Tuesday, 31 May 2016

TV REVIEW: Wolf Creek: A Stan Original Series.

Wolf Creek: A Stan Original Series.

'A dark, twisted and tragic story
set in a dark, twisted and violent world.
4.5 out of 5'.

James WF Roberts

Let me start off by saying, that I am totally biased when it comes to Writer/Director Greg Mclean, and there are a couple of reasons for this, mainly because we have a shared history, we both come from the same place, Bendigo; and we both essentially went to the same school, Marist Brothers—when Maclean was in Bendigo it was still Marist brothers; Saint Kilian’s (primary) and Catholic College Bendigo, formerly Saint Mary’s and the Marist Bros, all became essentially one entity around the time my sister’s and Mclean, but that is getting off the point.

                Wolf Creek: a Stan original series, a six-part mini-series, recently premiered on the internet, and I must it was bloody (or should that be bloodied) good!

That’s not Wolf Creek—this is Wolf Creek—I couldn’t resist that line, considering all the references there are to Mick Dundee, with Mick Taylor (yes I know the joke’s been made a few times before in the press and as meta-fodder in the movies themselves).

                So, much of what made Greg McLean's 2005 movie such a huge worldwide hit—is here on the screen, the terrifying, skin-crawling Mick Taylor played by John Jarratt; but this time there are more games, more stories to tell, more twisted, dark stories of the Outback.  To be honest I was anxious about this latest offering, 6 episodes where Jarratt is running, driving, stalking his prey around the Outback, taunting them and then eventually killing them, as viciously as he can, I didn’t really think could hold up as a TV show—but man was I wrong.  This is was not what I was expecting, whereas the first movie was an out and out Splatter-porn, social commentary on the reversal of the classical Australian romantic image of the bush; and the sequel was an almost satirical, overly indulgent (in my view in a lot of areas); the Wolf Creek series offers something much more darker and sinister in my view—it is a visceral tragedy. 

For the first time the Wolf Creek canon we are given a final girl—a Halloween style Jamie Lee Curtis, or an Alien franchise’ Ellen Ripley; with a dab or two of Sidney Prescott from the Scream series.  There is a lot going on here in this series—there’s a real trial by fire, hero—or should we say heroine’s journey, and Eve, the protagonist of this series played by relative new-comer (Queensland born and bred, Lucy Fry); her character is brilliant written and well portrayed, a top-rung athlete and would be Olympian, cut down by an injury and battling with addiction and mental illness, the daughter of an American Cop, whose whole family have come to Australia, so Eve can dry out and try to regain some of her former glory….until—yup, you guessed it someone in a big pale Ute shows up right in the nick of time..

That’s not giving too much away, we learn a lot of Eve’s backstory and current situation within the first ten or so minutes of screen time; which isn’t a bad thing, as we get to feel empathy, compassion and genuine regard for Eve right from the get go.

The Australian outback landscape is as beautiful, as mysterious, and as haunting as ever—that is the only thing I don’t like about the series—I know the series wouldn’t work if it was set in Sydney or Melbourne or even Adelaide or Brisbane; but it’s a big cliché in the Australian horror genre—the isolation, the ancient mystery, the long sprawling exterior shots of dirt and road; with the majority of our population living in or around the larger coastal cities, most of our serial, or mass murderers (apparently anything between 1-5 victims is a serial killer, anything over 5 is counted as a mass-murderer—which is fair); have been in live in either Melbourne or Sydney.

There are so many things going on in this series, so much more violence and death than the movies, and not all of it done by Mick Taylor—it really gives the impression that Maclean and his team, are giving us more, showing us more about the base-nature of the typical Australian Alpha Male and his view on women, authority, sex; power/domination, that I wonder if there is a very isn’t a very interesting paper one cold write about this series and the two films that inspired it, and the nature of the Male-gaze, and perhaps the reversion of that gaze?

There are so many elements in this series, so many varying, non-linear moments, so many crescendos in tension, so many new different areas of interest, that makes it so much more compelling than most things I have seen on TV or even at the movies for a long time.  All the elements are treated with moderation—there’s never too much about Bikie Gangs, or too much about sex-crazed female outback Coppers, or Strippers with a heart of gold, or the only good cop in a backwards department; the involvement of the Police and the cat and mouse game(s) and the elements here and there of Western and Indigenous mythology, the warrior spirit, etc; the sub-plots all build up skilfully and are constantly intersecting with each other that it makes the payoff and the ambiguity in the end all the more worthwhile.

This reminds of me of the Television Australians made when I was kid—the mini-series was something that Aussies always did well in the 80s and 90s, and we still do quite splendidly; we have a knack for long-form, large narrative-arcs in our style of production and story-telling, that I have often wondered if that is why so many of our mainstream or cinema release movies, actually quite suck.

Besides the two leads a few of the standout actors in this series, would have to be Deborah Mailman (she is always bloody good in everything I have seen her in). Miranda Tapspell is always terrific to watch on the screen as well, Jack Charles as gentle, kind-hearted and mentor Indigenous bushie, is stellar. Dustin Clarke the aforementioned only good Cop in a backward town is right on the money as Sullivan and of course Gary Sweet plays, a very tightly wound, depressed, drunk grieving father, it’s so good to see him actually play to his strengths in a cold, sobering, sombre performance, that when his rage goes off it’s actually quite good to watch, he is certainly perfectly cast in this role, I must say I prefer him in this series than I have in House Husbands, he’s just too ocker, too bogan in House Husbands for my liking.

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One bone of contention with me was the casting of Robert Taylor, the great Aussie actor, who now has his own Crime show in the USA called Longmire, in such a small and fleeing role.  I wonder if his casting was away to get American audiences into watch it? Nothing saying he wasn’t great in it, it’s just an idea. 


Just one final thing, the way that they link the first movie with this series, without using flashbacks, but by showing Eve what she may turn into is a brilliant, brilliant narrative framing device, one might even call it an Easter-egg of sorts.

Images: care of IMDB
and trailer from YouTube. 

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