FEATURE: Shocktober '15 - Rogue

Over the course of October, I shall be watching one horror movie a day and reviewing it right here for your reading pleasure. I haven't seen any of the films I'll be watching before and you can find the full list here.

Pete (Michael Vartan) is an American travel writer, newly arrived in Australia and embarking on a crocodile-spotting river tour, helmed by Kate (Radha Mitchell). The tour follows the river through Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory and, after an encounter with some bullish locals (one of whom is played by Sam Worthington), they start to head home. It all goes awry when one of the tourists spots a flare through his camera and Kate, deciding to do the right thing, diverts the tour to see if they can help. However, she unwittingly leads them into the territory of a large crocodile, who is not particularly obliging to his guests.

Any crocodile-based creature feature has, in my mind, to directly compete with the wonder that is Lake Placid. It's one of my favourites of the genre where edible deputies and a giant crocodile pretty much come second to a witty, hilarious screenplay. Rogue doesn't really go for any comedy, treating its subject as a much more serious man vs. nature tale (it does, however, have a wicked joke for the end credits' music very much in the American Werewolf in London vein), but it works very well.

It's written, directed and produced by Greg McLean, who was also responsible for Wolf Creek (a film which I am not a fan of) and it treads some familiar ground, placing out of towners amongst the dangers of the Outback. This time, they're also placed alongside a couple of characters who know what they're doing, not that it offers much comfort in the scheme of things. The river setting is the film's big star and McLean and cinematographer Will Gibson showcase it beautifully; it's at once both jawdroppingly stunning and deeply dangerous. There's also an unknowable quality to it, fitting for when the sun goes down and the tidal river starts creeping up to the shore.

That same unknowable quality is used for the crocodile itself. Like any good creature movie, we only see glimpses for the majority of the film, allowing our imaginations to take over. The first death isn't even scene, just its aftermath as we hear the splash and see the ripples spreading out across the water. McLean only shows us snippets of the croc, a tail vanishing into the water, the ridges gliding towards the people. There's a particularly effective shot as a character hears a growl, only to turn and see wide open jaws coming towards him. The effects are also still pretty impressive when the full crocodile is revealed, but even then, it's used sparingly in order to give a sense of scale.

Rogue is also economical in its storytelling, allowing the crocodile-based scares to shine in the midst of the simple narrative. We're given the sparsest of information about the characters which would usually be a bad thing, but here it works. Their plight is compelling enough so they don't have to be. Any details are dropped through conversations between the characters, little moments that grant them enough depth to be more than crocodile food. Vartan's Pete gets the most development, forming a tentative friendship with Kate and engaging in some macho posturing with Sam Worthington and that's really all it needs.

The second creature feature of the month, Rogue doesn't go in for the comedy adventure stylings like Deep Rising, instead opting for a more serious approach that prioritises tension over any one-liners. It's beautifully shot and methodically constructed, ramping up the croc-based anxiety by sticking to the creature feature formula and executing it very well indeed.

- Becky

You can find my other Shocktober '15 reviews here.

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