Wolf Creek S01E06: “Wolf Creek” REVIEW
Essential plot points:
- Eve returns to Ben’s hut in the wilderness in order to find the crater where Taylor abducted him 17 years ago, tormenting the alcoholic by pouring out his remaining booze until he reveals the location – Wolf Creek.
- She heads to Wolf Creek crater, where she discovers Mick has left her a present – Johnny’s decapitated head on top of a cairn. She buries his remains and discovers he’s also left her another gift — a scrapbook of his previous crimes, revealing Mick was abused by his father after the disappearance of his younger sister when they were children.
- At his home nearby, meanwhile, Mick is torturing a barely-alive Detective Hill, hanging him by chains from the roof of his barn.
- After receiving a blessing from the local priest, Eve storms Taylor’s family home, armed with her aboriginal spear thrower. It initially seems empty, until she discovers a hidden cellar containing the bones of his parents.
- Taylor discovers Eve at the house. She throws her spear at him but he evades it. Fleeing, she runs to the barn where she discovers the tortured Hill, but before she can free him Mick discovers and attacks her.
- Because she’s given him a chase, Mick gives her a choice — kill Hill quickly herself, or watch Taylor kill him slowly instead. She takes Mick’s knife and heads towards Hill, but then tries to stab Taylor instead. He overpowers her, stabs Hill in the stomach then headbutts her into semi-consciousness. Taylor starts to cut her with the knife, but Sullivan manages to pull the barn roof down on them both.
- Taylor frees himself from the wreckage and throws a knife through Eve’s shoulder as she retrieves her spear from his house. On the verge of passing out, she finds a fire poker and launches it with the spear thrower into Mick’s chest, impaling him against the wall. She then runs him through with her spear until he bleeds to death.
- Hill dies in her arms in the barn as they admit their love for each other. She torches the house, with Taylor still impaled to the wall. The next morning, she returns to the burned wreckage, but there’s no sign of his body.
- Eve leaves flowers on Hill’s body before walking off into the outback, as the police arrive to investigate the fire at Taylor’s farm. After walking for a day, she’s picked up by the same trucker that came to her rescue at the road stop weeks earlier.
- As the credits roll, we see Mick Taylor’s familiar blue truck driving down a country road…
And so we come full circle, with the episode returning us to the scene of the original movie, and under the control of the original director and writer, Greg McLean.
Traditionally the big names come at the start of a film-to-tv translation — witness Sam Raimi with Ash vs Evil Dead, for example — so having McLean come in at the end, rather than setting the tone at the start, feels decidedly odd.
But that’s not the only weird thing about the finale. In fact, the whole episode, either by the shift in personnel or by design, turns the entire show on its head.
There’s a weird tonal shift in this episode Wolf Creek. For the last five weeks, this has been a show about revenge – Eve wanting revenge on Taylor for murdering her family, the biker gang wanting revenge on Eve for robbing them, Jonny wanting revenge on the gang for double crossing him, and to an extent Taylor wanting revenge on Eve for not dying.
Taylor’s a murderous psychopath, but he’s human, and this is a human game being played out.
But here, with the finale, that seems to change, with a decidedly more supernatural tone to the final half hour. It’s turned more into a battle of good versus evil — a point hammered home by Eve, whose faith had previously only been hinted at — asking for a blessing from the priest and questioning him on the Angels of Death before heading out for her showdown.
The payoff, too, adds to this feeling. Previously Australia has provided a stunning visual backdrop for the show but this time it feels like Australia’s a character in itself, supporting Eve in her battle against the demonic Taylor. Thus it’s a familiar face rescuing her at the end, complete with the unlikely appearance of Doug the Dog, and Uncle Paddy watching her leave.
McLean’s direction adds to this slightly unearthly tone, undercranking some scenes and giving the whole thing a slightly woozy, at times dreamlike quality.
That’s not to say it’s bad in any way — in fact, there’s two shots of the fire at Taylor’s house that feel like they could have come straight from the opening of Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, looking almost tableaux in their execution. It’s just a notable change from Tony Tilse’s work over the last few weeks.
We’re not altogether convinced it works, but there’s a lot of gusto behind it which largely carries the whole thing off. The peeling back the layers of Taylor’s character is interesting too, the flashbacks wound and woven into the fabric of the episode, their stark black and white nature jarring against the colours and vibrancy of Geoffrey Hall’s landscapes.
This is very much Lucy Fry’s story though, and she carries the whole thing with aplomb. We’re never left unconvinced by her desire for revenge, or her determination to rescue Sullivan Hill, even against her own fears, and it’s a great performance from her.
The clever writing from Felicity Packard sets up the idea that Eve might follow in Mick’s footsteps, showing her becoming as adept an outdoorsman as he is, when faced with the choice of killing Hill herself, but also deliberately undermines it by showing us what she’s lost to get to his point.
As Ruth tells her at the end, she’s changed — and isn’t getting pushed around any more.
It’s an interesting contrast with Dustin Clare, who’s been reliable and solid as Sullivan until now, but gets to spend the whole episode as a chained-up torture victim. The whole declaration of love comes across as slightly creepy, given the age gap and the ambiguity over their relationship last week, but it also gives a nice contrast to the traditional hero-victim gender balance.
Kudos too to John Jarratt. There’s not a tonne of character development you can do with a character like Mick Taylor, especially with so much being told through flashback, but Jarratt finds new facets to his performance, particularly in the confrontation with Eve in the house, standing over the bones of his parents. He’s always made Mick into a decidedly charismatic and likeable psychopath, and that continues here, even as he’s offering Eve the choice of murdering her friend or watching him do it for her. It’s creepy and comforting at the same time. While Wolf Creek the series might not have been built around him, his character and his presence have loomed large in every episode and the veteran performer lived up to that challenge.
And thus ends the ballad of Wolf Creek. Eve’s story feels complete, yet the post-credits sequence and Mick’s disappearing body leaves open the possibility of more stories. McLean’s already said he’d like to return to this universe once more, and given the success of the TV show down under it’d be a surprise if it didn’t get recommissioned.
Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess, but if they can produce another series of the same standard as this, we’re absolutely on board for the ride.
- McLean may have brought a different directing style to the show, but he retains the presence of Geoffrey Hall as his cinematographer, meaning not just continuity in the visual palette but also those breathtaking vistas remain. Honestly, Australia could just cut the landscape scenes out of the show, stick them together and run them in cinemas as a “visit Australia” advert. Obviously they’d need to remove the bodies first…
- The flashbacks. Okay, not them per se, but the story they’re telling — it’s so obvious in which direction it’s going that it feels like it takes an eternity to get there.
- Apparently nobody, in this hugely famous tourist attraction and national park, noticed the human head sitting on a cairn of stones and a scrap book of murder victims for days on end? Aye, and the other one, pal…
And the Random:
- Greg McLean returns behind the camera, after writing and directing the original Wolf Creek movie and its sequel, to take charge of the finale.
- The origins of the creepy opening titles become clear, with Mick’s little sister singing “Who Killed Cock Robin” the day she disappeared.
- The story of Mick’s sister’s disappearance and murder, supposedly by a paedophile, is dealt with by McLean and Aaron Sterns in their prequel novel Origin, which goes into a lot more depth about how he came to be a serial killer.
Review by Iain Hepburn