It's a simple enough premise - gather a group of excited tourists and send them off into the unknown, only to have them encounter a great evil that will see the end of most if not all of them.
When the unknown is the Australian outback and the evil is Mick Taylor (John Jarratt) past history tells us it's going to be scary and bloody pretty darn freaky.
Welcome back to WOLF CREEK for season 2.
Jarratt is at his ominous best reprising the man with the most sinister laugh in modern film. He inhabits a character that is now as terrifyingly ubiquitous as Freddy Kreuger - a demon killing machine native to a vast universe where he rules with a rifle/shotgun/pistol/knife/bar of soap/his bare hands and does so with complete ease. He's also the only man who could get away with those sideburns because anyone who suggests they're out of fashion is surely about to breathe their last.
Taylor stumbles across the tourist group and their guide Davo (Ben Oxenbould) at a local roadhouse and it's at this point that you realise their fates are sealed - Mick doesn't play well with others. Our new friends, of course, remain blissfully unaware of his intentions until it's too late.
They've all come on this journey for their own reasons. Rebecca (Tess Haubrich) & Danny Michaels (Charlie Clausen) are Americans looking for a different adventure and hoping to rekindle their romance, though Brian Neilson (Matt Day) causes tension through his obvious attraction for Rebecca. Canadian friends Kelly (Laura Wheelwright) and Michelle (Elsa Cocquerel) quickly befriend couple Steve (Jason Chong) and Johnny (Adam Fiorentino).
The German Weber family - Oskar (Julian Pulvermacher), Nina (Felicity Price) and Emma (Josephine Langford) - are looking to learn more about their this wide brown land that is their new home. Blogger Wade (Elijah Williams) is after more content; Bruce (Christopher Kirby) is ex-military and looking to unwind and clear his head; and Richie (Stephen Hunter) is the awkward bus-spotter with few social skills who is just happy to be on the coach.
The ensemble cast remain true to the trope of an ever-diminishing group at Mick's direct/indirect hand, though each ending is nowhere near as gruesome as the past series (or movies). What has increased is the anticipation and the number of jump scares. This strays far deeper into thriller territory, with clever use of location, lighting and story to fragment the group, playing directly into Mick's calloused hands. Right to the final minutes this second series draws you in and invests you in the fate of each character.
Jarratt's Mick is without question the star of this show and diabolical as ever. The rest of the cast lean a little too heavily into their roles, though the benefit to the audience is building a big character always leads to a big demise. Haubrich is reflects the insanity of the situation well as she pushes her Rebecca to grapple with escape, fear, survivor guilt and determination to see the end of her tormentor.
Clausen's American accent grates at times, though likely due to consuming many hours of his podcast TOFOP, ensuring his laconic voice is so ingrained that anything else just seems wrong. Day is a star as the clinical psychologist specialising in criminals who hides his own dark secrets and special skills.
Creator Greg McLean returns to the showrunner's chair for season two of the Stan series and has this time shown a deftness and lightness of touch that retains the brooding darkness while ramping up the tension. He also directs two eps, sharing responsibilities with Kieran Darcy-Smith & Geoff Bennett.
Like all thriller/horror series hitting their second season every cast member is up for grabs and can go from life to death in a nanosecond - which in itself is what makes this season even more enjoyable: you know they are gonna die you're just not sure how or when, and while you're attached to them there's always the question of "Where's Mick and what is he gonna do?". Then BOO STAB BANG GURGLE and it's all over for another one.
Not too gory, not too bland - this serving of WOLF CREEK is just right and is a perfect evening's binge/antidote to what can often be an overly-saccharine silly season.
Watch it with friends with the lights off and a big bowl of popcorn (and a vacuum close to hand to clean up afterwards).