In a year when the stupidities of the intelligent-design movement are big news, it's no surprise that the deranged-hillbilly flick is back with a vengeance: The Devil's Rejects, House of Wax, to say nothing of The Dukes of Hazzard. But America, it seems, is not the only country with a yokel problem. Earlier this year, they ran amok in the French countryside of High Tension, and now they're flipping out in the outback of Wolf Creek, director Greg McLean's grim, hyperrealist entry in the resurgent backwoods-berserker genre.
Hottie #1 (Phillips), Hottie #2 (Morassi) and Hottie #3 (Magrath) pile into a jalopy and head into the godforsaken nowheresville of deepest, sun-blasted Australia. There, inevitably, they tangle with a lunatic (Jarratt), who proceeds to torture, mutilate and massacre his victims with a terrifying lack of one-liners. No less an exercise in style than the underrated High Tension, Wolf Creek eschews that film's last-reel trickery, cleaving to the bone of '70s-style brutalism and pulverizing its viewer with blunt, unrelenting nastiness.
Premiered at Sundance and invited to Cannes, Wolf Creek is a definite cut above the routine slasher flick, if hardly the second coming of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Whether or not hard-core horror heads appreciate the energy McLean devotes to crafting his characters, the intensity with which he tears them to shreds will have them howling at the moon.—C.C. Binks
(Opens Sun 25; see Now playing for venues.)