Also Showing: Wolf Creek (18)<br></br>Daybreak (15)<br></br>Must Love Dogs (12A)<br></br>Lords of Dogtown (12A)<br></br>

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The Independent Culture

Greg McLean's debut feature cleverly shields its hand for the first hour, then reveals its true colours in the most singular and horrific way imaginable. It starts out vaguely ominous, as two Brit backpackers (Cassandra Magrath and Kestie Morassi) hook up with an Australian (Nathan Phillips) for a road trip through the outback. On reaching the remote Wolf Creek, where a meteor once blasted a huge crater, the travellers find their watches stopped and their car engine mysteriously dead. The uneasy lost-in-the-wilderness atmosphere begins to resemble an antipodean Blair Witch Project, until rescue arrives in the form of a grizzled bushman (John Jarratt), who offers to tow their car back to his camp. At which point, the film takes a shocking turn and all the horror conventions that we've become familiar with are savagely up-ended: imagine The Texas Chain Saw Massacre with an extra dose of pure malevolence. The outback roads never looked lonelier. You'll have nightmares after this, and so will the Australian Tourist Commission.

Daybreak (15)

This Swedish drama, braiding together three different stories over a single night, registers dangerous levels of angst. Writer-director Bjorn Runge takes an almost forensic interest in the way people react in crisis, and his cast back him to the hilt: a dinner party collapses as the shared secret of an adultery leaks out; a man is terrorised by an unexpected house call from his bitter ex-wife; and, most intriguing, a put-upon builder discovers that an elderly couple's makeover plans are driven by a sociopathic instinct. If Runge's vision of humankind gets any gloomier than this, he'll find himself in line to be the new Ingmar Bergman. Or has that job already been bagged by Lukas Moodysson?

Must Love Dogs (12A)

A great cast (John Cusack, Diane Lane, Stockard Channing) is criminally squandered in this deplorable internet dating comedy. Lane plays a recently divorced junior-school teacher looking for a soulmate; Cusack is a romantically intense boat-builder looking for similar; the audience plays along, looking for signs of life, or even a decent gag. None is forthcoming. Director Gary David Goldberg writes perkily "humorous" dialogue that's even lamer than Delia Ephron's, and has the nerve to give Lane the ultimate romcom cliché, a gay best friend. This is a dog nobody could love.

Lords of Dogtown (12A)

California in 1975, and the teenage surfers of Dogtown take to skateboards, developing a punky, low-slung style that brings them a rebel notoriety. Then sponsorship and the pressures of fame threaten to turn them against each other. Director Catherine Hardwicke, playing safer than she did in her dramatic debut Thirteen, makes a passable job of Stacy Peralta's script, but she's retreading material more vividly presented in the Dogtown and Z-Boys documentary four years ago.

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