When the Aussie film Wolf Creek was first released, people didn’t know just what to make of it. Is it just another slasher flick, or is it something more?
It seemed generic and cliché, but underneath that ‘just another horror film’ exterior beat the heart of a new dawn of Australian horror franchise.
Some backpackers get lost in Outback Australia, and voila, along comes Mick Taylor, the yokel, with his barely-running tow truck, offering to do the right thing, the Australian thing, and help out a few people in trouble. We all know, or at least we should know, what happens next. Knives come out, and people run around screaming; sometimes through tunnels, sometimes not through tunnels. And blood. Lots of blood. And don’t forget about the head-on-a-stick trick that Mick learnt in Vietnam.
Mick lives in an old mining area, complete with tunnels full of bodies and other such horror tropes. But how did he get there? Anyone who’s watched the film knows that Mick is a raging psychopath, but was he born that way, or did something flick a switch and send him over the edge?
Now, timed with the release of the second film, comes the two books, Wolf Creek: Origin and Wolf Creek: Desolation Game.
Wolf Creek: Origin, written by Aaron Sterns (long-time collaborator of Mclean, and co-writer of the screenplay for Wolf Creek 2) from a concept by Greg McLean (co-writer and producer of the two films) tells the story of Mick’s early days. Mick as a boy, and Mick as a teenager, learning the ropes on a cattle station in the remote outback.
Mick Taylor is a likeable lad. He has a strong connection to his family, and is a hard worker. According to the synopsis on the back of the book, “The wide open outback offers plenty of space for someone to hide. Or to hide a body.” It goes on to show wiry youngster Mick Taylor working at a remote Western Australian sheep station, among the roughest of men, most of whom have something to hide. Mick is no exception. At the point we’re introduced to him, Mick is already thinking like a killer. Circumstances force his hand a few times, and he doesn’t dislike the sense of power he finds in such acts. In fact, he enjoys it a little too much. But it seems Mick’s not the only one in the area with those same feelings, and the other psychopaths don’t like the competition or the attention inexperienced Mick brings to the region. This is a book that doesn’t hold back the punches, and gives everything that a horror fan is looking for.
The writing by Sterns is another plus. The view inside Mick Taylor’s head throughout the entire narrative was masterfully done. There are many great aspects to this book: the sense of the Australian outback; the sense of the onset of madness; and the threat from the antagonist are all fantastic. The flawed narrator ploy for Mick Taylor’s narrative oversight works wonderfully, and the final, brilliant ending left me wanting more.
Definitely a great introduction to the bat-shit-crazy Mick Taylor.
Wolf Creek: Desolation Game is the second in the series of prequels. Written by award-winning Australian writer Brett McBean, it tells the story of Mick’s next few years, where he went and served in Vietnam during the war. Through the current narrative, Mick finds a group of tourists travelling the dry and dusty roads near where he lives, and decides to play with them a little bit. During the Vietnam flashback sequences, Mick realises that the war is the perfect place for a killer, somewhere he is rewarded for taking lives. An out-of-control sergeant hones Mick’s talents, turning him into a real pro.
Back home, in the main narrative, a tour bus full of hapless victims find themselves at Mick’s mercy, alone and isolated just where he wants them.
A solid and well-written chapter of Mick Taylor’s life. A little clichéd, it sometimes reads a bit like the original Wolf Creek movie, and at times I had some issues with suspension of disbelief. There are a few points in the book that took me out of the narrative, things that I had a hard time believing, but in all, the writing is solid. McBean shows why he’s one of Australia’s best commercial horror writers.
Both books work as a great way into the mind of Mick Taylor, and a solid way to prepare for the new film.
If these two books sell well, and there is no reason they won’t, then McLean and Penguin plan to release four more, written by some of the best Aussie horror writers.
I can’t wait to see what’s next in the Wolf Creek mythos.
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