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Australian Movies

Being alive

Picnic at Hanging Rock
The unsolved mystery

Mad Max I
The last of the heroes

Baptism of fire and well of tears

Man From Snowy River
The underdog and outsider

Crocodile Dundee
The fun and absurdity of stereotypes

Two Hands
Ying and Yang

Wolf Creek
A psychopath's caricature of Australia

The absurdity of using fictional history to create derogatory caricatures of Australia to promote Australia.





Wolf Creek Murderers


Wolf Creek (2006)

Director: Greg McClean

In 1986, Crocodile Dundee created the stereotype that the Australian outback has towns known as Walkabout Creek that are home to warm-natured larrikins. Despite the movie doing great thing for the Australian film and tourism industries, many Australian moviemakers spent the next 20 years trying to re-educate the world in regards to the outback. For example, in Priscilla (1994), Stephan Elliot tried to define the outback as home to homophobic rednecks. In Welcome to Woop Woop, Elliot tried to define the outback as home to racist, unsophisticated, homophobic beer drinking yobbos. With Wolf Creek, Greg McLean became the Australian industry's latest attempt at correcting the positive Crocodile Dundee stereotype about outback Australia, but did so stating his movies was based on actual events. According to film critic Paul Byrnes:

"Wolf Creek is not directly based on a true story, although a title at the start says, 'based on actual events'. It was suggested partly by the gruesome details of the backpacker murders committed by Ivan Milat in the 1990s, but these murders were committed in a state forest near Sydney. Wolf Creek relocated its killing spree to a much more foreboding and lonely landscape in the Australian desert, partly because it wanted the power of isolation, and partly because it’s about the myth of the friendly Aussie bushman, typified by Paul Hogan as Mick Dundee.

Mick Taylor is the evil inversion of Hogan's tourism-building knockabout Northern Territory bloke."

The story centres around a Mick Dundee character named Mick Taylor. Two British tourists, Kirsty and Liz, accompanied by an Australian man, Ben, find that their car will not start. Mick arrives to help, and quickly wins their trust with his good-natured demeanour. He takes them to his camp, and then offers them some water to drink. The group share a few Dundee jokes about "that's not a knife, that's a knife" and then fall asleep.

The next afternoon, Liz awakens to find herself tied up in a shed. She manages to escape and then finds Mick torturing Kristy. She shoots Mick, thinks he is dead only to later discover she was wrong. When Mick eventually catches up with her, he severs her spinal chord, cuts off her fingers, and tortures her in a manner that Mick says was used in the Vietnam War - implying that he is from the proud Anzac tradition. One of his traditions is to use the "head-on-a-stick" that Mick says was culture in the Vietnam war to get information out of the enemy but ensure they couldn't run away.

As for Kirsty, she is shot by Mick when on the verge of escape. It seems, owing to his fondness for shooting wild animals, Mick is an expert marksman. As for Ben, he awakens to find himself nailed to a crossbeam next to two savage dogs and a partially eaten corpses. He escapes, is rescued by Swedish travellers, and accused of the girl's murder. The film closes with an image of Mick walking into the sunset.

Wolf Creek Trailer

Wolf Creek was advertised as being "based on actual events." The actual events being referenced was director Greg McClean's belief that Australians are bigoted psychopaths. In his own words,

"The Australian culture is bright sunny beaches, Crocodile Dundee and all that kind of shit, and the shadow side of that is xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, racism, all that kind of stuff that we squash down but is alive and well".

McClean's inspiration came from an encounter with a politically incorrect outback tour guide. McClean used the tour guide as the template for his Mick Taylor pyschopathetic character.

After the script was almost complete, news of serial killers started reaching the headlines and McClean weaved aspects of the killings into his plot as kind of evidence that Australians were indeed psychopaths. One of the serial killers was Ivan Milat. The second was Bradely Murdoch. The third was the Snowtown murderers. None of the murderers were anything like the Mick Dundee characters or the even McClean's fictional Mick Taylor. Specifically, Ivan Milat was the son of Croat migrant in a family of 14. He picked up backpackers and murdered them in Belanglo State Forest between Sydney and Canberra. If Wolf Creek wanted to be more in keeping with the truth, it would have had the killer named something like "Ivan Yankovich" and had him telling stories about his exploits in Sydney.

Brad Murdoch murdered British tourist Peter Falconio; however, the manner of the murder is unknown because the body was never found. No evidence was found indicating that he was a serial killer. Although Murdoch killed Falconio in outback Australia, his demeanour was anything but that of a friendly outback character. He was a loner and used drugs as he transported them between Australia's cities. Admittedly, an adult watching an R-rated movie should be able to refrain from extrapolating a movie character onto a population of people. That said, a judge felt that Wolf Creek had blurred the lines between fact and friction to an extent that it could prejudice the trial of Brad Murdoch. As a result, the movie was not shown in the Northern Territory until after Murdoch's trial had been completed.

The Snowtown murders were also said to have influenced aspects of the Wolf Creek plot. The murders occured between 1992 and 1997. A group of five men and one woman from the city of Adelaide killed 11 people and desposited their bodies in a barrels of acid stored in a disused bank vault in the small town of Snowtown. The group then collected the social security payments of the victims. The manner of the murders was particularly cruel. Victims had their toes crushed, testicals electrocuted, and were burnt with cigarettes. The murderers were eventually caught when members of the public noticed an argument occurring in the middle of the night between two of the gang. It seems the man who has been assigned the torturing duties had overstepped his bounds by killing one of the victims. The man whose job it was to kill was upset by being deprived of his role and let it be known that he was not happy. Police found the bodies when they came to investigate the argument.

With the exception of the cruelty, there was no commonality between the geographic, historical or cultural associations of the Snowtown murderers and Mick Taylor from Wolf Creek. The murderers were a product of cities and broken homes, not conservative rural values, outback pubs or military service in Vietnam. In the case of the Snowtown murderers, the fact that they murdered as a group seems to indicate that they were looking for some kind of perverse community belonging that had been denied from them in the individualistic focus of urbanism.

While McClean said the movie was based on actual events and the Australian character, the movie was more of a reflection upon something not right in McClean's own mind. It was concerning that someone would want to watch the depiction of cruelty and even more concerning that someone would conceive of it.

McClean further tried to blur the lines between fiction and reality by saying that he would personally be afraid of going into the outback. When giving advice to prospective travellers, he said,  

"I'd definitely be travelling with a very large shotgun"

Giving McClean’s propensity to imagine torture, perhaps be more wise to be concerned about a gun in his hand.


How does Baz Luhrmann’s Australia (2008) reflect the Australian identity?