Sh*t I Watch – Wolf Creek Season 1 and 2

Greetings, Glancers! I know it feels like I keep saying this recently, but we’re back with another entry from one of my long-standing series. Wolf Creek was a film I liked to a certain extent when it was first released, though my opinion on it was probably soured by the horror community’s over abundant love for it. At the time it just felt like a perfectly watchable addition to the ‘trip gone wrong, oops here’s a psycho’ sub-genre. It didn’t bring anything new but the main character of Mick was refreshingly smug. With the sequel, Wolf Creek 2, it explained more of Mick’s character and presented another group of hapless travelers in Australia with a series of bloody endings. Both films were torture porn with a self-mocking smirk, a fun time but nothing out of the ordinary beyond a charismatic lead villain. My wife enjoyed them too, but since that time she has moved away from a lot of the horror stuff we used to watch. It’s almost like she was just putting up with them until I put a ring on it.

Jump forwards a few years and Greg McLean decided to return to the outback and good old Mick, not with a third movie, but with a small screen outing. Wolf Creek Season 1 is a spin off from the films, and while it does loosely mention events and characters from the series, it’s its own thing. You don’t need to have seen the films to see the series, and vice versa. Within the opening scenes of the pilot episode, you know pretty much all you need to know about Mick, and about the show, and while the series as a whole does try to fill in his backstory and possibly explain his murderous intentions, it is more simply a female driven, wonderfully no holds barred, revenge story.

We open with an All American family on some sort of camping trip in the outback. They seem like your typical family – a bit of arguing, but clearly nothing out of the ordinary – Mom, Dad, athletic underachieving daughter, and cute son. Enter John Jarratt’s infamous Mick, the sly killer always ready with a racist quip, and a variety of guns and blades. Mick has this was of being charming and dangerous at the same time – lulling his audience with his Oz ways but simultaneously making you wary. You know there’s something wrong with this guy, but you cant honestly believe it. It’s not a spoiler to say that, in the middle of sharing the family’s food for the evening, he snaps and kills them. Pleasingly for a TV show, there is no shying away from the violence – mid conversation he slams a knife into Daddy’s leg before opening up his throat (in front of wife and child, naturally), then as mummy and son hold hands he throws another knife straight through mummy’s face. Son tries to run, but gets a bullet in his spine. When he goes stalking after daughter Eve (singing as he goes), the brutality finally hits home. Before going further, let me just say that Lucy Fry is a fucking beast. Her performance here, and in the series as a whole, is deserving of all the nominations and plaudits, and if she doesn’t become a superstar in the future it will be a damning slight for the human race.

Without giving away too many other spoilers, the rest of Season 1 sees Lucy, in classic Hitchcock style, trying to track down Mick to kill him while at the same time avoiding the cops. She learns more of his history as she goes, there are numerous side-plots about the cop who has been working Mick’s case for years, various locals with their own criminal or heroic pasts, and Mick himself who quickly realises that someone is following him for a change, and tries to turn the tables. The first season is only six episodes long, but this feels right. It never reaches the point of feeling bloated or unnecessarily stretched, but the various interweaving stories in the end are side dressing for the main event. While we end up caring about some of the others involved, in the end all we want to see is Eve and Mick standing off. Eve shows herself to be quick-witted and resourceful, a horror heroine in the vein of Ripley, Sarah Conor, or Sydney, and she plays the long game instead of rushing in. Fry and Jarrett have great chemistry, even though she don’t appear together too often, and on their own each is addictive and entertaining.

Credit should go to the writers and directors for continually thinking up great one-liners or speeches for Mick to chew on, and for shooting Australia in all its gorgeous, barren beauty. You’ve probably heard me talk about my love for sunrises and sunsets and twilight in movies, and Season 1 and 2 smash this look and atmosphere head on. Both series are among the prettiest I’ve seen in recent years – all the more so because there is little or no CG or false trickery going on – what you see is what the actors saw and felt.

Season 2 then concerns a new group. It isn’t readily apparent at what point in the Wolf Creek timeline any of this takes place, but again it’s not overly important. In classic sequel tradition, we up the ante by increasing the cast numbers – think Aliens or The Hills Have Eyes 2. We follow a group of people from various countries and of various ages going on a coach trip. We have a German couple and their daughter, a Canadian couple trying to salvage their marriage, a couple of tourists suffering from unrequited love, a psychologist, an ex soldier, a gay couple, a party boy, a bus – whatever the bus equivalent of a train spotter is. Through the six episodes we get to know this group, love them or hate them, and watch them get picked off by you know who. Yes, thanks to an unintended insult at a roadside cafe, Mick is back – this time taking charge of the coach and everyone inside. If there’s one thing Mick hates, it’s foreigners, and after driving his prey into the middle of nowhere he begins dispatching them with remorseless glee.

