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Film Review: Wolf Creek 2

Surely there are better Australian scripts out there that deserve the funding

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Can I see a show of hands for the people who were asking for a Wolf Creek sequel? OK, maybe there are a very small number of you that were, but not enough to warrant a follow-up, right? Wrong. So here we are, back in the outback for another round of dumb tourist vs. sadistic killer (aka Wolf Creek 2). The stakes are the same (your life), and so is the story. At least the first act, which plays out like a blueprint of the original. The rest of the film is a disjointed mess of wild road rage, hide and seek, and torture porn, all the while trying to dupe us all into believing the entire thing is true.

Don’t let the filmmakers fool you into thinking the original and the sequel are based on true stories. They’re not. Just because title cards at the start of a film say ‘Based on actual events’, doesn’t mean they’re based on ‘factual’ events. Sure people get killed in the outback, but writing epilogues at the end of a film about fake court cases with fictional people involved in heinous crimes is a technique used with the sole purpose of making the film seem more real and more scary. Even the most factually accurate of autobiographical films bend the truth to make the story more interesting. Did David Helfgott’s father in Shine relentlessly abuse his piano prodigy son? No. Did Russell Crowe’s John Nash character in A Beautiful Mind have a loving and caring wife who stuck with him through his mental illness? No. She left him at the first signs of crazy.

In Wolf Creek John Jarratt gave a career defining performance, bringing Mick Taylor to life and terrorising cinemagoers the world over. In the sequel he treads into overacting territory, where the once terrifying pig-shooter is now nothing more than a caricature of himself. The dark sinister side of Taylor which made the original so successful is toned down for more of a larrikin, humorous version. It kind of reminded me of how Freddy Kruger would crack jokes at the expense of his soon-to-be Elm Street victims. Remember that? Back in the 80’s when it original and funny?

Greg Mclean doesn’t do much to raise his profile as a writer/director either. This is very basic horror direction. There’s a noteworthy car chase sequence involving a truck which will evoke memories of Spielberg’s Duel, but besides that we are in a territory all too familiar to the original which doesn’t leave much room for Mclean to show us what he’s really capable of behind the camera. Worst still, maybe he’s already shown us?

Are there any shinning lights? Yes, a couple. Young Aussie actor Ryan Corr delivers a great performance as the intelligent British backpacker who’s knowledge of Australian history nearly wins Mick over. And the sequence in Mick’s underground lair which is a dark and endless maze filled with the attrocities and remainders of Mick’s crimes is a great vision into the mind of the killer. For a brief moment his character is somewhat developed and explored a little further. It’s also a welcome relief to the dialogue heavy scene that preludes it.

So, in terms of ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda’, how could this film have been better? For starters, release a sequel a couple of years after the original. Horror franchises do well when they are relevant. It’s been 8 years since the original, and the horror sub-genre of ‘torture porn’, of which this film falls into, unfortunately died in the ass around the time Saw 4 and Hostel 2 were released. What about letting another director helm the sequel? This keeps the franchise fresh while having a new perspective on the story. It worked for Aliens and 28 Weeks Later. Finally, why not completely divert the audiences expectations? Turn the story on its head and give us something unexpected. Hell, why not take Mick out of the outback and out his comfort zone by sending him to Byron Bay or Bondi where he’d have a field day terrorising foreign backpackers to his sadistic hearts content?

I’m not in the business of bursting bubbles, but I’m aware I may have pricked a few people with this review. I’d just hate to see you waste your money on a film when it would be much better spent seeing something else. Even if I only gave a rating of 2 stars out of 5, I feel that is being a little generous. But above else, the most disappointing thing other than the film itself is the fact that governing body Screen Australia partially funded the film. Surely there are better Australian scripts out there that deserve the funding.

