I watch a lot of horror movies that do not scare me. This is not because I am hard as nails. I am one of the most easily freaked out people on the planet. One of my friends said he was tired of seeing me describe new horror releases as 'another piss-poor 70s remake'. Well, if it walks like a duck and sounds like a duck. Anyways, the point is that there are deeply nasty movies out there. If you like gore and torture you can check out a Japanese flick called AUDITION. If you like psychological eeriness you can check out CALVAIRE. And seriously, you can rent all those fantastic 70s classics. However, the movie I most recommend right now is a low-budget Aussie horror called WOLF CREEK. The strength of the movie is that it ticks all the right genre-specific boxes without feeling tired and formulaic. Three teenagers are taking a road-trip through the Australian countryside. It's classic horror fare. They listen to bad rock music, get drunk, jump in swimming pools Spring-Break-style, and end up in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a busted car and a Backwoodsman. Newbie writer-director Greg McLean seems to understand that what is scary about horror is the slow build-up to the inevitable nastiness. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of gut-wrenching violence in this film, but it is the slow build that gets to you. The cinematographer manages to take some fantastic footage (moreso considering it is shot on hi-def video) of the countryside that emphasises how isolated the kids are. Moreover, I have always thought it necessary for a good horror movie to be elevated by a sick sense of humour, and we get that here, with a now cult-ishly famous re-take on the Crocodile Dundee, "Call that a knife" joke, not to mention the "hero" doing a nice Darth Vader impression with a flashlight. Class. Of course, well over half way into the film, we realise that the stereotypical jovial farmer who has offered to help the kids out is two screws loose. From then on we get forty minutes of well-acted, imaginative, nasty, menacingly-lit horror. Which means, in simple terms, JOB DONE. Go see it, but don't say I didn't warn you.
WOLF CREEK premiered at Sundance 2005 and was released in the UK, US and Australia last year. It will be released in Germany on July 13th and in France on August 9th. It is also available on DVD.