Crikey! "Wolf Creek" is a Disturbing Aussie Horror Trip!


9/12/2019

Writer/Director Greg Mclean has created a charismatic and memorable Australian serial killer in the form of Mick Taylor for the 2005 film “Wolf Creek”.  While the plot and storyline are minimal and quite familiar, Mclean takes time to develop the characters for max effect when things start to go south.  Similarities could be made to the “Crocodile Dundee” films of the mid to late 80s, “Wolf Creek” spins the story of your classic outback survivalist in a completely different direction, but they do make a few nods to it in the film.

“30,000 people go missing in Australia each year, 90% are found within a month” Theses are the words displayed on the screen as the film opens.  We are taken into the lives of 3 college friends Liz, Kristy, and Ben who are in the midst a wild drunken party.  When the sunrises the next morning everyone is in hangover mode.  The three friends get into a car and head off on a road trip to the Wolf Creek Crater site.  This is when we finally see the films credit sequence.  Throughout the film we are treated to several wide-angle shots that showcase the beauty of the Australian outback, that juxtaposed with the nastiness of Mick.

Once they get to the site they have to take a three-hour hike in the rain to visit the awe-inspiring crater.  Since this is a horror movie we are treated to some scary campfire stories of UFOs and strange supernatural occurrences that supposedly happened at the site.   There is also a budding romance between Ben and Liz.  It’s dark when they get back to the car and wouldn’t you know it the car won’t start.  I don’t think there would be cell service even if they did have phones.  After contemplating what they should do next they are approached by two giant lights in the distance.  No Ben it's not a UFO, but a big truck coming to help them out.  Mick gets out and introduces himself, he is charismatic and a bit eccentric.  After some hesitation, they agree to have their car towed back to his place, which a quite far away.  Back around the campfire, Mick tells some gory stories of his life being a pig hunter and a chorus of awkward laughter hangs over every word.  Liz, Kristy, and Ben all drink from the same water jug and wouldn’t you know it was drugged.  

Liz wakes up with her wrists and ankles zip-tied, she is able to break free and heads to the barn where Kristy is tied to a post screaming and crying.  2005 was the start of the short-lived torture porn era in horror as Eli Roth’s Hostel was also released the same year.  Liz is able to get the drop on Mick and shoots him in the neck.  She unties Kristy and they try to make their escape.  Of course Mick is far from dead and the hunt is on.  The girls try to outsmart Mick, but they never stay hidden for very long.  We get to see more of Mick’s vast camp that includes a graveyard of old cars and one of bones and rotting corpses.  The girls almost get away a couple of times but it was never meant to be.  We then finally get to see what happened to Ben, although he is nailed to a cross he manages to escape.  As he looks for a way back to civilization he is caught in the middle of a full solar eclipse.  Ben is eventually able to find a road and flag down some tourists who take him to safety.  

Before the end credits, we get a few paragraphs that say that this was based on a true story and the girls' bodies were never found.  Ben was not found to be guilty of any crime and now live in a mental facility.  No trace of Mick has ever been found either.  “Wolf Creek” is better than your average horror film with its character development, truly nasty gore effects, brilliant cinematography, and the wonderfully insane Mick Taylor.  Greg Mclean also directed the sequel “Wolf Creek 2” in 2014 which is a less successful carbon copy of the original.  


"Cry Wolf" Will Make you a Believer


9/5/2019

The late 1990s and early 2000s were all about the teen horror movie, a sub-genre that was reinvigorated by Wes Craven’s 1996 film “Scream”.  Although “Cry Wolf” doesn’t rewrite the rules of the modern scary movie, it is a low budget film with a clever script and Jon Bon Jovi as a teacher? Say what!

The story takes place at West Lake Prep school, a repository of rich and over-privileged teens who keep themselves entertained by playing elaborated games of lying and deception.  We enter the film through the eyes of new student Owen (Julien Morris), who is way too innocent looking and also happens to be British.  He is introduced into the world of West Lake by the resident popular girl, Dodger (Lindy Booth). Then Owen meets the popular kids and is invited to sneak out after dark to join them in playing the lying game.  He leaves an impression and obviously develops a crush on Dodger.  While in the library together they instigate a prank in creating a campus serial killer.  The technology used in the film is period-accurate so by today’s standards is quite outdated.  The students use AOL Instant Messenger to pass around rumors about “The Wolf” and his recent victim, a girl who was actually murdered in the woods by the school.  The Wolf becomes a viral sensation before the term viral was even a thing.  Smartphones were still a few years away and social media was still in its infancy.