Wolf Creek 2 is now showing in cinemas nationwide

WOLF CREEK 2
Directed by: Greg Mclean
Written by: 
Greg Mclean, Aaron Sterns
Cast: 
John Jarratt, Ryan Corr
Released by: 
Village Roadshow
Running time: 
106 minutes

Film Reviews

Film Review: It Chapter Two

The sweet spot between Stephen King fans, horror fans and (believe it or not) comedy fans

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The final installment in the It saga is a clever, scary, probably-too-long allegory about the power of friendship — complete with a 20-foot clown spider. Sure, it’s probably a half-hour longer than it really needs to be — but It Chapter Two is still a fantastic film that hits the sweet spot between Stephen King fans, horror fans and (believe it or not) comedy fans.

It’s a story about friendship, and just like the first film, it’s those relationships that make this story so compelling and keep it woven together in a way that you really care about what’s happening to all the folks Pennywise has been menacing across these two films. Sure, Bill Skarsgård’s absolutely terrifying performance as Pennywise is what puts butts in the seats, but at its heart, this is a story about the power of friendship to win out over pretty much anything. If we work together, we can overcome fear, loneliness, doubt, depression — and yeah — even a supernaturally godlike killer clown. Thankfully, all the blood keeps that message from getting too sappy along the way.

The first It in 2017 was a surprise, monster hit — but for good reason. The Stephen King adaptation by director Andy Muschietti is pretty much a horror masterpiece wrapped in a compelling coming of age story. Think Goonies meets a face-eating monster flick with jump scares galore to keep the blood pumping. But, despite a decently-closed ending to the first chapter, the story was always conceived as a two-part film run, which is pretty much the only way one could hope to possibly wrap up King’s massive tome (the studio actually briefly considered splitting Chapter Two into two films, because there’s just so much material). 

It Chapter Two makes a wise decision to keep the stellar younger cast from the first film involved via ample flashbacks, while still providing space for the adult Losers to live and breathe (and, ahem, die) while bridging the gap between who they were and who they all grew up to be. It also embraces the inherent silliness and insanity of its premise to laugh, now seen through the lens of middle-aged adults as opposed to middle school minds. It’s a hard tone to hit, and it arguably might come off with more laughs than scares, but it’s true to the inherent madness of Pennywise.

The adult cast is also a home run by and large. James McAvoy makes for a capable adult Bill; Jessica Chastain is the embodiment of adult Bev; James Ransome nails grown-up Eddie; and Isaiah Mustafa does a capable job providing the necessary info-dumps as adult Mike. But the real breakout is Saturday Night Live alum Bill Hader as grown-up Richie. There’s scattered buzz that Hader could be worthy of an Oscar nomination for his performance, and he deserves every bit of it. We knew Hader had comedy chops, and he uses them plenty to keep this dark tale from getting too dark, but he really taps into the emotion of what it’d be like to go through something so traumatizing. And the moments that break Richie will almost certainly break you, too.

As for the changes to King’s original novel, sure, they’ll certainly be noticeable for fans. That said, the book itself — especially the ending — is absolutely wild and arguably impossible to adapt in a way that could work on the screen. The ending on-screen largely stays true to King’s themes built into the novel, and for the story that’s been told across these two films, it really does work. Hell, even King himself shows up in a cameo to make a joke about just how hard it can be to get an ending right.

Thankfully, despite a few bumps, It Chapter Two pretty much nails the landing. In a world filled more and more with King adaptations, this two-film run will stand as one of the best.

It Chapter Two is in cinemas now

IT CHAPTER TWO
Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Written by: Gary Dauberman
Cast: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Bill Skarsgård
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Run time: 169 minutes

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Film Review: Hobbs & Shaw

If you’ve already got the volume at 11, you might as well blast it to oblivion

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Hobbs and Shaw

It is hard to believe that 2001’s The Fast & The Furious was just a film about the underground culture of street racing. Fast forward nearly 20 years later and the films have gotten so ridiculous that the only logical next step for the film series is to blast it into space. Our endless appetite for the series has seen us grown accustomed to cars taking planes out of the sky (Fast 6), cars jumping from one building to another (Fast 7), and cars being remotely controlled to act like a pack of mechanical wild dogs (Fast 8). Ridiculous is not a barrier the film series will ever brake for and so it brings us to this, the biggest spin-off the series has seen, Hobbs & Shaw.

