Making his mark with the 2005 surprise horror hit Wolf Creek, writer/director Greg McLean returns with another horror movie set in the Northern Territory named Rogue.
The film stars Michael Vartan as Pete McKell, an American travel journalist stuck in outback Australia. To kill time he decides to hop on a river boat along with several other tourists. When the boats captain, Kate (Rahda Mitchell), decides to investigate a distress call up stream, she inadvertently leads them into the territory of an aggressive 7 metre crocodile, which wastes no time in making its presence known. Stuck on a small dirt island with the tide rising higher with every passing hour, Kate and Pete must find a way to get everyone off the island as the crocodile picks them off one by one.
Building a movie based on suspense and break neck tension (while also cutting down on the high gore seen in his previous film), Mclean successfully distances himself from the likes of Eli Roth and Rob Zombie while also creating a fine monster movie (which are making a comeback as seen with Joon-ho Bong’s The Host and the upcoming J.J. Abrams produced Cloverfield).
For all its chills and scares, the film also contains a keen sense of humour brought on by some of its characters “bogan” sensibilities, with Stephen Curry in particular delivering the best lines.
The cast is good. Mitchell and Vartan provide solid lead performances, and John Jarrett (who played McLean’s sadistic killer in Wolf Creek) surprises with his gentle turn as a grieving widower.
However, this is not a character piece. It is the croc that everyone wants to see, and it sure is a sight to behold. Taking a page from Jaws (as does every monster movie made since then), McLean does not show his monster until a good 40 min or so into the picture. But when it does appear, it makes quite an impact. A creation by John Cox and The Creature Workshop (who won an Oscar for their work in Babe), McLean’s monster (whom he named ‘Phil’ after his agent) is an ultra-realistic and unnerving design which does its job of scaring the audience half to death, and does it well.
The other technical aspects of the film are also excellent. Cinematographer Will Gibson captures some stunning images whilst filming in location in the Northern Territory; the sound effects are exceptional; and Francois Tetaz has composed a score which successfully heightens the films atmosphere.
By side stepping the usual pretentious tone found in many Australian films, and focusing on entertaining its audience, Rogue becomes one of the more entertaining Aussie films seen in a while. Australia needs more genre flicks such as this to go hand in hand with the more serious, AFI budding productions that – while critical favourites – don’t get butts on seats.
Imagine Lake Placid without David E. Kelly’s satirical wit and with more of a sharp edge. Rogue is fine popcorn viewing.