Another low-budget indie horror offering that hit the big time when it screened at Sundance, getting picked up by Dimension Films for a stateside release, "Wolf Creek" fell into the tourists-in-nature-get-attacked-by-sadistic-rednecks cliché we had been seeing in so many other fear films in recent years, among them the "Texas Chainsaw" and "Hills Have Eyes" remakes, along with "Wrong Turn."
But the film is far and away the best film that this mini-genre saw in the early 2000s. Had it not been for the thick Aussie accents, it probably would have dominated the U.S. box office, where it underperformed.
A group of three very fun-loving and attractive post-college grads are on a road trip in the desert when their car breaks down. They run into an apparently friendly old bugger (masterfully played by Jarratt) who promises to fix their car free of charge. All he needs to do is tow it to a distant town, slightly out of the way from where they're heading.
MacGrath plays the British protagonist of the tale who is forced to learn the fine art of gun-fighting to survive. Fortunately, the villain tends to leave plenty of guns and ammo around for his supposed victims to get their hands onto. There are some unbelievable moments in this movie, like the guns left around, the fact that would-be victims are so poorly tied up and easily escape, etc. – but the photography, acting, pacing (the film takes a full 40 minutes before any real action starts), and an unusual narrative structure make for a very suspenseful and effective film. Despite the obvious influences of the original "Chainsaw," "Hills Have Eyes," "Last House," and other kidnap-terror films, you can't predict what is going to happen in this film.
Taking the always essential element of "Based on a true story" from "Blair Witch," "Wolf Creek" manages to be horrifying because events like it could actually happen. It also has a climax that outshines anything a horror film has seen in perhaps 20 years or more.
Highly recommended. McLean's follow up film was about a killer Aussie croc. G'day.