When the chemistry between The Rock and Jason Statham proved magic in Fast 8, it only took The Rock butting heads with Vin Diesel to see that logically, the series needed a freshness to it. Who better than Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham? Well, as Hobbs & Shaw proves, if you’ve already got the volume at 11, you might as well blast it to oblivion as the film cares not for subtlety, pouring gasoline on the fire. The film sees the addition of Idris Elba as supervillain Brixton Lore and the effervescent Vanessa Kirby as Hattie Shaw, the sister of Statham’s character. Both characters fit in superbly well to the colorful, over-the-top personas of the series, but with one difference; they haven’t worn thin yet and are extremely likable. The film benefits greatly from the absence of Vin Diesel’s dopey head and the majority of the dopey Fast “family”, instead taking the Fast and Furious formula and giving it a spit shine, turning it sideways, and sticking it right up… well, you know the drill.

Hobbs (Johnson) and Shaw (Statham) play the unlikeliest (but most charismatic) buddy cop twosome since the days of Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte. Unexpectedly, this film is really quite hilarious- with the two swapping one-liners and jibes that keeps the film light and funny. The two are tasked with stopping global genocide at the hands of the megalomaniacal terrorist organization known as Etheon. The “face” of Etheon is superhuman Brixton Lore (Elba), an agent left for dead and turned into a weaponized cyborg-esque villain using genetic engineering. He’s the “black Superman” as he says, and he’s got an array of tech and gadgets (including a transforming, autonomous motorbike that would have found itself at home in a Transformers movie) that are part of Etheon’s plan to rid the world of the “weak”.

Vanessa Kirby
Vanessa Kirby is one of the highlights of Hobbs & Shaw

Etheon are after a deadly virus that is in possession of Hattie Shaw and what ensues is the expected cinematic equivalent of flexing your muscles and undoing the top few buttons of your blouse soundtracked to explosions, fast machines, and zippy dialogue. Director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) keeps things by the book, and visually it’s all very on brand with the film series. But it is the chemistry and likability of the stars- namely Kirby, Statham, and Johnson- that keeps Hobbs & Shaw light on its feet, big with its set pieces, and never a chore. Kirby, in particular, has shown that her action chops are as deadly as her acting chops (is it too late to make her Black Widow? Or maybe just put her in all the action films). She never spends the film waiting to be rescued and is often the one quelling the childish, but hilarious quarrelling between Statham and Johnson.

The film trades the tired Fast family for real blood family, and while we still get the whole “family” and “heart” spiel that Vin Diesel loves to harp on about in these films, there is definitely a welcome change to the last few films. In fact, the Fast films haven’t been this fun in a long time. Unlike the last few, Hobbs & Shaw knows that the stakes of the film are global, but never does it take that too seriously and we the audience never feel too burdened by the ridiculousness of it all. There are some great cameos (two unexpected stars pop up that add the right comedic touches, plus Helen Mirren is always brilliant) and while the changing of scenery to Samoa is reminiscent of the previous Fast family vacations to South America et al, there’s something spiritual about this trip.

In the end, you don’t even have to turn your brain off because the film is soaked in charm and lightness that makes for a fun, smart enough romp that keeps its two-plus hour run time feeling like quite a breeze. Hobbs & Shaw is what this film series desperately needed. And while we can’t say the appeal will still be there when we’re inevitably sitting through Hobbs & Shaw 2, 3, 4, 5… we can say that for now, we’ll live this life one spin-off at a time.

HOBBS & SHAW
Directed by: David Leitch
Written by: Chris Morgan, Drew Pearce
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Vanessa Kirby, Idris Elba, Helen Mirren
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Run time: 135 minutes

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