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Review: Wolf Creek The Series: Episode 1

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The Wolf Creek films are essentially Australia’s answer to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, with Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) filling in for Leatherface, preying on ill-fated tourists who make the fatal mistake of wandering into his territory. Both Wolf Creek films were box office hits, and both films generated a bizarre amount of controversy (including a baffling low point where David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz flat out refused to review the sequel on At The Movies), but neither film seems even vaguely suited to the long-form storytelling treatment of a TV series. Slasher films are, by their nature, short and sharp. Even within the Wolf Creek movies, the original works much better than the sequel because Mick is kept enigmatic and mainly in the shadows. It’s unexpected and gratifying then, that the Wolf Creek series works so well.

The first episode of the series begins in a similar fashion to its cinematic forebears. An American family visits the great outback of Australia, to take in the sights and keep their troubled daughter, Eve (Lucy Fry), on the straight and narrow. Of course, Eve’s addiction problems seem very minor indeed once the family meet Mick. One scene of slaughter later, Mick takes the bodies of the family and drives off. But here’s the rub: Eve didn’t die. The rest of the episode puts the pieces in place for the series arc. Eve recovers from her wounds, befriends sympathetic cop, Sullivan (Dustin Clare), and begins planning her revenge on Mick, with the hunter literally becoming the hunted.

Lucy Fry and Dustin Clare in Wolf Creek

Lucy Fry and Dustin Clare in Wolf Creek

The Wolf Creek series benefits from solid central performances, with Jarratt in fine form, and Fry (last seen in 11.22.63, playing the wife of Lee Harvey Oswald) providing an engaging and nuanced protagonist. Wolf Creek is also beautifully shot, with the Australian outback looking vibrant and terrifying, the perfect place for Mick to ply his grisly trade. The tone is more thriller than horror this time, which is perfect for the six-episode arc, although Mick certainly hasn’t toned down his bloodletting or laconic gallows humour. The whole season begins streaming on Stan on May 12 – and if the rest of the season is as good as the first ep, then Australian horror and thriller fans are in for an entertaining, white-knuckle ride into hell and (hopefully) back again.

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! – ARGH ARGH ARGH!

 

 
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Review: Bad Neighbours 2

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Life is good for Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) and pregnant wife, Kelly (Rose Byrne), following their epic war with their fraternity neighbours, Delta Psi Beta. This is until history seems to repeat itself when the unruly sisters of Kappa Nu move in next door. As loud parties continuously disrupt the peace, the couple turn to former neighbor and onetime enemy, Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) for help. Now united with the fraternity stud, the trio devises a scheme to get the wild sorority off the block. Unfortunately – and hilariously – the rebellious young women refuse to go down without a fight.

The first Bad Neighbours was rife with predicable frat-boy misogyny, stoner jokes, and internalised homophobia. The second installment, however, is almost a complete 180 on that premise, tackling – and in fact – supporting issues including feminism, gay rights, the war on drugs, and racism with a solid balance of humour and sincerity. Director, Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him To The Greek), takes a big swing here in his attempt to add depth and emotion to these intensely shallow characters and surprisingly, pulls it off. Having said that, there are stupid and totally cringe-worthy moments, including Zac Efron covering himself in pork fat and dancing on stage for a swarm of screaming girls for, literally, no reason. Although, the shift from male to female-gaze in this iteration is a welcomed change.

But despite the many poo and dildo jokes, Bad Neighbours 2 actually hits the humour pretty hard. Seth Rogen fans will be stoked with his inability to play anyone other than Seth Rogen – he totally delivers on the “I’m an ageing stoner tryin’ to be a parent, whhhaaat?” vibe, and to be honest, it’s always pretty funny (think Knocked Up). Rose Byrne is thankfully given more opportunities to stretch her funny bone this time around, where her young mother character is equal parts relatable and hilarious. Zac Efron and series new-comer, Chloe Grace Moretz, rely on how young and attractive they are, but still get small moments to demonstrate their value outside of that. All in all, it’s not winning any Oscars, but its progressive reboot approach to what has traditionally been a pretty sexist and predictable genre makes Bad Neighbours 2 refreshing and funny enough to sit through.

 

 

 
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Frances O’Connor: Back Home For Cleverman

London based Australian actress, Frances O’Connor (The Missing) returns for a major role on Cleverman (directed by Wayne Blair, pictured), ABC-TV’s highly anticipated meld of sci-fi, social comment, and indigenous mythology.