Mick Taylor is back. The Outback killer of Wolf Creek is still out there in Wolf Creek 2, based on another true story of Australian murder and torture victims. I got to speak to writer/director Greg McLean about Mick Taylor, who is now officially a franchise with the sequel. McLean is also beginning work on 6 Miranda Drive, a Blumhouse production to star Kevin Bacon and Radha Mitchell. Some mild spoilers for Wolf Creek 2 follow but I tried to stay vague because I don’t want Mick Taylor coming after me for spoiling his surprises.
CraveOnline: Is the idea that there are a number of these true stories that could be attributed to Mick Taylor?
Greg McLean: Well, the character Mick Taylor is a combination of two true cases that happened in Australia. One is the Ivan Milat case and one is the Bradley Murdoch case, so the character is really a combination of these two really chilling true crime cases. Ivan Milat is known as the Backpacker Killer. Essentially he was a road worker who would basically find backpackers, give them a lift and then basically drove up into a secluded location in the Outback and raped and murdered these people. It’s a horrific, horrific case.
Then the other one is a more recent one. The killer involved in that case was a guy called Bradley Murdoch. He was someone who abducted two British tourists and ended up murdering the boyfriend and trying to abduct his girlfriend. She escaped and it was a really terrifying case as well. So in Australia, there’s been a number of these really quite chilling and quite terrifying true crime cases that inspired the first Wolf Creek movie and then again similar cases inspired the second film. There’s a level in which they’ve been around for a long time, the notion of this very terrifying outback character.
As a franchise, could you open with the same disclaimer in more movies and retell more of these true crime cases as if Mick Taylor did them?
Oh, absolutely. Definitely, no question.
Is the opening scene with the cops sort of like Mick’s own James Bond opening sequence?
Mm-hmm, that’s interesting. That’s a really good way to put it. You’re probably the only person on the planet who’s actually picked that up. That’s exactly what it is. I thought it would be really cool to basically, in the event there was more Wolf Creek movies, what’s really cool is that like the James Bond films that open with an extraordinary set piece that blows your mind and reacquaints you with the character, there’s a really similar thing in this film. Because it’s been a while between films, you do an amazing sequence that acquaints the audience with the character. It also sets the tone for what’s about to come but it also sets where you’re going to go once the film gets rolling.
Now, Mick is a rapist. Slasher movies usually avoid that aspect of crime. Why is it important to remind people that Mick does rape people?
For me, it’s really about when looking at the first film, and then investigating his personality in the second film, it’s really about exposing what a character like that does to justify what they do. Once you look deeply into racists or sexists or homophobes or xenophobia, you really realize that there’s kind of a fear at the basis of that kind of psychology, a fear of the unknown, a fear of people who are different to you. I think in today’s world, those are the new kind of horrors. To me, those are the horrifying things.
When you hear about really horrific racist events in the world, those kind of things to me are the modern area where real horror exists. That kind of intolerance to me is a very disturbing taboo element in today’s society I think. So a character like Mick is a complete throwback to a period when racism and sexism and all these things were kind of prevalent, like the ‘50s or that kind of period. You put that character in today’s society and he ends up being a figure of horror.
Is there something about the trauma he puts his victims through that’s more than just running away from a killer in the forest?
Mm-hmm. I think so. I think it is sort of particular. I think his modus operandi is quite different for each different kind of victim. I think this film, because the character that he ends up pursuing in the end is English, and there’s a very strong and potent English/Australian history about Australia was a colony of England. There’s all that kind of ancient resentment that exists there. Part of that is behind his whole notion of being a kind of colonial kind of redneck who’s very angry about the unresolved past of the country. So he tends to take that out on that particular character because he’s English.
Is Mick loved and feared the way Freddy and Jason are as icons?
I’m not quite sure yet. The first film was a cult movie. A lot of people liked it and saw it. The second film, I’m not quite sure yet. I think maybe we’re witnessing the birth of a new kind of slasher icon if you can call it that, but I think we have to wait until the film comes out in the States and see whether people respond to the character in the film with open arms or not. Certainly people seem really excited about the movie and they’re really enjoying it but certainly it’d be great to see Mick embraced in that way.
Whenever Mick uses his rifle, do you have to time the sound of the gunshot and the impact so that it’s the same each time?
It changes each time we use it. We usually put a lot of thought into trying to work that out so it feels accurate and sounds accurate.
Talk about your music choices in Wolf Creek 2 from “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” to Strauss.
Yeah, I know. I think that the music choices to me reflect Mick’s state of mind and the kind of insanity that goes along with what he’s experiencing. So to me the music choices rely on trying to think of them from Mick’s point of view. By counterpointing scenes of genuine terror or brutality with “The Blue Danube” by Strauss or “Lion Sleeps Tonight” while you’re massacring a herd of kangaroos, there was just something about the counterpoint to me that really spoke to the insanity of the character.
So I was making music choices as if I was Mick. It’s what he would be hearing in his head at that time. To me the counterpoint between the two things really created a very interesting effect where it’s very uncomfortable but it also seems to make people laugh because of the insanity of the counterpoint. So it’s kind of interesting playing with that notion and doing the music from that point of view.
Was the first film’s raw, gritty style of camerawork out of necessity? And did you want to use more composed cinematography for Wolf Creek 2?
We designed the cinematic language of the first film in order to create the specific effects of that movie. The references for that movie were really Blair Witch wasn’t that long ago, so I was very aware of the impact of very, very realistic feeling performances on screen. And also, at that time, reality TV was kind of the big thing so I was aware of this notion of the changed perception of what authentic performances looked like on film. So I developed that idea of basically capturing performance where the camera was always just observing things as they’re unfolding and that gave us a particular quality and particular kind of impact.
For the sequel, because we’d already done that technique, I thought it would be fun and interesting for me to try something different which was basically to make a much more epic feeling horror film with the same character in a similar location, but use a much more practical cinematic style to reflect the broader scope of the movie. Also the film works in a different way because the audience already knows who Mick is, so from the opening scene we’re allowing the audience to understand that we know that they know he’s the bad guy and also in a way to kind of participate with him on his crazy journey as well. So the audience almost gets on Mick’s side in the opening sequence.
Almost, and I would reference Texas Chainsaw Massacre for Wolf Creek so I hope you appreciate that. Is 6 Miranda Drive also going to be this sort of intense horror, or are you exploring a different sort of horror in that?
I’m really fascinated with the supernatural and always have been, so this film for me is a real opportunity to explore what I’m fascinated with which is really about the unknown and the elements of supernatural that affect characters and emotion. So it’s an opportunity to explore and also the Blumhouse model is really allowing filmmakers to do what they want really, as long as they keep it on budget. It’s going to be a chance to play with the things that I’m really fascinated with cinematically.
Are you fitting in well with Jason Blum’s budget mandates?
I’d love more money, but I always do on any film, so nothing’s changed there. The thing is, it’s a contained movie so it’s going to be very doable. I’ve got an amazing cast lining up so it should be lots of fun.