Australian horror Wolf Creek came out of nowhere to create quite the buzz in 2005. Focussing on John Jarratt as the twisted Mick Taylor and his penchant for offing tourists, the movie went on to be a hit across the globe. With Wolf Creek 2 already on release in the US, a UK release for the sequel is imminent. We were lucky enough to grab some time with writer/director Greg McLean to discuss the two Wolf Creek films, the creation of sinister Mick, Australiana, his current supernatural project and a whole lot more. The full interview will appear in an upcoming issue of Starburst, but here’s something to whet your appetite in the meantime.
Starburst: With the first Wolf Creek film coming out in 2005, why was there such a wait for this sequel and was it always the plan to do a follow-up?
Greg McLean: I’d always planned to do a sequel. Part of my thinking was to make a number of films, with the character being an ongoing horror character. That was partly in my mind. We thought about making the sequel and had a script almost a year after the first film came out, and then it took a long time to get the script right. We developed for years and years, then I went on to other things. We just kind of got busy. So it was always part of the plan, but it took a lot longer than we thought to get it going.
And what lessons, both positive and negative, did you take from the first film and look to implement here?
There were a few things that I definitely wanted to maintain from the first film and not lose in the sequel. I certainly wanted this to be a different genre of film. The first one is an outback horror film, this is definitely more of an action/suspense film. And it was always designed to be that. This film was about exploring different ways of achieving the fear and the suspense of the first one. I wanted to maintain the essence of the atmosphere of the first film. The first film had a very intense atmosphere, just with the place and landscape, the texture of the world that he inhabits. I wanted to maintain those scenes, but I always wanted to maintain the counterpoint between the extreme beauty of the landscape that he exists in and the extreme terror that takes place in that place. So I was very much interested in looking at it from that point; the design, the cinematography, the music choices, things like that.
In the sequel, the action and the violence is a bit more amped up. Was it always the plan to start with a bang?
The first film can only happen once. You can only tell that story once, because once you’ve seen that movie then the cat’s out of the bag. The cat in this case is the character of Mick and what he is. Going into this, we know what his character is. You have to reacquaint him with the audience from the first movie. It’s an entirely different game in how this film has to be structured in order to make sense of its relationship to the first movie. They’re two different things in lots of ways.
With the character of Mick Taylor, how did you put him together? There’s his sick, sinister side, his dark humour, his twisted sense of patriotism, and something that comes across as a slightly camp Freddy Krueger at times…
He was based on two true killers in Australia. The true story element of it is where he began, in one sense - in the sense that he’s a combination of Bradley Murdoch and Ivan Milat. So it’s combined elements of those true characters, and then took a lot of Australian archetypal characters and cultural mythology, like Crocodile Dundee and Steve Irwin, and wove those characters into a combination to come up with the character. It’s really a combination of what the international perception of the Australian personality is, then also having this hidden side of that personality that’s the dark and negative stuff as well. It’s a kind of an interesting combination of those two things; the iconography and the repressed side of the country.
In terms of reaction to the Wolf Creek films, what’s the main differences that you notice in an international audience compared to an Australian audience?
The film did very well in Australia; everyone was talking about it and it was widely released. It was a great reaction in Australia. I think in Australia the reaction was sometimes more mixed because you have a sequel to a popular horror film. It gets reviewed by people who don’t like or ever see horror films, so when those mainstream critics see the film and they’re asked to comment on Wolf Creek 2, they’re outraged. These people have never seen a horror movie and would never seek one out. It’s like asking a classical music critic to comment on the latest Dr. Dre album – they’ll hate it because it’s not their thing. So people are surprised when all of these critics are saying all this crap about the film, but you can’t be surprised really because it’s not the kind of stuff they enjoy. Whereas in America, because there’s such a massive horror fanbase, those are the people who are seeing it and loving it. Everything that some of the Australian critics were offended by, they are embracing it. The energy of the film, they’re loving it. It’s very warmly received. It did well in Australia, no question, but there were certainly a lot of people who weren’t used to that type of horror.
Are there any plans for any further Wolf Creek movies and do you see any legs in the character of Mick Taylor and the world that you have created?
It depends on the audiences really. There are only sequels to successful movies, so if the film does really well then there’s definitely an opportunity to make a third film. We’ll just see how it plays internationally. It’s gone out in a couple of places so far, but there’s really been a lot of interest in people asking that question. It’s really just about how well this film connects, and this film does, and if there really is a genuine demand for another film. Some of the critics are saying that this is not really a sequel that anyone is really waiting for or asking for, then when they see the movie they think it’s a really great movie. If we were to do another movie, there’d won’t be such a long wait, that’s for sure.
So you have ideas ready for a third movie if called upon?
Absolutely! Just naturally, you think of things, think of ideas and storylines. In the interim, as well as thinking of a sequel, we’re developing two Australian horror novels, two Wolf Creek prequel novels, talking about Mick’s early life before the first Wolf Creek movie and how he became this insane serial killer. We’ve released them through Penguin this year. They’re coming out in the States in a couple of weeks, and the novels are great; we’re really happy with those.
Do you not feel with prequels, half of the mystique with a character such as Mick Taylor is not knowing?
Well the novels go way back; it’s another timeline. The first book, Origin, goes from when he is a young boy until he’s an 18-year-old. Because it’s taking place in the late-‘40s and ‘50s in the Australian outback, it’s an entirely different type of character, a different world. It’s interesting. I think there’s certainly that danger of basically just, it is about mystique on some level, but there’s also a level of fascination on how this character evolves.
Wolf Creek 2 is currently awaiting a UK release date. Expect to see the full interview with Greg, not to mention one with star John Jarratt, and a review of the movie in an upcoming issue of Starburst Magazine.
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