When I first watched Wolf Creek upon it's release 11 years ago, I had just signed a lease in Sydney after backpacking down the east coast of Australia; I remember thinking that it was literally the stuff of nightmares... and appreciating that I had watched it after my trip.
The plot follows three stranded backpackers in Australia whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Having little other choice they fall prey to a murderous bushman when they accept his offer to fix their car at his property. The movie is horrifically graphic and so plausible that it may have (at least temporarily) turned a generation off backpacking for life...
The movie was written and directed by Australian-grown filmmaker Greg McLean who wanted to share some of the horror he believed to be present in Australian culture:
"The Australian culture is bright sunny beaches, Crocodile Dundee and all that kind of shit, and the shadow side of that is xenophobia, homophobia, sexism, racism, all that kind of stuff that we squash down but is alive and well."
The movie was reportedly "based on actual events," and although the story is not attached to a specific incident, McClean revealed that he weaved aspects of three prominent real-life Australian serial killer cases into his plot. Let's take a look...
1. Ivan Milat aka The Backpacker Killer
In July 1996, concluding a fifteen week trial, Ivan Milat was convicted of murder and given seven life sentences – one for each of his victims – with no possibility of parole.
Milat picked up backpackers and murdered them in Belanglo State Forest between Sydney and Canberra. Targeting backpackers because they were far from home and not easily tracked, he offered them rides and even socialized with his victims before ultimately torturing and killing them; crime scenes included a campfire with cigarette butts around it.
Details of the murders are truly gruesome with postmortem reports showing that Milat - much like Mick Taylor, played by Australian actor John Jarratt -wounded the spines of his victims so they could not escape and then shot, stabbed and possibly sexually assaulted them.
Above is a clip from Wolf Creek that shows the killer severing a girl's spine to stop her escaping - a scene that is devastatingly similar to real life reports of Milat's methods.
It was revealed by Police that belongings of the victims were found at Milat's home, suggesting he kept them as trophies for his horrific crimes. They included blood soaked clothes, a water bottle with one of the victims names on it and a Benetton shirt that he gave as a gift to his girlfriend!
His reign of terror finally came to an end when he was positively identified by a man who escaped his clutches. Milat was arrested on May 22nd, 1994.
Above: Real Killer Ivan Milat photographed in his home holding a gun and actor John Jarratt as sadistic redneck Mike Taylor in Wolf Creek.
Australians have not put the story of this tragedy behind them with many online news reports and documentaries still circulating. Most recently in May 2015 Shine Australia aired a mini-series called Catching Milat that recounts the murders and police hunt of this infamous monster.
2. Bradley Murdoch aka Outback Killer
On July 14, 2001, British tourists Peter Falconio (then 28) and girlfriend Joanne Lees were traveling from Alice Springs to Darwin at night.
En route, they were told to pull over by a mechanic named Bradley John Murdoch who told them there were sparks coming from the exhaust of their now infamous orange combi-van .
Peter got out of the van and went to check the exhaust with Murdoch when Joanne heard a gunshot. Joanne recounts that he then bound her hands and dragged her into his four wheel drive.
The killer then left Joanne in his vehicle, during which time she managed to free herself and escape - a window of time that ultimately may have saved her life.
One of the most harrowing things about this case is that even though Murdoch was found guilty of murdering Peter Falconio, the body was never found. There is no concrete evidence as to how he was killed and Murdoch claims his innocence to this day.
During the trial in 2005, a judge felt that the Wolf Creek movie was so similar in plot to the murder case that it could potentially influence the case of Brad Murdoch; consequently the movie was not released in the Northern Territory of Australia until after the trial.
This awful event was also televised in a production called Joanne Lees: Murder in the Outback (2007) which retells her version of events.
3. The Snowtown Murders aka The Bodies-in-Barrels Murders
The Snowtown murders were the work of not one person but a group of four men and one woman, led by a manipulative ringleader named John Justin Bunting.
The group killed 11 people between 1992 and 1997 and stored their bodies in a barrels of acid in a disused bank vault in the small town of Snowtown, South Australia.
As if the taking of so many innocent lives was not bad enough, these crimes were notorious by the sickening and cold-blooded nature of the torture inflicted. Victims had their toes crushed, testicles electrocuted, were burned with cigarettes and strangled. The methods used and time spent torturing the victims led an outraged public to believe that these killers took real pleasure in their brutal crimes.
Although the group collected the social security payments of the victims, it is believed that financial gain was not the motive for these crimes. The conniving leader of the group, Bunting, had a deep hatred of pedophiles and homosexuals (likely due to suffering abuses as a child) and persuaded his impressionable followers to believe they were on a significant and even admirable crusade.
Bunting would select people in the community and accuse them of committing these crimes on the basis of some vague rumor or impulse. Appallingly, most of the victims were friends or acquaintances of at least one of the killers giving an insight into just how twisted the group mentality became.
The murderers were eventually caught when police were called to investigate a domestic disturbance between two of the gang one night and found the bodies.
Again the Australian film industry did not miss the opportunity to tell this gruesome story on the silver screen with The Snowtown Murders (2011). See the trailer below.