Wolf Creek 2 (2014)

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Director: Greg Mclean

Writer: Greg Mclean, Aaron Sterns

Starring: John Jarratt, Ryan Corr, Shannon Ashlyn

Rating: ★★½

Wolf Creek 2 is the sequel to the disappointing and amazingly dull Australian horror of 2005 Wolf Creek, which is another exhausting horror in which we see the predictable become even more predictable. Unfortunately I can’t say that Wolf Creek 2 takes a whole different approach, however it is slightly better, despite a problematic story for more than a few reasons, it provides gore, horror and a few thrills; taking the one positive from its original and focusing purely on replicating it.

Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) is still roaming the Australian outback with his hunting knife and sniper, chasing down tourists making it an unsafe place, and one to be feared. After setting his sights on a German couple which he soon captures, he is then interrupted by Paul (Ryan Corr), an English tourist who when driving down the highway stops and picks up a blood covered and fearful woman (Shannon Ashlyn). Mick Taylor chases the “pommy” around the outback, destroying his car, invading his hideout before eventually being one on one within his torture house, but will Mick Taylor lose out on another kill once more.

The most successful thing about Wolf Creek for me was Mick Taylor and it was a positive to see director and writer Greg Mclean spotting this and wanting to develop his outback slasher into a bigger and better sequel. However there is a huge problem, not only does this lead into a slightly repetitive and predictable storyline, but it creates an issue with the films message along with who the audience should be identifying with. The first half of Wolf Creek 2 is something which censorships would probably be worried about, as Mick Taylor kills of a few police officers, who were in retrospect being a little bit mean and harsh, he has a little “pig hunting” catchphrase producing laughs, and therefore making the audience side with him. His first victims then speak German, making them completely un-relatable to us as an audience whilst once again Mick cracks out his book of jokes; it takes far too long before Paul to appear for the audience to then realise that we should be classing him as the protagonist, instead of Mick Taylor. Now this shouldn’t really be an issue in terms of entertainment, but something which caught my eye as slightly risky writing by Mclean and Sterns.

Wolf Creek 2 as previously mentioned is very predictable, however to cover-up this flaw, as much action as possible is crammed in to make it both thrilling and entertaining. In comparison to the original much more deaths occur and this time round they become much more extreme and gore-like, with bullets to the head and knives slitting throats. The chase between Paul and Mick is a real highlight and does provide some thrills with some fast-paced scenes, something Wolf Creek lacked. As Paul finds himself in Mick’s torcher den we see a host of dead guests, some still barely breathing and whimpering, and some cold, stuffed and made to act out scenarios, making Mick Taylor look like the sick sadistic serial-killer he told us he was within the original.

John Jarratt’s portrayal of Mick Taylor is brilliant, his sniggering laughs and jokes are all very fun, although a problem of course, it does make for both a very creepy, but fun character. His performance was typified in the tortures scenes, as he quizzes his victim, reveals his intentions and whilst slashing and stabbing remains cool, calm and keeps on laughing. Ryan Corr is likewise good, practically unknown he handles his role well and gives off a reasonable performance.

McLean’s direction isn’t anything special, the way he chose to shoot the death scenes for the police were a nice touch and a highlight. However Wolf Creek 2 did shine through its use of special effects and make-up with a lot of work obviously going into creating a host of dead bodies, guts and gore.

Wolf Creek 2 isn’t anything great but is a slight improvement on its prequel. The horror manages to capture what it set out to, and that’s a gore-filled, thrilling experience focusing on a fun but deluded outback killer. However it doesn’t create anything new, exciting or unique with everything being seen and done a thousand times before, creating for me a very predictable and average watch. Wolf Creek 2 should be avoided if possible, but the experience of watching Mick Taylor might just make it slightly worth-while.

 

Oculus (2014)

Genre: Horror

Director: Mike Flanagan

Writers: Jeff Howard, Mike Flanagan, Jeff Seidman

Starring: Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites, Katee Sackhoff

Rating: ★★★

Oculus was a horror that I was really anticipating after some positive conversations and a very chilling trailer was released not too long ago, however as the genre keeps producing in recent years, I was once faced again with a very typical and exhausted film, despite evidence of potential. Based on Mike Flanagan’s short story the writer turned director, was responsible for both the good and the bad behind Oculus, whilst the ugly was provided by a very shell-shocked Katee Sackhoff portraying Marie Russell. A mixture between psychological terror and minor-gore provided for a very thrilling horror and watch, but one which I felt was over-complicated in story.

Kaylie Russell and Tim Russell (Karen Gillan, Brenton Thwaites) were subject to witness violent events as children at the hands of their once loving parents, in the present day, Tim has just been released from a psychiatric ward after being convicted of murdering his father, and under the suggestions of his doctors his has been told to reunite with his sister Kaylie. Kaylie however since the incident as a child has been obsessing over a mirror who she believes is responsible for a list of supernatural events, including the possessing of her father and mother which led to those awful events those years ago. In an attempt to prove to her brother than it wasn’t truly him who killed their father, she sets up a plan to film the mirror and show him its supernatural powers on a night where seeing isn’t always believing.

Oculus consists of a very good set-up story, which it approaches very well in the introduction, however as the mirror’s powers are displayed it soon shows how false-realities are made as our characters see what they want to see, however as an audience and especially for me, this became very confusing and problematic. It seems that the film and the writers have over-complicated a very decent story which holds much potential, and as I viewed Oculus, as much as I wanted to understand and enjoy the film, I was left frustrated with the constant change in truths and realities.

The film however was slightly different to many horrors recently released, there wasn’t too much supernatural action or visual gore until the final climaxes, yet it still obtained a very creepy and eerie feel, something which was a success. However when the gore came and the supernatural beings, it was achieved and used well, producing more thrills and a few gasps. Katee Sackhoff, who played Tim and Kaylie’s mother within the film, was in particularly the most horrifying aspect in Oculus as she haunted the old house, and history was shown.

Karen Gillan, who is very well-known for her role within Doctor Who, performed well and her portrayal of Kaylie was successful. This is the first film I have seen Gillan in, and the first acting display away from Doctor Who; but she lived up to expectation and achieved the obsessive, interesting and bold character she needed to. Brenton Thwaites’ as Tim was also good, with the unknown actor handling the fast-paced haunting scenes very realistically. However the two members of the cast which deserve most credit are Annalise Basso and Garrett Ryan who played younger versions of Kaylie and Tim in the many flashbacks within Oculus; the duo handled the job well and produced both believable and professional performances.

The highlight of Oculus however was in the hands of Flanagan who’s directing has made him a much more common name within film, and deservedly so. Oculus achieves a directing style which is rare for horror films; it was refreshing and unique with a range of shots and angles which were all used very well. The look was also brilliant, whilst special effects and make-up, especially on Katee Sackhoff was a real highlight.

It is a shame that for all the good which Oculus achieves it was let down majorly by a story which was repetitive, over-complex and frustrating. I feel that due to this everything else was very limited, in what was a high potential thrilling horror. Oculus is still a film which is very worth-while to watch, although not the most flawless it is an entertaining and cinematically appealing and different. Flanagan may have not hit the big-time with his writing, but his original concept and directing was certainly impressive. Horror disappointed last year in cinema and Oculus seemed to have followed in the average footsteps left behind.