If I have any criticisms about Season 2, it’s that they have turned Mick too much into an unstoppable killing machine like Jason Voorhees. There are a number of teams he should quite easily have been killed, or at least slowed considerably, but there he is moments later back and badder than ever. Couple that with a few silly and unlikely decisions by our protagonists or others they meet along they way, and we have something which feels more contrived and cartoonish that the first Season. That being said, it’s still great stuff. Most of the cast are good and the time is taken to get to know their strengths and flaws. There is still a lot of up close and personal violence, with gruesome practical effects, and Mick is as rewarding and funny as ever. The story sometimes hints at a wider or future plot, but whether or not a third entry in the show or movie series will be made remains to be seen. With lead actor Jarrett accused of some serious crimes from a few decades ago, I can’t say much being done until is name is cleared (if it is). Would Wolf Creek work without him? It’s hard to see it happening, as Jarrett completely embodies the character, and all of his ticks, smirks, his voice, his stature, and of course that laugh – without those you would have a very different prospect on your hands.

Who’s it all for then? Fans of the movies should feel right at home, and anyone with a love for horror should get on board. If you like your horror violent and without holding back, then you’ll get a kick out of this, but it’s also funny, beautifully shot, and well acted and written, even if things do get a little silly the further down the line we get. My wife loved it too, and she has been avoiding the horror scene for a while now, unless it’s a creature feature. Horror is making a splash on the small screen in recent years, but it feels like this show flew a little under the radar. If you like horror, then you have no excuse not to seek this out and enjoy a bloody good time.

Let us know what you thought of the series in the comments below!

Perdita Durango

*Originally written in 2003

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Based on Barry Gifford’s novel, Perdita Durango follows the exploits of the mysterious, dark, sexual creature of the same name- a woman with a violent and criminal past (who incidentally pops up for a few scenes in Wild At Heart, played by Isabella Rossillini). Full of unlikable characters, violence, voodoo, and sex, Perdita Durango is an intriguing film which attempts to say something about the state of the modern, vapid, white American whose lives are defined by the shows they watch, and the kids who have no real opinions of their own. Unfortunately, we must sympathize with this group as they have been kidnapped by the malevolent Perdita and her lover Romeo – even more despicable, yet charismatic people. The kids here are very annoying and it’s difficult to feel much sympathy for them, and just when we think we are disgusted by Perdita and Romeo, we find ourselves rooting for them. It is a strange film, messing with our conceptions of good and evil, and by the end we have the feeling that there is no good or evil, only stupid and lucky.

Perdita, played by Rosie Perez, meets the mysterious and deadly Romeo (Javier Bardem) who is planning to hijack a truck load of fetuses and bring them over the boarder from Mexico to N. America. They team up and have a fiery partnership which eventually leads to lots of dark sex and some semblance of love. Before they can do the job, Romeo needs human victims to sacrifice to his Gods so they will give him favourable odds. They kidnap two typical naive American teens, Duanne and Estelle, and begin their journey. As they travel, they pseudo-bond, but each time you think they will become friendly and the kids might be saved, the two Mexicans soon show their dark sides again. On their tails are some DEA agents, (including James Gandolfini), the girl’s obsessive but stupid father, and a couple of groups from Romeo’s past who want him dead. Things are looking bleak for all concerned, and perhaps not even Romeo’s Gods can intervene.

Banned and cut to shreds in many countries for its violence, nudity and use of other shows and films, you may find it a challenge to find a copy of this. It is dark, there is quite a lot of violence and sex and drug-use, but there is a wry sense of humour throughout, and everything is so fantastical and bizarre that it is difficult to take any of it seriously. The performances of Perez and Bardem are both extremely good, full-bodied,  so we are drawn to them more than any other character, they seem so frantic and their faith is so strong that we cannot help to enjoy a few scenes they have. Gandolfini and Alex Cox are also good in smaller, comic roles, the two kids do everything they can, but are just there to annoy the viewer. There are many bizarre and funny moments – Estelle’s father’s final scene is one of the best moments. Definitely a film for those willing to see something out of the ordinary, it is rewarding and has some strong performances, good action, dark humour and an insane plot.

Have you seen Perdita Durango? Let us know in the comments!

Bad Lieutenant

Bad Lieutenant

Possibly Ferrara’s most critically acclaimed film, but one which retains the violence, bleakness and chaos of all his previous releases. Bad Lieutenant stars Harvey Keital in the title role, a cop who continually bends the rules and abuses his authority to satisfy his own urges. Nothing makes him happy, his family are rarely mentioned, his work is only a tool for his behaviour, and the drugs he resorts to only make him worse. Baseball and betting seem to be his only interest, but even that is only for financial gain. Growing up as a Catholic, the film follows his attempt at redemption and the conclusion is suitably ambiguous in that respect.

