Director: Greg Mclean
Staring: Radha Mitchell, Michael Vartan, Sam Worthington, Caroline Brazier, Stephen Curry, Celia Ireland, John Jarratt
Rating: 4/ 5
Plot: Pete (Vartan) is an American travel writer who on his way back to the airport stops off in a small rural town for a river cruise (as you do), led by the local tour guide Kate (Mitchell). However while responding to a distress flare, their boat is rammed by something from below and tour is thrown into disarray as they become stranded on a tiny mud island. Now as night falls and the tide starts to rise, the group slowly realise they are being stalked by a huge saltwater crocodile, beginning a terrifying struggle for survival in one of the most remote places in the world.
Review: It’s pretty safe to say that Australia is home to more creatures that can kill / horribly maim you than any other place in the world, which makes it all the more surprising that it has in the past only produced a handful of movies, using any of these creatures with the main two that instantly spring to mind being “Razorback” (1984) and “Dark Age” (1987), which respectively featured a giant pig and a giant crocodile and yet for some reason we still don’t have the Australian version of “Jaws” (1975) even though Bollywood managed to churn out their own (if rather unique) version with “Aatank” (1996)
So it seems it was up to Greg Mclean to step up to the plate, who is probably best remembered for his feature length debut “Wolf Creek” (2005) which though a lot of people liked it, I personally didn’t (there I said it), finding that it took things to far in terms of the torture aspects, pushing the film past being suspenseful, to the point it was almost voyeuristic, in how much of an ordeal the lead characters could be put through, which ended up making it just another grizzly entry in the torture porn genre, still despite this it was still clear that Mclean was certainly a talent worth watching and it’s faith not misplaced, as “Rogue” clearly proves that he is not a one trick Pony.
“Rogue” is a beautifully shot film, not only with the main story focus, but also with it’s National Geographic style views of the surrounding wilderness, as Mclean takes the time, to allow the audience to become enveloped in the outback setting once again, in much the same way that he did with “Wolf Creek” while replacing the desert landscape of the outback, to the lush jungle like surroundings of Australia’s Northern territories, in many ways making us feel like we are on the same tour boat, as the characters and experiencing the things which they are, as he cuts back and forth to the characters on the tour boat, as he slowly introduces them all and taking the time with each character, to establish them properly, while at the same time certainly being in no hurry to unleash his killer croc, which doesn’t even make an appearance till the 30 minute mark and even then, Mclean chooses to allow us only view the creature in brief glimpses, in much the same way as Spielberg did with “Jaws” which is a clear inspiration, for this film and which could be argued that, these teasing glimpses was more a result of having a distinctly plastic looking shark, where as Mclean’s killer croc, is certainly more impressively lifelike, as the animatronics effects are seamlessly combined with CGI, which is none more clear than during the final cave showdown, when we finally get to see the creature in it’s full glory.
Unlike most films of the same genre due to Mclean taking the time, to introduce his characters, it makes them more than just disposable croc chowder and also when combined with the high quality cast he has assembled, which also see’s the return of Mclean regular John Jarratt, after his memorable performance as Mick Taylor in “Wolf Creek” it’s not surprising to see him once again and again, he is on form as widower “Russell” even if it is a more toned down performance. The lack of bit players in the cast, also means that your never quite sure, which of them is going to be meeting their maker next, which only helps to further the tension, which is slowly cranked up, as the situation for the group only continues to grow more dire.
John Jarratt is not the only returning Mclean regular, as Frank Tetaz again returns to provide the score, fusing aboriginal chants with a more traditional classical score, to superb effect as it moves from mysterious to dramatic and suspenseful, as the situation for the characters change, while remaining firmly in the background and never once threatening to overpower the film to create a false sense of mood, which numerous lesser creature features have relied on in the past, it is surprising that this crocodile, doesn’t come with his own signature theme, which when combined with the lack of the usual Creature POV shot, means that an attack can happen at any time, without the audience being able to see it coming a mile off, though no doubt the horror veterans will have little difficulty predicting when these are going to happen anyway.
Seeing how crocodile attacks are usually messy and violent, the gore is surprisingly light, with the few heavier moments of gore, only being used to emphasis the injuries being suffered, still despite this the attack scenes are none the less enjoyable. I have to admit though, that I found this especially surprising, seeing how “Wolf Creek” contained numerous shocking moments of gore and violence, with the memorable “Head on a stick” being one especially, but with “Rogue” he has surprisingly chosen to hold back, aiming for realism rather than gory shocks.
We might still be waiting for the Aussie version of “Jaws”, which I’m sure is just a film lurking in development hell, but at least with Rouge, we have almost the next best thing till that movie shows up, no doubt in some car wash DVD dump bin, but for all the “Jaws” comparisons that Rogue draws it is still a great creature feature and it’s just a shame that thanks to crappy distribution, which meant that the UK it never got a release even on DVD let alone in cinema, which was slightly surprising when you consider how well “Wolf Creek” was received, still I can only hope that like Kevin Smiths “Mallrats” (1995) which did equally poorly in theatre’s and like that film, that this film will finally find it’s audience on DVD.