Having submitted audiences to one of the most unnerving serial killer movies of recent years with WOLF CREEK (2005), writer/director Greg McLean follows the thematic path of Tobe Hooper (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and EATEN ALIVE) returning to the horror genre for his second feature with the stylish crocodile killer thriller, ROGUE.
Utilizing wonderful cinematography by the late Will Gibson, that captures both the Australiaís Northern Territory beauty and isolation and solid production design by Robert Webb that conveys a claustrophobic sense of dread as the characters enter unknown waters, ROGUE is one of the better films to emerge from the killer animal genre, delivering scares, thrills, and a monstrous crocodile that convinces despite the filmís relatively low budget of $26,900,000 Australian dollars.
The film centres of American travel writer Pete McKell (Michael Vartan) who arrives in a small town in Australiaís Northern Territory having been assigned to write a feature on the areaís tourist industry, joining a river cruise that highlights the areaís wildlife and fauna, along with photographer Simon (Stephen Curry), family mother Elizabeth (Heather Mitchell), daughter Sherry, and her father Allen (Geoff Morrell), locals Gwen (Celia Ireland) and Russell (John Jarratt), couple Mary Ellen (Caroline Brazier) and Everett (Robert Taylor), boat captain Kate Ryan (Radha Mitchell), and Kevin, her dog.
Following a riverboat skirmish with two locals, Neil Kelly (Sam Worthington) whom appears to have a past relationship with Kate, and buddy Collin (Damien Richardson) which results in Neil and Collin falling overboard, the tourists continue along the river when they see a distress flare two miles downstream. Unknown to the tourists theyíve entered the lair of a gigantic saltwater crocodile, who has perfected the art of capsizing riverboats and forcing its passengers to take refuge on a tidal island, where it picks them off one by one as they attempt to escape the rising tide and swim to shore.
Meanwhile Neil and Collin pursue the tourists, having climbed back aboard their speedboat, pursue the tourists, unwittingly offering the survivors their only means of survival. As tensions rise amongst the group, and panic sets in, an alliance is formed between Neil and the others, who will need to rely on every survival instinct they possess in order to fend off the hunting skills of a predator that has honed its killer instinct to perfection.
Despite the cinematic success of WOLF CREEK, ROGUE was released to Australian audiences in November, 2007 garnering a modest $1.8 million AUD, and disappointing returns on USA screens meant that the movie was pulled from theatres after a week, despite some critical success. As a result, UK audiences have to settle with a direct to DVD release courtesy of Icon Home Entertainment, which is a shame since this movie deserves to be seen on the big screen.
The cast are given roles which stress their individual personalities and brings elements of humanity to the scenario, Elizabeth is dying and therefore determined that her husband and daughter survive; Russell (unrecognizable from his role as the serial killer in WOLF CREEK) tearfully empties a loved oneís ashes into the river, revealing him as a gentle, thoughtful type; boastful cameraman Simon proffers fish as a substitute to live-bait "sacrifice" Kevin when the rest of the party have him marked down as Crocodile-Chum; and loutish Neil forgoes any plans of revenge, by bravely volunteering to swim across to land in order that he can set up a rope rescue system that would enable the group to climb above the water instead of disturbing the surface with swimming activity. This attention to scriptwriting allows audiences to engage with its characters and, unlike many recent horror movies that eschew character development in favour of gore-laden special effects, adds to the suspense. Thatís not to say that ROGUE is an entirely bloodless affair, (though itís definitely mild in comparison with WOLF CREEK).
The inevitable face-off that has city-type Pete battle the crocodile that has made off to its underground lair with a badly bitten Kate is solid man versus monster fare, with a combination of crocodile CGI and animatronics supplied by John Cox and The Creature Workshop that outdo anything in the likes of Tobe Hooperís shameful CROCODILE (2000), the Gary Jones sequel CROCODILE 2: DEATH SWAMP (2002), and the more recent and bigger budgeted PRIMEVAL (2007), (Iíve not had the chance to view the Gary Yates 2007 TV movie CROC, or David Nerlich and Andrew Trauckiís 2007 Australian Northern Territory Crocodile thriller, BLACK WATER).
The DVD comes with extras that include an excellent behind the scenes documentary entitled "Welcome To The Territory" which almost serves as a how-to guide for aspiring filmmakers, and a short piece detailing the exploits of Gustav, a real 1.3 tones killer crocodile that has claimed the lives of an estimated 300 victims from the banks of Burundiís Ruzizi River and the northern shores of Lake Tanganyika in Africa.
Carl T. Ford
Directed by Greg McLean
English Language / Australia / 2007 / 98 minutes / Colour
Region 2 / PAL
An Icon Home Entertainment Release
Region 2 (UK)
Released on DVD (£15.99) and Blu-ray (£19.99) on 5th October 2009.