The Liuetenant’s most recent case involves the rape and beating of a nun. He shows little respect or care for the victim to the disgust of his workmates, even though he admits to also being a Catholic. The nun says she forgives those who did it to her, and Keitel cannot understand this. She says she knows those who did it, but will not tell who they are. This sends Keitel’s character into a spiral of anger over whether he can be forgiven for all the terrible things he continues to do, or whether he could forgive someone else. While all this is happening, he is gambling on a baseball series, but losing more money. The bad guys want their money and they will gladly kill those who do not pay back. We follow him around the city, meeting unsavoury characters, some of whom he exploits in various ways. Eventually after getting stoned he hallucinates about Jesus and begs for forgiveness. He may or may not get this from God, but the bad guys will not be so forgiving.

Above all this is Keitel’s show. On the screen for most of the film we see his anger, corruption, the deeds he does, his changing emotions, and we eventually feel some kind of pity for him, wondering if we could forgive him, based purely on his performance. The movie is of course difficult to watch, and there are few ‘good’ characters with whom we can relate to. He lets criminals get away with theft, he buys drugs off those he should be putting away, he stops teenage girls just so he can masturbate in front of them. Ferrera adds to the bleakness by mostly filming at night, and when it is light the Lieutenant is usually coming down so we do not get any respite. In the end we do not know if he has redeemed himself, though it seems that anyone is capable of being forgiven, but we know for certain that the city will be better off without him.

The DVD only has a few poor features-trailers for this and other movies. The transfer is not too great, same goes for the sound, but for fans of the star, director, or of extreme cult cinema you probably won’t get a better edition. And it’s cheap.

Feel free to comment on the film and what you made of the violence, the relgious imagery, the acting etc.

Saw IV: Go Saw This Now!

Saw IV is the 6th sequel in the series of Saw series. Sawriously. This time round The Saw Man has captured a collection of do-badders and placed them in an abandoned fairground, forcing them to take part in a series of fiendish traps based around fairground rides. This time though certain parts of Saw’s past life are tantalisingly revealed; how he was an orphan, sold into a travelling circus troupe where he learned to hone his abilities at tricks and stunts and traps. Growing up was tough as his only friends were freaks who could bend themselves into 10 inch squared boxes, dwarfs, acrobats, giants, and other unsavoury types. Eventually a bearded lady joined the group and they fell in love. Unfortunately just before they were to be wed, doctors informed Saw that he had Cancer (due to over exposure to clowns) and that he could not be cured. Devasted, his fiancée decided to leave him for the strong man. Saw began to get angry and hate the world. Over time the bearded lady realised she truly loved Saw and told him that she wanted to marry him. He was over-joyed, but that night there was an accident in the circus. Due to a contrived series of events, an audience member accidentally knocked into the cannon as it was firing a trapeze artist out. Instead of flying into a net, he flew into the bearded lady, in one side and out the other, leaving her with a giant man shaped hole in her middle. She died in Saw’s arms, choking on her blood and beard. Saw began to hate the world, watched people wasting their lives, and wanted to show them true pain whilst giving them a chance at redemption as that chance was beyond his own grasp. Naturally the people he has been selecting in this and the previous films have all been connected to his wife’s death in some way.

There is a group of about 10 characters here, mostly annoying, and ranging from drug addicted teen to corrupt big wig, from disgraced sportsman, to college dropout. They wake up together chained to dodgem cars. After a few moments of screaming and arguing and working out who each other is, Saw plays a tape with one of his usual riddles. ‘I want to play a jest’ he says. Each of the cars is rigged with dynamite, the dynamite covered with knives and stabbing weapons. The people must bump into each other as many times as possible within two minutes. Whoever did the least damage in the two minutes remains locked to their seats while the other nine are released. They move on while the loser explodes. The survivors move on to the next group. Over the next two hours we are treated to gore, frights, laughs, and some ingenious set pieces as the group are whittled down to bits. Coincidentally one of the traps involves whittling- the group enters a new room and each find someone hanging from a hook. They have to whittle, or skin their person until only flesh remains. Whoever is last gets chopped up by a giant scythe. We see a trap on board a ghost train, with acid dripping from the ceiling, and bullets flying from the walls; there is a hall of exploding mirrors; a deadly lava filled maze; a terrifying roller-coaster with loops and turns, but no harness; it all ends with the survivors climbing inside cannons to fire themselves out of a window to safety. If they miss they will smash into a brick wall and be trapped forever. If they escape they will be scarred for life with cuts and burns, but will at least be alive.

Unfortunately this was the last Saw film until Saw V. It has some of the best moments of the series, but is quite confusing. At times I didn’t know who was a baddie, or why anyone would set up such elaborate schemes and I began thinking I was watching Scooby Doo instead. The next film toned down the story and upped the blood content as it is simply 90 minutes of a man in a blender.

Best Scene: When they all had to climb up the big slippery slide while blood was poured down onto them. It was funny when one of them slipped down the slide into the grinder at the bottom.