In Wolf Creek, less misanthropic than the utterly hateful High Tension but almost as much an endurance test, three comely and amiable teens—Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi, and Nathan Phillips—stray off the Australian outback roads only to be entrapped, raped, tortured, crucified, and chopped up by Mick (John Jarratt), a psycho-geezer in the mold of a chipper, if homicidal, Paul Hogan. What sucks—pointless unpleasantness aside—is that writer/director Greg McLean, working on a negative-integer budget, is one helluva sharp filmmaker, with a terrific compositional eye and a weird/dreamy sense of pace. Before meeting Mick, the teens wander around a vast, otherworldly meteor crater that makes you think of an indie-horror inversion of Gus Van Sant’s Gerry. McLean even has a sure way with his actors—before they’re mutilated—which actually serves to make his movie more purposeless: When it’s time for the really nasty bits, McLean, displaying a gore-market-averse liking for his hapless backpackers, cuts away from the action. And, like Tension’s aging nut job, Mick is supplied with no motivation, backstory, or symbolic function to explain and/or enhance his cussed ways—which means that McLean either doesn’t understand the genre or is using a bastardized version of it as a demo reel for subsequent better-funded outings.