation takes a tragic turn when sadistic serial killer Mick Taylor targets the tourists. College student Eve is the lone survivor after Taylor attacks the family in the Outback. Determined to avenge the deaths of her parents and younger brother, Eve sets out to hunt down their killer. She vows to bring the perpetrator to justice or die trying. As she goes along on her journey, Eve evolves into an adult and transforms from prey to predator, looking to triumph over her evil adversary. The six-part miniseries is inspired by the 2005 film of the same name.

The second season of Wolf Creek is set to premiere on Australia’s Stan Network this December. Wolf Creek Season One is available on DVD, Bluray, and streaming services. You can check out our coverage of the series here.

It has been twelve years since the initial release of Wolf Creek, and it appears that killer Mick Taylor is a long way from being done. After two successful films and a hit spin-off series, it is obvious that he has staying power. In my opinion, Mick Taylor deserves a spot among the horror franchise heavyweights like Freddy, Jason, and Michael. Similar to the plethora of merchandise that has been inspired by those three, there have even been limited edition action figures and bobbleheads made of Mick Taylor. It is time to add John Jarrett to the list of horror acting icons alongside such recognizable names as Robert Englund, Tobin Bell, Tony Todd, and Kane Hodder.

I can vouch for both Wolf Creek films. If you haven’t seen them, they are well worth checking out. They are dark and gritty rural horror. However, I’m not the biggest TV watcher so I haven’t seen the spin-off show yet. Have you? If so, what did you think? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Bryce Gibson

Bryce Gibson writes fiction that takes readers to charming and often times sinister areas of The South. He is the author of two teen thrillers, The Reading Buddy and Perennials. He lives in South Carolina with his wife and their dog. To find out more, please visit his website BryceGibsonWriter.com