Friday, September 5, 2008

Rogue (2008)

Despite my utter hatred for Greg Mclean’s first feature film, Wolf Creek, I was highly anticipating his next film, Rogue. I may have had disdain for the terrible Wolf Creek, but I can’t deny that Mclean certainly has an eye for stunning shots. When Rogue was denied a theatrical release by its studio, Dimension (thereby leaving legions of horror fans scratching their heads), I assumed it just wasn’t worthy enough for theaters. Then, Lionsgate dumped Midnight Meat Train into a few second rate theaters (with rumors that this will also happen with Repo! The Genetic Opera). So apparently it’s now become a fad for major studios to discard their actually good horror films and not give them a theatrical run! Way to go Dimension for starting the trend! Anyways, after watching Rogue I can honestly say that this film did indeed deserve a theatrical run and it’s a pity that fans weren’t able to experience it on the big screen.

In the stunningly rugged Northern Territory of Australia, a group of tourists board a river boat to see the spectacular sights and hopefully catch a glimpse of some killer crocodiles that the Territory is known for. The group consists of a wide range of people, including a family consisting of father, daughter and dying-of-cancer mother, a man who wants to scatter a loved one’s ashes, a photographer, a middle-aged couple and even an American travel writer (Michael Vartan). Leading the river tour is experienced and spunky guide Kate (Radha Mitchell). After lazily drifting down the river and spotting more than a few crocs in action, the tour is nearly over…but after seeing some distress flares Kate decides to follow them. When they finally arrive to where the flare signal came from, there is no one around except for a half-sunken, overturned boat. Uh-oh…

Suddenly, the tour boat is rammed hard from something in the water and pretty soon everyone finds themselves stuck on a small island in the middle of the river. The group quickly figures out that they’ve trespassed on a giant crocodile’s territory and it’ll stop at nothing until all of its prey is dead. With the tide quickly coming in and night approaching fast, the group must figure out how to survive and out-wit the killer crocodile to make it off the rapidly-disappearing island.

Finally horror fans get a chance to catch this killer croc movie, although on DVD instead of in theaters. All I can say is that it is extremely disappointing that this fantastically thrilling film was not given a theatrical release. It is so tense and suspenseful on the small screen that I imagine on the big screen it must be downright terrifying!

The high caliber of Rogue is just remarkable, from the spectacular cinematography to the fantastic acting to the imposing and frightening crocodile. The first 30 minutes of the film play like a loving homage to the Northern Territory and should be used for their tourism board! The vast vistas of the Outback will leave you speechless and yearning to visit Down Under. There are also many great wildlife shots of crocodiles, birds, insects and other animals. The emerald river the river boat drifts down sparkles in the sunlight and contrasts against the high, red cliffs that border it.

And, then, after you’ve been dazzled by all that beauty…POW! Nature strikes! Things take a very hair-raising turn with the brazen killer crocodile stalking the marooned tourists. Not only that, but their safe haven (not much more than a mound of dirt) is quickly disappearing under the rising tide. The great acting by all involved really makes us care for each and every character (very well-developed by writer/director Greg Mclean). Each and every action they take is believable and expected in such a high-stress, life-or-death situation.

As for the crocodile, it looks unbelievably realistic! Director Mclean wisely only gives us quick glimpses of the croc in the beginning, but by the end we’ve seen its entire massive body (as well as more than a few frightening close-ups of its toothy maw) and it still looks amazing! I loved how when we first see the croc it is just a shadow underneath the water and we’re not sure what we’ve just seen until it suddenly strikes. There are also several moments that’ll make you jump out of your skin they are so unexpected, like the first tourist it decides to snack on!

Though this film ratchets up the tension and suspense in a thrilling manner, it doesn’t really have that much gore. We seen a few people get chomped on, but it mostly happens so quickly with the croc and its prey disappearing under water, so we don’t get a whole gory show. We get to see some nasty bite marks, but the film is a little lacking in the gore department. Despite this, it still manages to work extremely well even without copious amounts of blood.

The direction by Greg Mclean is utter perfection. Rogue opens showcasing Australia’s wide open spaces, but once the croc attacks ensue, the scope becomes entirely claustrophobic. This only adds to the fear factor of the film and Mclean pulls it off effortlessly.

One thing I felt could have been done better was the ending. Despite the realism that the first part of the film had, the ending felt kind of fake and hokey. A certain character’s actions just didn’t ring true with me and the finale was a bit unbelievable. Still, if you can overlook that Rogue is a damn fine film and along with killer croc movie Black Water, it is one of the best killer croc features ever made.

Available from Amazon!

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