With Wolf Creek Season 2 now airing on Tuesdays on FOX UK, we look back at Season 1.
30,000 people go missing in the Australian Outback every year. As of 2005, that statistic took on a chilling quality, as Greg McLean’s Wolf Creek suggested one of the possible causes: Mick (John Jarratt), an Aussie killer with a taste for hunting tourists. Packing a knife, a gun and a cold-blooded sense of humour, Crocodile Dundee he ain’t. Repackaging that as a TV series is perhaps one of the unlikeliest movie spin-offs to have been brought to television – while Scream the series was an underrated treat in its first season, its second and third descended into a reminder of just how different TV and movies are, particularly when it comes to genre. But Wolf Creek is an effective, grisly slice of small screen horror.
Produced by Australian streaming service Stan, it sees Jarratt reprise his role as Mick, one of the nastiest horror movie villains in recent memory. So much of the show’s success builds on that fact. Where serial killers have often been anonymous, detached and silent in the past, Mick is a slasher for the modern age, as happy chatting to his victims as he is shooting them – he prattles away with a gutteral laugh, chuckling at un-PC remarks, giggling at how he offends his prey before bumping them off. Then, he smiles with satisfaction at the fun of the hunt, before moving on to the next.
Jarratt’s gravelly delivery, physical presence and glinting eyes are just as haunting in your living room as they are in the cinema. But Wolf Creek’s smart play is not to focus on him at all. Where the movie was a hack-and-slash affair that saw him bump off some fairly generic teens, the TV series flips the formula on its end to create a revenge thriller. So when American teenager Eve (Lucy Fry) takes her headphones off to find her family slaughtered while they’re camping, she sets about tracking down the man responsible.
Along the way, she crosses path with helpful locals, such as local shopkeeper Bernadette (Deborah Mailman, who brings a welcome dash of colour to the supporting cast). She also plays her own mini-cat-and-mouse game with Dustin Clare as Sergeant Sullivan Hill, whose semi-romantic relationship may not always convince but whose presence on her heels, as he tries to keep her from running into danger, helps to carry along the series’ mid-section. Mostly, though, the tension stems from her repeated confrontations with an array of mean locals, who keep turning even the most innocuous scenario into something deadly. Like Mick himself, there’s a touch of xenophobia to all these sprees, as well as touch of unpleasant machismo – both interesting reflections upon, and distortions of, Australian identity.
Lucy Fry, who impressed in 11.22.63, relishes the chance to take the lead here, and her gutsy resilience makes for a hugely winning heroine. And what of Mick? Writers Peter Gawler and Felicity Packard keep him looming in the background for most of the runtime, building up the whole season to a showdown between the two, in a manner not unlike a Western. DoP Geoffrey Hall is certainly on the page, painting the Outback with moody colours and thick layers of dust, all adding to the cinematic feel of the thriller, which manages to be lean and raw, but wide-open and expansive.
Tony Tilse, fresh from Ash vs Evil Dead, brings the same dynamic quality to the terrors on offer, crafting a fast-paced, gripping atmosphere that is best binge-watched. McClean, though, steps to the helm for the finale, and the climax doesn’t fail to deliver on the levels of gore that made the feature film stand out from the pack. Best of all, though, is the fact that the show doesn’t make you wait to get there: unlike the longer Scream TV series, Wolf Creek is a six-episode affair, which doesn’t allow room for things to dawdle or lose momentum, but gives just enough time for old Mick to make an even nastier impression. If you’re after a horror fix from quick box set, this creek is well worth diving into.
Wolf Creek Season 1 is available on Shudder UK, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription. Season 1 is available on Sky Box Sets until 28th June 2018, with Season 2 airing on FOX UK, available on Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk TV. Don’t have pay-TV? You can watch it live and on-demand through NOW TV. The streaming service gives you access to FOX UK, Sky Atlantic, Sky 1, Sky Living and more, for £7.99 a month – with no contract, and a 14-day free trial available.