Director Greg McLean exploded onto the horror scene in 2005 with Wolf Creek, his terrifying tale of Australian Outback serial killer Mick Taylor (John Jarratt). The harrowing tale of unexpected xenophobia and sadism grabbed horror fans by the jugular and never let go. It spawned a 2013 sequel continuing Mick's exploits with unknowing Aussie travelers (Wolf Creek 2), and his story is unexpectedly continued in a brand-new six-episode television series premiering on Pop TV.
Developed by McLean (with a season finale directed by him as well), Wolf Creek the Series features Mick as the primary antagonist of the series' central figure, Eve Thorogood (Lucy Fry). A young American girl visiting Australia with her family, Eve ends up meeting Mick in the worst possible way, and he changes her life forever.
McLean sat down for an exclusive chat with Blastr about adapting his big-screen horror series into a small-screen thriller that gives Mick a formidable heroine to contend with in the rugged Outback.
Mick Taylor has evolved into a genuinely terrifying modern horror icon. How is it possible to translate his character to TV considering he's exists in the dark work of cinema?
Greg McLean: We worked out this entire prequel storyline just because we love the character [of Mick]. Before we started the TV series, we had two prequel novels written and published in Australia. One of them deals with Mick as a 8 to 19 years old. It's the origin of how Mick became Mick. The novel is fantastic. Aaron Sterns is the novelist who co-wrote Wolf Creek 2 with me. We took some of that stuff and put it into the series. And then we wrote the second novel together, which is Mick from 22 to 35 and leads to the first movie.
Horror fans have an expectation about Mick because of the movies, but this series has a very different focus and tone.
Yes. The movie stories just have to be scary stories, and they are definitely designed to be scary as sh-t. With the different narrative style of a TV show, the characters can wander through and go on different journeys. It means we can now take that to a different sort of storytelling which is more expansive. You can do a whole episode just on one particular motive. There could even be future seasons where Mick is not even in it that much because we've seen the amazing characters that exist out there. And there are probably people even scarier than Mick, so we're building an ensemble.
Was it freeing to tell a story that incorporated Mick but isn't solely about him?
It flips the whole thing. With each iteration of [Wolf Creek] storytelling, for me, I've got to be interested in it as a creative. What's the cool idea we're going to play with, and are we going to pull it off or not? The first movie was one thing, the second was something else. The series is specifically a different thing. It's like a true crime story with Eve (Lucy Fry) as the cop and she's playing detective. Dustin Clare's character [Sullivan Hill] is a police officer, and they are trying to uncover the idea of what is true evil? So, what does it look like when you unpack what that character is? It's a bit like Apocalypse Now in that they're going up the river to find Kurtz and in the end they find out a lot more about him.
Fans of the franchise might be surprised to discover the series revolves around a very empowered heroine in Eve Thorogood. When did that idea come to you?
When we had the first meeting, I arrived with the concept that it was a female hero. And then from that concept, we knew it can't just be Mick chasing around people because it's boring. For a movie, that can be amazing because it's not precise. And you want to flip it on its head because obviously there's a misogynistic element to slasher film with a guy running around killing women. But when you say it's a girl who transforms to become stronger than the killer to kill him, or try to take him down, it just becomes interesting because of the suspense of saying, "Is she or isn't she going to be able to do it?"
Eve is an interesting protagonist because we meet her when she's trying to stay off drugs, and her life has definitely taken a downward spiral. She's not the kind of person you would expect to take on Mick in any medium?
Absolutely. She's realistic and flawed and not perfect. She's doesn't know what the hell she's doing and she's failing a lot as well, so she's relatable. And particularly she's not from Australia. She's a stranger in a strange land so there's a whole fish out of water story. You feel for her as she's trying to find this monster and kill him.
A very unexpected arc of the show is Eve finding her path.
Yes. When we were developing the script with Lucy, we were trying work out her motivations. Even though it's the worst thing that could possibly happen to you, it galvanizes her personality. She has a mission and all of her other problems fade away. She gets transformed completely and spiritually so there's a cathartic element to the whole story for her. She starts from a place of complete failure and dysfunction but she becomes functional through it, which is weird but fun.
Australia is another character in the show, too?
I grew up there so I love showing the landscape in different ways. The Outback is still exotic, like a twisted American West. Eve's very much the lone gunman, like Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven.
Had you planned to direct the whole series?
I was originally going to direct the whole series, but I was doing The Belko Experiment, and we weren't finished yet. I decided to get another really good director and come back for the finale, which is just massive. Tony Tilse does an incredible job. He's a massive horror fan and just came off of Ash vs. Evil Dead. Tony was obsessive about trying to be authentic to the original movie. He watched it dozens of times and was respectful of the material. He wasn't trying to do his own thing. There were wide angles for coverage which is similar to the first and second movies.
Was it hard letting go of control?
It was. But I've learned to be very good at just not getting involved. Tony and I are completely opposite in that I'm methodical and storyboard and plan, but his method is chaos, which confused the hell out of me. He had a completely different style on set and was like, "How did he get it shot?" But the end product is amazing. Everyone just approaches it differently, but it worked out really well.
Were you there for the edit process?
I was there all the way through. The great thing about being the producer is you get the cuts and then you go in and decide if anything isn't Wolf Creek-ish or not in tone, and get it back on track.
How long do you see yourself telling Mick stories?
I wrote the outline for TV series, the outlines for four more movies and the outline for the novels. I said these are the things I would find interesting to do in the Wolf Creek world We did two novels, the second movie so now we have three more scripts. Mick was the character that resonated with people so what stories can you tell before it runs dry? I think there are about five or six more stories to tell in different forms.
Wolf Creek the series premieres on October 14 at 10:00 p.m., ET/PT