Things then start to get real when Owen and a few other students are attacked by a person dressed up like the Wolf (Camo jacket, orange ski mask, large hunting knife).  The search is on to find out who this person is and everyone on campus is a suspect.  As I mentioned in the opening, Jon Bon Jovi plays Mr. Walker a teacher who is found out to be having an affair with Dodger.  She has broken it off, but Owen isn’t so sure.  At one point Owen loses his book bag while running from the killer and when he gets it back the killers hunting knife if found inside implicating him.  The students in the lying game circle start to disappear and the remaining students are freaked out and want the game to be finished.  The third act involves betrayals, double-crosses and a surprising murder or was that the plan all along?  Without giving away too many spoilers the puppet master is revealed and we find out all the intricate details.  This movie takes full advantage of the shocking twist ending that was popularized by “The Sixth Sense”.  “Cry Wolf” is an entertaining horror film that while not earth-shattering rises above your average scary movie.

"The Howling" is an 80s Horror Classic!


8/22/2019

1981 was a full moon when it came to werewolf movies as two classics of the genre were released.  In the Springtime we saw Joe Dante’s “The Howling” and in late summer John Landis’s “An American Werewolf in London” came out.  Both films offer similar groundbreaking visual effects but this review will focus on “The Howling”.

Prolific actress Dee Wallace stars as Karen White a television reporter who is hot on the trail of a serial killer named Eddie the Mangler.  When she arranges to meet a source in a shady red light district porno shop.  As you might expect things go terribly wrong and she is attacked by Eddie.  She survives and Eddie is shot dead by the police.  Her husband Bill is supportive with his great hair and porn star mustache, but Karen still struggles with debilitating PTSD.  Dr. George Wagner, a psychiatrist plugging his latest book on television tells Karen about a backwoods retreat he runs called The Colony and invites her and Bill to check it out.  When they get there it looks like a hippie commune filled with a number of strange characters.  All of the residents stare at Karen and Bill and you know something is up.  Even when they get settled in their cabin Karen hears howling noises at night.  So her and another women go out to investigate and as you would expect in a horror movie her flashlight dies.  They then run into a mutilated cow and a couple of hunters and all is good.

Back in the city the police along with two other reporters Chris and Terry, who are friends of Karen, investigate Eddie’s apartment and find all kinds of weird pictures, drawings, and objects.  Drawings of wolf-like people that foreshadows what's to come up at The Colony.  They then come to find that Eddie’s body is missing from the morgue.  Chris and Terry go to an occult bookstore and get a history lesson on werewolves, then they decide to go to The Colony and try to save Karen and Bill. 

The mythology of the werewolf is of the beast that resides in all of us.  It’s about deeply repressed feeling and emotions that try to claw their way out of us.  Another great example is the movie “Ginger Snaps” about two teen sisters coming to grips with their burgeoning sexuality.

Bill is the first one to be bitten and changed as he is seduced by the sexy vixen Marsha.  Once Chris and Terry arrive all hell is breaking loose.  Eddie is back for some unfinished business with Karen and we see him fully transform into a wolf.  For 1981 these practical special effects are amazing and still look great every by today’s standards.  It gives the film a look that you just can’t get with CGI.  We also see Dr. Wagner as the Alpha wolf attacking Terry.  The fight for survival is on.  Just when Karen gets to a car and drives away she comes to a barricade put up by the kind old Sheriff Sam, but he too is a wolf.  Karen then is attacked from behind and bitten by none other than Bill.  When they get back home things seem to be normal as Karen is ready to get back in front of the camera for the first time since the initial attack.  Although she has a plan of her own when she transforms into a werewolf on live T.V. to make people believe they are real.  This all falls on deaf ears as the public thinks it’s a hoax or some kind of publicity stunt.  This movie is also jam-packed with in-jokes and ironic props.  Wolf Chili anyone?  All through this film launched a franchise of about 8 sequels the original is the only that should be ever be watched.  

