We don’t do supernatural films in Australia, don’t know why, there doesn’t seem to be a need, the animals are poisonous or prehistoric, the people are teetering on the brink of reverting to Palaeolithic religions and cultures. Even the very earth seams to hum with a rare mind twisting form of radiation. Adding ghosts or werewolves to something like that is like bringing a snappy Pomeranian to a bear fight.
It’s not to say we don’t have our monsters, there’s Bunyips, Yowies, Min-Min and Alien Black Cats, but as a rule they don’t rate compared to what is actually there, Giant pigs, a Giant chicken called a Cassowary that can grolloch you with its big toe, Crocodiles that grow to a little under seven meters, Sharks that swim in our rivers, poisonous spiders and Snakes: lots and lots of snakes.
Sometimes we make a supernatural film, The Long Weekend, Lake Mungo, Incident at Ravens gate, Picnic at Hanging Rock, but most of these are just thinly veiled warnings about being killed by the terrain. Most of our good horrors are based on reality, the sharks in Open Water (alright we didn’t make it but it feels Aussie) The Croc in Rogue, the Pig in Razorback. Then sometimes it’s just the people, The Rape boys in Shame, John Bunting in Snowtown and the fellas in Wake in Fright.
Which brings me to Mick Taylor, I’m not a fan of Wolf Creek, sorry to say, it’s pretty simple, a two act piece with protagonists I’m not really concerned for, taking bits and pieces from horrible Australian crimes, Ivan Milat’s Head on a stick, the Falconio case makes me cringe a little. After all it’s one thing to see horrible events from your life used on screen to tell the story of what happened, like in Justin Kurzels Snowtown. It’s another to see them to fill out a piece of fiction. Especially when there’s more than enough to draw on from the character of Mick Taylor. Mick is scary enough.
He terrifies me in fact.
Like John Bunting in Snowtown (Daniel Henshell’s character ) I can’t help but like Mick a bit, Greg MacLean has tapped into Australia’s underlying xenophobia and made a psycho we’re all on the side of, sort of, right from when the three unfortunates break down and he turns up with a grin and helps them out, we all know what’s going to happen, he’s going to eat these children.
Beyond that he’s friendly, if you live in Australia you probably already know someone like him, the place was full of Mick Taylors at one time, tough isolated individuals who lived off the land, surviving where Burke and Wills perished. Mick represents the last of these people, the myth of Australian mate ship turning septic and selfish at the same time as saying, ” Grow up. The land will kill you. I’m just part of the land”.
Mick’s back story: A dead sister causes a break down early on, then serving as a soldier in Vietnam, honing his killing ability that goes on to earn him a job as an aerial Roo shooter (something I’m lead to believe is very difficult) from there he remains in the outback, hunting with the same cold calm casualness of a shark, preying on tourists, using the terrain to hide his crimes.
From the time I was a kid there was a myth going around about a serial killer who stalked the desert, killing hundreds and disposing of their bodies in an abandoned mines. A myth that has never been substantiated but widely believed none the less.
There are many things about Mick Taylor that fit right into the Australian story, the mate ship, the dark sense of humor (when he acts as if he doesn’t know the phrase “that’s not a knife”, everybody in the world knows that line).
Mick is finite, something that makes Wolf Creek feel modern. It also makes him human, and human he is, Mick can die, by all accounts he’s in his sixties, so even if he gets by unscathed for ten more movies, the grim reaper will get him one way or another, after all this is Australia, there’s reality and nothing else.
So while I don’t like Wolf Creek, I appreciate it as good piece of cinema, a film that simultaneously mourns the death of bare knuckle grit as well as marking the slow hard trail away from those brutal caveman days.
With that said I’ll still be in line on the 20th to get my ticket, along with almost everybody i know, It’s ugly, but it’s Australian and that’s enough.
Good to have you back Mick.
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