Beloved by Quentin Tarantino, the first Wolf Creek was for me an easier movie to defend than it was to actually like. Lumped in with the so-called “torture porn” subgenre, it was a nasty piece of business, loosely based on true events, in which backpacking tourists in Australia run afoul of a racist, murderous rapist named Mick Taylor (John Jarratt). Lacking the catharsis of many slashers, it never let you get comfortable; the sequel, however, is more gleefully deranged and exaggerated – Mick opens the movie by dispensing with two corrupt cops, and his crazy behavior is on full display from the getgo.
Perhaps because his primary target this time is male rather than female, things also feel a bit less unfair and misogynist this time – the victim in theory has a chance to fight back, and maybe even get away, if he can survive a trivia contest that involves getting his fingers amputated. I spoke to Jarratt by phone about Wolf Creek 2, which opens today in theaters, and has been available on-demand since last month.
Luke Y. Thompson: Hey, John. How are you doing?
John Jarratt: Not too foul. How are you?
LYT: Very good, very good. I really enjoyed the second movie. I actually liked it a lot better than the first one.
JJ: Excellent! That’s what we like to hear.
LYT: I felt like there’s a little more fun to this one. The first one, it was sort of daring you as a horror fan to like it, by making itself as difficult as possible and as disturbing as possible. How is it to get into the head space of a guy who’s not one of the “cool” killers, like Freddy and Jason? He’s a real – even without the murders, he’s a kind of unpleasant person.
JJ: Yeah, I don’t know. I think he’s kind of happy-go-lucky, fun-loving guy, who’s got a terrible bent for doing dreadful things to backpackers, you know? If he wasn’t a serial killer and a psychopath, he’d be a lot of fun to be around.
LYT: Yeah, you get more of a sense of that in this one. When he takes out the cops, it’s like he’s doing what we’ve all wanted to do in that one.
JJ: Yeah, and you’re enjoying it, aren’t you?
JJ: And you shouldn’t be, should you?
LYT: No, you shouldn’t.
LYT: The first one, you don’t enjoy anything he does, but the second one, you kind of do. Was that sort of a deliberate choice to push it in that direction?
JJ: No, it’s just the first one was about letting the monster slowly out of the cage, and the second one was, what’s the point of doing that? We all know who he is, so you’ve got him from the get-go. You get 90 minutes of the mad bastard instead of 50. I think that’s the difference. So there’s a lot more chase. In the first one, once he did get out of the cage, there are a lot of good chase sequences in that, and I think there’s a lot of good yammer in that. I just think you get a lot more of it, so you get to know him a little bit better than you did in the first one.
LYT: The kangaroo sequence is pretty insane in this one. Was that all digital stuff that you couldn’t see at the time?
JJ: Yeah, yeah, of course. But it’s not unusual. That is not exaggerated. I’m from – I was brought up in the outback at one stage when I was a kid, and I came around the corner and hit seven kangaroos. It’s not unusual to run into kangaroos. If you ever drive in the outback, about every 500 yards, there’s a dead kangaroo on the side of the road. People run into them all the time. So it’s not an unusual thing to happen. A lot of Aussies have run into kangaroos. So it’s probably fairly macabre for you, but actually it does happen.
LYT: Do you naturally – growing up in the outback, do you have the skills that Mick had or did you have to learn anything, like auto mechanics, or how to handle the weapons properly?
JJ: No, I lived in central Queensland. My old man gave me a single-shot Lithgow when I was 15. I went pig-shooting with it. I started driving when I was 11. I could ride a horse – all of that stuff. I can do everything that Mick can do but kill people!
LYT: Was this kind of a dream role for you, because you get to show off all of that?
JJ: Um – I don’t know. I didn’t think of it like that. I just thought it was handy that I knew what I was doing in that area, so that I would look authentic enough. It was more delving into a macabre character like that, and justifying a character like that, that was more intriguing to me to come up with why people are like that. And a lot of human beings are like that. It wasn’t that long since the Ku Klux Klan and what the Germans did to the Jews, you know what I mean?
JJ: It’s just a very big part of human nature, so it’s worth exploring.
LYT: How closely did you research the real guys like Ivan Milat, who it was loosely based on?
JJ: Well, my character is completely fictitious, but we used the techniques of Ivan Milat, if you like. I read a book called The Sins of the Brothers, I think it’s called – it’s about Ivan Milat – because I wanted to know a little bit about the psychology of a serial killer, why they do what they do. I was trying to find out that – I still don’t understand it, but I did kind of find a justification for it in Mick’s eyes, not mine.
LYT: It’s interesting – I was reading up on Milat, and all the stuff he did in prison, like cutting off his finger and swallowing razor blades and going on hunger strikes because they wouldn’t give him video games. I doubt that’s where the Wolf Creek franchise is going, but wouldn’t it be cool to kind of play that character in prison, doing that crazy stuff?
JJ: Yeah, but Mick’s not like Ivan Milat. Mick’s just a warped pig shooter who’s taken it a little bit too far. [chuckles]Instead of killing feral animals, he’s killing feral tourists! Ivan MIlat’s an urban guy. He’s from the city. So I don’t know – I don’t know how Mick would go in jail. I don’t think he’d knock himself around or carry on like that. He’d knock everyone else around.
LYT: Did you know all the answers to the Australian history trivia questions before you did them?
JJ: I had a – not specific numbers, I’m never good with dates. I’m flat out remembering my kids’ birthdays. But I was aware of most of it, yeah.
LYT: So if you were in the same situation…
JJ: I’d lose all my fingers. I wouldn’t be able to be specific.
LYT: Dates and numbers always trip you up.
LYT: Is this a sort of indefinite series? Do you plan to make more as long as they do well?
JJ: As long as you guys go out there and buy the VODs and don’t pirate the bloody thing, we might make some money out of it, and then we’ll do a third. But if you go out there, and everyone in the world keeps pirating our movies and trying to destroy the film industry, then maybe not.
LYT: Well, we certainly don’t want that.
JJ: No, but that doesn’t seem to stop anyone. If you could download a BMW, they’d soon stop it!
LYT: Well, with 3-D printing, you never know. We could get there.
LYT: You worked with Mel Gibson way back when, right?
LYT: Do you get a sense – do you just know with people like that that they are going to be big, or did you have no idea?
JJ: I just knew him and his best mate, Steve Bisley, who didn’t make it big, but he’s every bit as good an actor as Mel. I knew that they were good actors. They were still NIDA students, and I lived around the corner from them, and I was pretty well known in those days. I did Picnic at Hanging Rock at that stage. I cast them in a movie during the drama school holiday, because I saw them onstage and I thought “These guys are amazing!” I knew they were good actors. But, you know, I’m a good actor too. It took me a bloody long time to crack it.
LYT: Well, Picnic at Hanging Rock, right off that bat – that’s a great gig. That’s a classic right there.
JJ: Yeah, I know. But Mel had a dream ride. He had Mad Max 1, 2, 3, Gallipoli, Year of Living Dangerously – just one of those dream rides.
LYT: What’s coming up next for you? What can we look forward to?
JJ: I’ve just directed and acted in a film my own company has put together called StalkHer, and it’s a two-hander – it’s kind of a cross between Misery and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? It’s called StalkHer, and the by-line is “He chased her until she caught him,” and it’ll be in cinemas in Australia in October or February – one or the other.
LYT: Any word on US distribution?
JJ: No, we’ll flog it in Australia first, try to get a good news story happening, and take it from there.
LYT: Well, John, thank you very much. Like I said, I enjoyed this one and I do hope you keep making them.
JJ: So do I, mate!