This weekend, a wonderful alternative to the overblown thrills of the Hollywood mega-blockbusters comes in the form of director Greg McLean‘s “Wolf Creek 2,” a down-and-dirty thriller from Australia that continues the exploits of Mick Taylor (John Jarratt), a serial killer from 2005’s outback-set original, who has a seriously bad case of xenophobia (we had a more enthusiastic response than our reviewer). A few weeks ago, on the eve of production on his new project for Blumhouse, “6 Miranda Drive” (starring Kevin Bacon and Ming-Na Wen), we got to chat with McLean about why it took so long, the development of the screenplay, whether or not Quentin Tarantino has seen the sequel yet and what it’s like working with Blumhouse on the new project.
Since the first “Wolf Creek,” which gained many fans in the genre community (particularly Tarantino), McLean has only directed one movie besides this new sequel: 2007’s “Rogue,” about a giant crocodile, that featured a then-unknown Sam Worthington and, tonally, was like what would have happened if Terrence Malick decided to make a movie featuring a humungous killer reptile. (Hey, he still might.) Since “Rogue” he had been attached to a number of bigger studio movies, including “Paranormal Activity 2,” and when those more sizable projects fell through, he returned to the world he created with “Wolf Creek.”
With the sequel, everything is bigger and better. Jarratt’s performance is more oversized (he’s like Freddy Kruger in the land down under) and the movie is filled with giant, apocalyptic set pieces, like a car chase that features a giant semi and a band of very unlucky kangaroos. If you’re a fan of Australian exploitation cinema, as documented in the terrific documentary “Not Quite Hollywood,” then “Wolf Creek 2” is essential stuff. And McLean, who has a noticeably calm presence given the kind of carnage he regularly oversees, seems keenly aware of the franchise’s place in that lineage.
Was “Wolf Creek 2” something you had always intended to do?
Yes. It always was. After the first movie came out, we had an offer right away to do a sequel, like right that minute. And I turned that down because I thought it was too soon and I was concerned about making a film that was as good as the first movie. And then I made another movie named “Rogue,” and was on that for two years, and then produced another film, and was attached to some others and the next thing you know, it was like, If you’re going to do this, you better get back into it. Then we started talking about getting the script right, which took another year or two. These things take time. But to be honest it was doing all that other stuff but in the back of my mind, I thought we were going to do it at any time. When we sat down to make it, we wanted to make sure it was as good or better than the first movie. And that took some time.
Can you talk about the development of the script? It seems larger in scope but more esoteric in tone.
A year after the first movie, we had a treatment for a screenplay. I wrote down a couple of ideas but there was one that I was really interested in pursuing, which was the idea of doing a film that was just a chase sequence. I love the idea of pure cinema and I’m very interested in Hitchcock and the idea of cinematic suspense as a formal thing to play with. So that script was very kinetic and very scary but really a suspense thriller. We did a draft and then we read and thought, Look, it’s cool but it didn’t have the thematic depth or the meaning to it that it would really need to have for me to want to take it on as a director. So we put it on ice for a while and then I was working on another script a couple of years later and by working on that script it helped me realize what was missing from “Wolf Creek 2.” I realized the film had to be about getting the audience into a room with Mick to be able to investigate his psyche. And that would be a really terrifying idea. He can chase people and kill people and that can be scary but what’s really terrifying is – what’s it like to come to face to face with that guy? And what’s it like to put an audience in the room with him? It came down to it being captured by him and then having to talk your way out of it. Once that idea hit, it became really interesting. Then I became much more focused on getting it made as a director.
How did you develop Mick’s whole national pride philosophy?
Well the seeds of that are in the first film. He kind of espouses the same philosophy in the first film where, essentially, he views foreigners in the same way of the animals he hunts and kills for fun. So if you’re coming to his territory, you’re fair game. So this movie was about getting into that concept and exploring it more, which was all about working out how a character like this would justify this. Once you have someone like that, who can justify those things to himself then they’re capable of really terrible things. You can take a look at history and see that happen again and again and again.
The chase sequence in this movie is really great and seems to pay homage to some of the great Australian movie car chases. Were you deliberately paying homage to some of those films or just trying to contribute to the legacy?
I’m certainly a fan of those films, and “Mad Max” is one of my favorite movies. Australia has a great history of doing car chases and great car chases; it’s one of our great cinematic traditions. So I certainly wanted to put my hat in the ring with an outstanding sequence. But I was also influenced by American movies. Certainly “Jaws” was a massive influence and I am a huge fan of Spielberg. And also just the idea of an extended chase and the things you can do in that, and telling a story over a chase sequence. It was a challenging thing because I had never done a chase like that before.
Quentin Tarantino was a huge fan of the original and borrowed a cast member for “Django Unchained.” Have you shown him the sequel?
I don’t think he’s seen it yet. I did invite him to a screening we had in LA, but it was while the whole “Hateful Eight” thing was going on. But I hope he gets to see it when it comes out, that’ll be great.
What can you say about “6 Miranda Drive?”
Um… it’s awesome. It’s my first America movie and my first movie working in the states, so it’s really interesting. It’s going to be very, very realistic feeling. It’s certainly very different than a lot of Blumhouse films in respect to tone. Ultimately, the scariest thing for me is the everyday and the ordinary and then something supernatural happening in that environment. So I am very interested in making it believable. Sort of like the first “Wolf Creek,” where it was a very believable situation and something happened in that environment. So that’s where my interest in the supernatural comes from.
What is it like working with Blumhouse?
The experience is great. It’s really one of the reasons I am doing the film with those guys – it’s a great situation to be able to make a movie and do what you want to do and explore things. There’s a lot of freedom to get to try things and explore.
Do you want to do a big budget, straight ahead genre movie?
Sure! I’m actually a huge comic book fan so I love all the Marvel films, I’m a huge sci-fi fan. And there are a couple of things I was attached to that never came off. So in the future I would love to do one of those films. I’d certainly be keen to do that stuff.
“Wolf Creek 2” is out in limited release now and on DVD next month.