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‘Wolf Creek’ Director Greg McLean tackles the supernatural in ‘The Darkness’

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The Darkness is a horror movie that has many things going for it. First it stars Kevin Bacon making a return to his first supernatural movie since 1999’s Stir of Echoes. Unless you count the inferior Hollow Man as supernatural, but then why would you?

Second, to re-iterate the previous point, it’s a supernatural film. This genre of thrillers has recently taken a hit primarily because anyone with a GoPro, decent software and an idea can get their Z-grade movie streaming on Hulu, Prime or Netflix between the one and two star range and not care.

Third, and probably the most important The Darkness is directed by Greg McLean, a man with such visionary style that every framed shot looks like a masterpiece painting. He also knows how to scare people, or at least make them squirm a little bit, or a lot.

“Really good horror always has its roots in reality,” he told iHorror.

His unsettling Wolf Creek and its sequel are truly engrossing if not for the meticulous character development or the beautiful setting, but for the sheer terror of the true-crime storyline. McLean seems to like the idea of taking a group of regular people and putting them in frightening situations. In The Darkness, it is a family who must endure the unknown.

“I think all of the films that I have done in the horror genre are really focused on trying to find horror in reality, either based on a true story or characters who could be real; very realistic stuff,” he said.

He explains that even his nature-run-amok film Rogue, about a giant alligator trying to make a meal of tourists on a sinking island is based on a true event. The people in that film are not just reacting to the giant creature with teeth, but dealing with their own monsters, “I try to approach it from a very, very truthful place,” he said.

The Darkness is no exception to that rule. The film follows the Taylor family as they return from a vacation to the Grand Canyon, but bring an unseen assailant home with them which proceeds to wreak havoc on their son and their relationship.

Before you say ‘It’s just another ghost movie,’ remember McLean is very good at taking storylines that have worked in the past and re-invigorate them to a stellar level. One of his rules is that he never wants to insult an audience’s intelligence.

“I think, it all comes down to the intentions,” McLean said. “I feel like you can take well-worn story structure like ‘people get stranded and attacked by a creature,’ If you emphasize that we are in reality, if you emphasize the humanity of the situation, it makes something fresh because you’re approaching it, completing all sides. And you’re not being sarcastic; you’re basically saying what if this really happened?”

This explanation can be applied to his Wolf Creek films. Yes, they follow a serial killer hunting down a group of teenagers, but these teenagers are also three-dimensional beings that have lives worth surviving for; the audience feels their fear and the doomed reality of their plights.

“A part of Wolf Creek, is a bunch of teenagers go out into the woods and get hunted by a madman,” McLean said. “It’s not exactly the most original horror storyline of all time, but if you approach that story with the question, ‘What if it was real?’ then it becomes an entirely different thing.”

In The Darkness, the reality turns from monsters made of flesh and bone to ones made out of thin air. This reality is a bit harder to believe, but McLean keeps to his visionary essence.

“It’s a supernatural, kind of horror house movie,” he says. “Again I’m taking a tried-and-true story structure and approaching it with a different emphasis. And my emphasis is basically approaching it from the point of view of what’s real-life in these situations when – people do talk about hauntings, and people do talk about things that happen in their home that are unexplained – how does that really look and sound? So I guess I’m approaching the genre with a very honest point of view, a very realistic point-of-view; I’m saying to the audience, ‘here’s how it would really happen.’”

The Aussie also likes to work within the organic realms of nature. All of his films make the natural landscape an important piece of the cast. Wolf Creek and Wolf Creek 2 were set in the beautiful yet foreboding landscape of the Australian outback, as is Rogue.

McLean says Australians have a very strong relationship with the land and sometimes present it as a scary place, while other times embrace it as a natural paradise.

With a background in fine artistry, the director uses that skill to showcase both the scary and beautiful terrain of Mother Earth. Most of the shots he uses in film look like refined landscape paintings rather than simple cinematography blocking.

“I love nature myself and hiking and camping and all that kind of stuff. I’ve always been very aware of using landscape as a character and as an emotional register,” he said. “Most of my movies have something to do with landscape; nature in terms of human beings trying to exist within nature and having their own nature changed by being thrust into an unfamiliar landscape.”

Kevin Bacon plays Peter Taylor, the father, inThe Darkness. The actor is no stranger to horror films; one of his first movies as a young star was the original Friday the 13th. He then went on to do Tremors and Flatliners in the 90’s.

Kevin Bacon plays a concerned father in Greg McLean's "The Darkness."
Kevin Bacon plays a concerned father in Greg McLean’s “The Darkness.”

Bacon has found recent success in television playing opposite a serial killer in The Following. McLean says that working with the seasoned veteran on The Darkness was truly a pleasure.

“You know actors can be like cars,” he said. “You can have one that doesn’t start, or you can work with a Lamborghini that feels like it’s finely tuned and you can do anything, and you have got a range of one through a million. Kevin’s like working with a Lamborghini because he can do anything; he’s so experienced, he so professional and you can just do anything with him. You know, you kind of live to work with actors like that.”

McLean is a busy director these days, not only is The Darkness coming out in May, but he also has details about his franchise Wolf Creek.

“We shot a six-part Wolf Creek mini series last year, it’s posting (production) now, I was one of the producers and writers on it. It’s looking incredible, I saw a finished episode, it’s going to be amazing. And basically it follows the story of a young American woman who is in Australia when her family gets killed and then she goes to find Mick, the killer. The movie is about this young woman going into the outback to try and track down this killer. It’s kind of a detective story that turns into a horror story. I’m so happy with it, it’s going to be amazing.”

As for the third installment of the Wolf Creek movies, it’s going to happen. McLean says that it will not follow the mini-series storyline though, and there is also a possibility of a fourth one, “They are kind of on a different timeline. There is another Wolf Creek (3) coming. It may be the last Wolf Creek movie…it may not.”

So what movie scares this director and when he is not making one of his own? Not surprisingly it’s a movie from his home Continent.

“The last movie that really scared the shit out of me was ‘The Snowtown Murders,’” he said. “It was film by a director called Justin Kerzel who’s gone on to great things. It was really disturbing and really terrifying. A group of people based on real characters who ended up killing a whole bunch of people in this disadvantaged community in Australia. So that was the last film that I saw that I thought, ‘oh my God, this is truly terrifying.’”

Finally McLean explains how his movie “The Darkness” will terrify American audiences.

“I think the mythology of the movie, is basically based on very well-known Native American mythology,” he said. “I think it’s based on some pretty primal things. People know that when you mess with cultures that have very religious connotations, and power, you’re messing with things you shouldn’t mess with. The metaphor of the movie is if you take things from nature, and basically bringing it into your own home, you have to fight things that are wrong in the family, It’s about bringing out the darkness in the family as well.”

McLean says that the Wolf Creek series is coming out this year on a major cable channel, although he cannot say which one, and Wolf Creek 3 will be arriving in 2017. His other movie The Belko Experiment will also be coming out theatrically later this year.

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