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Rogue (2007)

Rogue was directed and written by Greg McLean (Wolf Creek, The Belko Experiment) and stars Radha Mitchell (Silent Hill, Run Hide Fight), Michael Vartan (Colombiana, One Hour Photo), Sam Worthington (Pros and Ex-Cons, Clash of the Titans), Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, Piercing), Caroline Brazier (Rake, Terra Nova), Stephen Curry (Hounds of Love, Lone Wolf), John Jarratt (Picnic at Hanging Rock, Boar), and Damien Richardson (Jack Irish, Torn). It follows a small group of tourists as they try to survive a 25-foot crocodile that’s picking them off.

The Plot: Australian director McLean has been in the outback before and since. This Outback horror movie lets the man stick to what he knows, delivering a simple and decently effective story that never reaches for more than it’s capable of, electing to stick to well-trodden paths (rivers?) with some contrivance to get the ball rolling.

Pete (Vartan) is going on a river tour led by Kate (Mitchell) of the Northern Territory in Australia to write for a travel magazine. It’s a simple motivation that ropes him and several other tourists including but not limited to Simon (Curry), Sherry (Wasikowska), Gwen (Ireland) and Mary Ellen (Brazier) into a rescue operation when they spot a signal flare in the distance. Kate takes a detour to check for trouble despite no one else knowing exactly where she’d be, considering her radio to base doesn’t connect, which is a big lapse in logic on her behalf.

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A crocodile doesn’t like the fact that the group has stumbled into its territory, and it breaks the boat, and local troublemakers Neil (Worthington) and Collin (Richardson) soon get stuck on the same island that Kate, Pete and the rest of the group are on. With the tide rising, which is a smart way to get the momentum going, the group must start making moves before the croc gets hungrier; and indeed they do as McLean finally starts adding creative escapes and legitimate tension to a workmanlike plot.

The Characters: There’s a 25-minute first act in Rogue that allowed for a lot of development across its main characters, however, the movie doesn’t take it, instead of focusing on its location and music; leaving its players by the wayside until they get stuck on the islet. There are little moments on the boat ride where one tourist spreads someone’s ashes and Simon shows a little personality, but a large part of the runtime is just empty space.

Once things get going there are some blips of character, like one where Neil shows that he’s not a two-dimensional assclown and isn’t out to prove anything when he starts to take action, but these bits are few and far between for everyone but Kate and Pete. Kate has the most going for her, in that her decision-making is distinctly human, trying to make the best possible choice out of frequently limited options. When things don’t go to plan (which is often) she doesn’t brush it under the rug and act like a superhero whose relatively uneventful job lets her make perfect plans.

There’s not much in the way of development or backstory, but her actions speak loudly enough. Pete doesn’t get much either, but he is creative, setting traps for the croc and adding occasional levity where necessary. What’s different here, though, is that both Kate and Pete share the lead, becoming something of a survivalist power couple, which supplies a different angle than what’s normally seen in creature features. More of these moments between the two would’ve made up for the lack of character in the movie overall, but as it stands, there’s just barely enough to scrape by.

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The Horror: McLean does manage to create some original scenes of tension and, on one occasion, that’s quite literal. Most offerings in the nature-based horror subgenre would seek to mythologize their killer, (take Deep Blue Sea or Anaconda for example) while Rogue stays away from that rather campy angle. Instead, taking the more realistic bent of having the humans disrupt its way of life, even if for a moment, which is enough to set the beast off on an angry killing spree, taking away from the predictability of its actions.

That’s not to say that there’s nothing predictable in Rogue, as there are plenty of things that any aficionado, or even an occasional horror watcher, could see coming. There’s Sherry, who’s no more than 16 years old, so there’s virtually no chance she gets killed, which is the case. And there are more than enough filler characters to nullify the suddenness of some of the kills.

Enough scenes are played out here to make these clear instances less damaging to the movie overall, though. Such as one elongated sequence where Mary Ellen has to traverse a makeshift rope suspended between trees where the croc plays it smart and works from the ends inward, and another where one of the two leads actually gets caught in a death-roll. McLean takes some opportunities here to subvert expectations, and these moments are easily the highlights of the runtime.

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The Technics: With the exceptions of Russell Mulcahy’s 1984 effort “Razorback” and most of McLean’s feature-length projects, Rogue sits on its own as far as its setting goes, and it gets points for that. Pairing Australia’s natural beauty (and horrors) with Will Gibson’s (A Cry in the Dark, Macbeth) cinematography assists in giving the movie some much-needed personality when there’s so much garbage, low effort, nonsensical tax write-offs from studios like The Asylum flooding the animal horror subgenre.

While there are a few rough shots of a CG crocodile and some clear digital additions to wide overhead shots, Rogue looks good, if not spectacular. The score also shows flashes of greatness, with Francois Tetaz’s usage of crocodile noises to make music adding to the suspense without feeling cheesy when put together with the premise. What stifles the movie is its pacing. With a plot as thin as the one in Rogue, the first act and some stretches afterward needed more than these visuals. With a tighter edit or some more meat on the script and a few extra dollars, Rogue should’ve been brisker than it is.

Rogue is a deeply flawed movie, with some critical pacing issues and mostly flat characters, it’s clear that some more time with the script was needed. However, when McLean starts moving, Rogue offers some real surprises that play into Australia’s reputation via its brutal creature and solid technical merits.

Rogue is available on DVD and Blu-ray as well as several streaming services. You can use JustWatch to check for services offering it in your location.

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Our Score

2 thoughts on “Rogue (2007)”

  1. I remember I liked the heck out of it back in the day, in a shallow, entertaining kind of way but there’s nothing wrong with that. I might give it a rewatch to see how it holds up for me. Thanks Lukas.

    1. It’s entertaining, just has a lotta noticeable problems. I doubt you’ll regret watching it, especially for the last 10 minutes, which are a magnificent show of suspense.

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