It is not often I watch a film without both purposefully and inadvertently finding out most of the key details beforehand. These spoilers and light research usually consist of any significant promotional material such as trailers, as well as the main contributors of said film such as the Director(s), Screenwriter(s) and cast.
With Rogue, I didn’t have any of this foresight, and there are two reasons for this. Firstly, the film didn’t exactly boast the most prolific marketing campaign. And, secondly, I watched it late at night on LoveFilm and wasn’t planning on getting much further than 20 minutes through this or any other film before falling asleep.
For me, at face value, Rogue looked almost perfect for serving this purpose. It has three and a half stars (not that I trust the site’s less than amateur reviews), and the front cover’s artwork is of a giant crocodile’s head crashing out of the water, on a perfectly vertical angle a la Jaws, as its own nashers frame the tagline “How Fast Can You Swim.” Rousing stuff.
So let’s have a look what we’ve got: A giant croc, an awful tagline, an unheard of film, and a general air of impending disappointment. My thought? It will be of modern B-Movie quality at best. My only hope is that it will be as bad as Giant Shark Vs Mega Octopus, so as that I can at least try to laugh while my eyes are being burnt out of my head.
It turns out, Rogue isn’t as bad as ‘Giant Shark’. In fact, it’s not that bad at all. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not prolific. It’s just not that bad.
Before simultaneously pressing play and exhaling a particularly nihilistic sigh, what my tired eyes failed to notice was, although Rogue suffers from a plot and theme akin to the B-Movie, some of its contributors are of a more esteemed pedigree.
If I would have had a little more curious faith, I would have noticed that the film stars Rhada Mitchell (Pitch Black) and John Jarratt (Wolf Creek, Django Unchained), as well as Mia Wasikowska and Sam Worthington. Okay, none of these are quite the Brando’s or Streep’s of our generation, but they do swing some weight in the film arena. The latter two especially with Worthington becoming considerably recognisable with sci-fi/action films such as Avatar and Terminator Salvation; and Wasikowska is quite the rising star, famous for her lead role in Alice in Wonderland, and also, more currently, in Director Park Chan-wook’s first English language film, Stoker.
Rogue also has another selling point. It’s Directed by Greg Mclean (Wolf Creek). Now this revelation got me especially excited. I now faced the prospect of watching a film by the two main attractions of one of the most original and terrifying horrors of the last decade, a decent ensemble, and the possibility of most of them being gobbled up right before my eyes (or more likely, just out of shot).
I was being fed all of these details as the opening titles were delivered over scenic aerial establishing shots of the location: the Australian Outback. So, after only a few minutes in, my spirit had been markedly lifted, even if my eye lids were still going in the opposite direction.
Rogue concerns itself with a group of (mostly) tourists who take a boat trip along the waters of Kakadu National Park and its rich wildlife. Protagonist duties fall to Michael Vartan (One Hour Photo, Columbiana) who plays Pete McKell, a cynical American travel writer. Along for the ride are tour captain and local attraction Kate (Mitchell), and numerous other prospective hot lunches including Sherry (Wasikowska) and her parents, a slightly creepy amateur photographer (Stephen Curry), and a mysterious single man (Jarratt) who is using the trip to spread ashes in the river. Turning up mid-way through the first leg of their journey there is also the local troublemakers Colin (Damien Richardson) and Neil (Worthington).
I didn’t know it yet, but the first ten minutes of the story summed up the style and tone of the rest of the film perfectly. Within this introduction, as well as the measured establishing shots I was also given a glimpse of the monster of the title as a couple of explorers are gobbled up in no time at all as an appetiser for the main course. The juxtaposition of this classic horror film trope and the attempt at some genuinely pleasant cinematographic wrangling of artistry was in fact a precursor for the filmmakers’ apparent struggle over the next 90 minutes: attempting to polish a (B-Movie) turd to make it look like a Spielbergian production.
To the filmmakers’ credit, on some levels they succeed in attempting to apply an oft unseen quality to this cinema-skipping sub-genre. Throughout the characters’ short journey there are occasional sequences of measured tension which are further elevated by a genuine sympathy created for the characters.
Catchy dialogue, an appreciation for powerful shot composition, and a lean-structured narrative all also contribute to Rogue’s entertainment factor.
There are glimmers of the filmmakers attempting to be a little too clever at times, especially when style over substance interrupts the pace. But for a film that is all about the bite, Rogue is served up in an often quite delectable manner (for a B-Movie).
For all of its attractions, Rogue’s low-level submission and status in the hierarchy of releases is still justified. Although at times it is surprisingly entertaining and wholesome, it is not a compelling or particularly memorable piece of filmmaking. But then again, it never set out to attain either of those qualities.
For a production which takes its cues and main inspiration from the straight-to-video domain of film, it at least deserves to be proudly placed at the top of the bargain basement pile.