Fuckin’ Australia, man. It’s hard to believe in this day and age that there exists a place where you can’t get cell phone service. It’s also hard to believe that settlements such as these exist in this weird space where if trouble goes down, you’re pretty much on your own until the police can get there and the time takes is measured in hours. The Australian outback is just such a place. We don’t really have a place like that here in America. There are parts of the Appalachian mountains that are pretty remote and hard to reach and there are parts of the deserts in the South West that are pretty remote but Australia has the market cornered on this matter. The Australian outback is still this vaguely wild west style area where settlements are these mostly self-sustaining communities that have everything they pretty much need within an area of a couple of miles and between it and the next town, there’s a hundred miles or more of barren nothingness. Bearing this in mind, it makes perfect sense that a movie like Mad Max could take place within some semblance of reason. It’s not an entirely implausible scenario.
The outback is also the perfect setting for a ruthlessly unpleasant horror movie since a key ingredient to any horror movie is isolation. Typical screenwriters rely on lazy cliches like summer camps and power outages to put their victims-to-be in peril but can you imagine if you found yourself in a place where you were being stalked by a maniac with a toolbox full of killing implements and the distance between you and salvation could be measured in three digit miles? Man. Fuck that. The Australian exploitation film industry had been seizing on this idea for decades, evident in the outstanding documentary, Not Quite Hollywood (Review). It turns out that lawless and remote is a pretty popular idea there but for one reason or another they never reached our shores with greater impact. That is, until Wolf Creek came down amid a wave of nasty, purely misanthropic horror that kept asses in seats at the theaters. For a spell, the American horror movie going audience couldn’t bear to endure a horror movie unless it was tempered with numerous scenes of sadistic violence. More sadistic than usual, that is to say. Man, Wolf Creek delivered.
In July of 2001, British tourist, Peter Falconio, was traveling through Australia’s barren Northern Territory with his girlfriend Joanne Lees. Lees describes their encounter with an Australian motorist at night, John Bradley Murdoch, who flagged them down on the highway and then shot Falconio when he got out of his car. Murdoch allegedly then forced Lees into his pickup truck but she managed to escape and hide in the brush until Murdoch gave up looking for her. Once the coast was clear, Lees flagged down another car for help but in the time that she was hidden, Murdoch removed the body of Falconio and to this day, the body has yet to be found.
There are some inconsistencies in Lees’ story about what happened that night and some of the evidence collected from the scene tells a strange story but the courts in Australia were able to make a murder charge stick to Murdoch who is now in prison on a life sentence. Even though Lees’ testimony wasn’t terribly compelling, Murdoch wasn’t some unlucky dude caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. A drifter and a drug smuggler, Murdoch had a violent past with the law and was once up on rape charges involving a 12 year old girl. He managed to shake the rape charge with an acquittal, but facts are facts and Murdoch was a bad guy with a history of violence.
This isn’t the end of the story, though. Wolf Creek, though marketed as though it was based on one true story similar to what happened in the movie, was not. It was based on the above murder trial but there was also the matter of Australian serial killer, Ivan Milat, who was responsible for the deaths of seven backpackers around Belanglo State Forest in the 90’s. The convicted murderer, Milat, was stalking hikers in the park before he would shoot, stab, strangle and/or beat his victims to death. Nearly all the bodies suffered upwards of 35 stab wounds a piece before or after death before Milat haphazardly buried their bodies face down in the dirt to be found. Other than a body to be murdered, Milat offered no motive for his crimes.