As part of my limited bow to the conventions of the calendar, this month has seen quite a few more horror films than usual. Well, here’s another. This flick has the rare distinction of a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, even five years after its release. In case that little fact doesn’t persuade you, read on.
Don’t go in the water.
American travel writer Pete McKell joins a group of tourists on a river cruise in Australia’s Northern Territory to see the saltwater crocodiles who live in the area. Investigating a distress flare, the boat goes further up-river than usual and accidentally enters the territory of the biggest croc any of them have ever seen. And it doesn’t appreciate guests. Chompiness ensues.
It is a real shame that this film went straight to DVD everywhere outside it’s native Australia*, as it is a stunning little film that makes maximum use of its gorgeous Kakadu National Park setting. Between the stunning travelogue-like visuals and the (relatively) classy treatment of the B-movie roots, Rogue is a lot better than the box art might lead you to believe. This is no Syfy movie of the week, let’s put it that way.
Tonally, the film couldn’t be any further from writer/director Greg McLean’s debut, the unrelentingly disturbing Wolf Creek. The surprisingly (though not entirely) bloodless Rogue is almost Hitchcockian in its unceasing devotion to building tension. If you’re not on the edge of your seat during the last twenty five minutes, you might want to check your pulse.
McLean has assembled a game cast to throw in harm’s way, led by Michael Vartan as Pete, and Radha Mitchell as boat driver Kate, who delivers most of the exposition neatly disguised as the tour presentation. We’ve got just the right number of passengers on the boat as well; enough to give Big Toothy some decent options, but not so many as to be confusing to the audience. They’re a believable mix of nationalities and personalities as well. Rogue also marks Sam Worthington’s last Aussie flick before shipping off to Hollywood for the one-two punch of Avatar and Terminator Salvation. Here, he plays Neil, the local bad boy who turns out to be quite handy in case of a crocodile attack.
John Cox and his Creature Workshop team have done a fantastic job with the animatronic croc. Of course there are plenty of digital shots as well, but if it can be done practically it’s usually a bonus to do so.
In my lifetime, there have been three killer croc movies that I would quite happily own and rewatch: Alligator (yes, I know), Lake Placid and now Rogue. What higher praise is there than that?
*Other than about six days in a couple of screens in the US, which the distributor should be ashamed of.