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Wolf Creek: Unrated Version

More than just an antidote to the cute Aussie stereotypes of Crocodile Dundee, this tight low-budget horror flick from Down Under earned raves at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, where films of higher social conscience are typically preferred to shocker genre bloodbaths. In fact, Wolf Creek is one of the better recent indie efforts to exploit the enduring formula of 1974's Texas Chainsaw Massacre — a group of (mostly attractive) young people on a carefree road trip inopportunely fall prey to one or more rural psychopaths who flay them one-by-one in gruesome detail — and it features a few effective innovations, in addition to its inspired setting of the vast and isolating western Australian outback. British tourists Liz (Cassandra Magrath) and Kristy (Kestie Morassi) set out to cross the continent from Broome to Sydney, with the help of randy native surfer Ben (Nathan Phillips). At first, the trio's only concerns are logistical (who drives when and how do you set up a tent?) and romantic (does Ben like Liz or Kristy?), but there are greater issues to address when their used car breaks down at the remote Wolf Creek meteor crater and the rugged bush dweller who comes to their rescue, Mick Taylor (John Jarratt), turns out to be a sadistic killer with an impressive portfolio of unlucky tourist body parts. Writer-director Greg McLean wisely adheres closely to the TCM model for the first half of Wolf Creek, allowing his main characters to reveal themselves naturally in docudrama fashion so that their eventual peril will resonate with the audience. In the latter half of the film, McLean acutely manipulates the expectations of horror fans just enough to infuse the more routine elements of his movie with a sense of unpredictability. He also finds some interesting contrasts between Mick Taylor's iconic rough Aussie masculinity and the relatively neutered, contemporary city boy Ben. Like many of the current crop of indie horror movies, Wolf Creek also pushes deep into (sometimes graphic) brutality and sadism, and while its quality is enough to rescue it from the dispiriting cynicism of many of its contemporaries, its unironic darkness may prove a step too far for horror fans who enjoy the genre's campier, cartoonier offerings. The Weinstein Company's "Unrated Version" of Wolf Creek includes a few disturbing details left out of the theatrical cut. It's presented in a great anamorphic transfer (1.78:1) that shows off the quality of its HD video source and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. A commentary with McLean, executive producer Matt Hearn, and Magrath and Morassi is chatty and occasionally informative (especially when the actresses talk about the moments they would walk out of this movie if they weren't involved in it). Also included is a 50-minute "Making of Wolf Creek" documentary and a short, amusing deleted scene. Trailer, keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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