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Living Dinosaurs

October 7th, 2010 · 3 Comments

As days get shorter, nights get longer and All Hallow’s Eve beckons, I can say that I won’t be wandering the streets dressed as Chewbacca begging for candy. What I can’t say is whether or not at my age, horror movies still have any surprises left in them. In the search for originality, it’d be a good idea to start anywhere but Hollywood. For the month of October, I take a trip around the globe to see what’s scaring some of my favorite countries these days.

Rogue (2007)
Directed by Greg Mclean
Written by Greg Mclean
Produced by Greg Mclean, Matt Hearn, David Lightfoot
99 minutes

As a sum of its parts, Rogue is kind of okay, but saying that movie about a giant croc is kind of okay is the same as calling it a failure. Greg Mclean had three inspirations for what became his sophomore feature film: the hero myth, the 1956 Australian documentary Northern Safari and the monster movies of his youth, particularly Jaws and Alien. He was unable to set up financing for this vision, but that changed when Mclean’s debut feature film — a lurid serial killer thriller titled Wolf Creek — screened at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. Making the rounds in Hollywood with his script for Rogue, Mclean had three conditions: to cast whoever he wanted, to shoot in Australia and to retain final cut. Agreeing to those terms was Dimension Films, which put up a $25 million budget. Melbourne based co-producer and co-financier Village Roadshow Pictures bought a 50% stake in the film.

Exterior shooting took place both in Nitmiluk National Park and at a manmade lake in Warburton, where the crew built an island and shot nights for five weeks. The croc’s lair was constructed at Melbourne Central City Studios. Not lacking in ambition, Rogue aims for more targets — epic adventure, creature feature, nature film — than Mclean has learned to hit. As if sensitive to complaints that Wolf Creek was exploitative junk, he bleeds virtually all the cheap thrill out of what could have been a fun B-movie. The result is an even less enjoyable ride than Wolf Creek was for the opposite reason: it goes under-the-top. Michael Vartan — who has no real business acting in movies — is bland in the lead role, but an Aussie cast led by Radha Mitchell, Sam Worthington and John Jarratt (the psycho bushman from Wolf Creek) acquit themselves wonderfully.

Somewhere in the Northern Territory, American travel writer Pete McKell (Michael Vartan) arrives to take a river cruise wearing a suit because the airline lost his luggage. After visiting a bar where a wall is dedicated to press clipping of crocodile attacks, Pete boards Ryan’s Wildlife River Cruise. Also on the tour are skipper Kate Ryan (Radha Mitchell), a contentious American couple (Caroline Brazier, Robert Taylor), photography nerd (Stephen Curry), family (Geoff Morrell, Heather Mitchell, Mia Wasikowska), tourist (Celia Ireland), widower (John Jarratt) and a border collie. In addition to crocs, the tourists meet Kate’s ex-boyfriend Neil (Sam Worthington), a hot shot who briefly intercepts the cruise to make an ass of himself. Before Kate decides to head back to port, her passengers observe a flare being fired into the horizon. The captain investigates.

Arriving in a remote lagoon, their vessel is attacked by a giant crocodile. Taking on water, Kate runs her boat onto an island. Her radios are dead and her flares are floating in the lagoon, but a bigger problem is that they’re stranded on a tidal river slowly rising over the ground of their safe haven. One of the tourists gets too close to the water and disappears. Rescue appears imminent when Neil and his buddy arrive, but their boat is capsized by the croc, stranding Neil with the others. He volunteers to swim quietly to shore and rig a line high enough for the others to pull themselves across by. When that plan fails and two more victims are snapped up by the croc, Pete proposes using a hook to snare the animal long enough for them to swim to safety. Kate doesn’t make it. Led to the croc’s lair by the skipper’s dog, Peter finds Kate alive, but the croc soon joins them.

Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” average among 3,993 users: 52% for Rogue

Metacritic “Metascore” average among leading critics: Not available

What do you say?

Tags: Beasts and monsters · Road trip · Small town

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Steve W // Oct 7, 2010 at 8:40 am

    Was looking forward to this one, and the set-up as they head into the remote outback is good–but you’re right, it isn’t as much scary fun as it might have been. It’s actually less ruthless and gory than the PG-rated JAWS. Too bad.

  • 2 J.D. // Oct 7, 2010 at 10:56 am

    I dunno, I have a soft spot for this film. Yeah, Vartan’s acting is as vanilla as it gets but he’s more than made up for with the likes of Radha Mitchell and John Jarratt who are excellent. Also, special kudos go to the absolutely exquisite cinematography. The first third of the film really establishes a specific mood as well as the harshness and the beauty of the environment. You really get a sense of place and the director immerses us completely in it.

    Yeah, the killer croc elements are formulaic but I still found it very entertaining.

  • 3 Joe Valdez // Oct 9, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Steve: Thanks for commenting! Rogue isn’t bad, but in the end, a movie with Radha Mitchell, Sam Worthington, John Jarnatt and that bartender hanging out at a bar in the Outback would have probably been a lot better.

    J.D.: The croc attack case from the 1970s that Mclean mentions on the DVD extras was so much more intriguing than anything that ended up on screen. Maybe a thriller based on that incident would have been too reminiscent of Jaws. Thanks for commenting!

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