"Dog Soldiers" is a Howling Good Movie!


8/20/2019

British director Neil Marshall’s debut feature was the 2002 werewolf film “Dog Soldiers” which is now regarded one of the great werewolf movies since the 80s classics “The Howling” and “An American Werewolf in London”.  What’s more is that the film was very low budget and didn’t have a U.S theatrical release, although it did hit the festival circuit.

Taking place in the highlands of Scotland an army platoon is going through training exercises when they realize that they are ones being hunted and not by other soldiers, but by a pack werewolves   We spend some time getting to know the soldiers.  The main guy is Pvt. Cooper (Kevin McKidd) who when approached by a special forces commander and ordered to shoot a dog he refuses.  This scene is also echoed at the end of the film.  The army platoon reaches their camp and they tell stories around the campfire when a mutilated animal crashes the party.  The morning after they find that the special forces team was completely wiped out with only one survivor the commander.  On the run from the wolves, they are picked up by a woman in a Jeep and brought to a farmhouse that is still miles and miles from civilization.  With no phones or radio, the house is soon under siege from the pack and they must fight for their lives and barricade themselves inside.  The fear and paranoia that is created is real and consistent for the remainder of the film.  We also get P.O.V. shots of the werewolves when the film switches from color to high contrast black and white.

Megan, the women who rescued them, starts to come off as a person who seems to know a lot more than she is telling everyone but still helps the team in their attempts to get help and also cares for the injured.  The third act is jam-packed with epic explosions, brutal combat and a major double-cross. 

The filmmakers fully embraced using practical effects in creating everything from the blood, guts, and gore to the werewolves themselves.  All of the locations are real and not done on a soundstage, which is essential in creating the feel and atmosphere of the film.  It is ridiculous how good this film looks and feels for the reported 2 million dollar budget.  This film will definitely satisfy those hardcore horror fans and is worthy of a buy at add to your disc collection.


Brian De Palma's "Sisters" is a Classic!


8/15/2019

*Contains Spoilers”

The 1973 film “Sisters” was director Brian De Palma’s Hitchcockian murder mystery starring Margot Kidder and Jennifer Salt.  Released a few years before his breakout film “Carrie” “Sisters” deals with a woman in the grips of severe psychological trauma and a female reporter trying to get her big break.

The film opens with a close up of a growing fetus inside a womb then revealing conjoined twins Danielle and Dominique.  Margot Kidder plays both parts but primarily as Danielle a French Canadian fashion model who is consistently stalked by her weaselly ex-husband Emil.  While on a hidden camera game show she strikes up a relationship with Phillip and after a dinner date they go up to her apartment.  The whole feel of the film is one of voyeurism, especially from the point of Grace Collier (Jennifer Salt), the newspaper reporter who lives in the next building over.  The morning after Phillip goes to the pharmacy to pick up Danielle’s medication and also gets her a birthday cake at the bakery.  When he gets back he is rudely greeted by a sleeping Dominque who stabs him to death.  

Alfred Hitchcock has been a huge influence on De Palma’s career and you can see allusions to several Hitchcock classics like “Rear Window” and “Psycho” within “Sisters”.  While Danielle and Emil frantically clean up the murder scene, Grace Collier witnesses the whole thing and is hot on their trail and calling the police to investigate.  De Palma is also known for using split screens in a  majority of his films.  It’s a unique and clever device when used correctly and he has perfected it.  The police find nothing out of the ordinary (of course) as the body is hidden within a sofa-bed.  

What we see next is a cat and mouse thriller between Danielle and Grace.  Grace hires a private investigator as this story could be her big break.  But her dogged tenacity has dire consequences when the tables are turned and she’s accused of being the crazy one.  In a big exposition dump, we learn about Danielle’s troubled past and that of her twin sister.  We end up with a rather anti-climactic ending that is none the less quite chilling.  Although not completely satisfying in the traditional sense it seems to fit quite well for a De Palma film.