August 14, 2008
After the surprise success of his debut film, Wolf Creek (2005), horror fans eagerly anticipated Greg McLean’s next film about a killer crocodile entitled, Rogue (2007). However, a rival croc film, Primeval (2007), stole its thunder, tanked at the box office, and Dimension Films delayed Rogue’s release as a result. After several delays, the studio gave the film a way-too brief theatrical release in North America (in only 10 theaters) and unceremoniously released it on DVD which just goes to show that timing is everything.
Pete McKell (Vartan) is a travel writer for a magazine who takes a wildlife river cruise with a group of tourists in the Northern Territory of Australia. On the way back, Kate (Mitchell), the boat’s tour guide and skipper, spots a distress flare. She makes the decision to check it out, which you just know is a really bad idea. To make matter worse, Kate takes the boat through forbidden sacred territory. The once beautiful-looking scenery now becomes increasingly foreboding. Predictably, the boatload of tourists gets stranded out in the middle of nowhere with a monster crocodile methodically stalking them. It doesn’t take long for our group to start bickering amongst themselves while Kate tries to maintain order and keep everyone calm.
McLean puts us immediately at ease with stunning cinematography that captures the gorgeous countryside while we get to know the characters in the boat. If he ever decides to give up feature films, he could make a lucrative career making nature documentaries. McLean dwells on the wild life and their environment which does a good job of drawing us into this world. You really get the sense that he loves this country and cares about these characters. It is a clever tactic that establishes a false sense of security, lulling us into complacency so that when the first scare comes, it really has an impact. McLean also pays close attention to the film’s soundscape with all kinds of eerie noises that evokes another atmospheric Australian film, Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), as he gradually lets the darkness seep in.
Rogue is a very well-written film – unusual for the horror genre – as some of the characters impart fascinating croc lore about their territoriality. The dynamic between the characters is also very believable and they react exactly as you would expect in an extreme situation such as this one. It’s great to see a genre veteran like Radha Mitchell, who has done science fiction (Pitch Black) and horror (Silent Hill), revisit the latter with Rogue. She brings an authenticity that grounds the film in reality. She also has a kind of charisma that is very appealing and the camera picks up on it.
The croc effects – a mix of CGI and animatronics – are quite realistic looking and much more believable than the ones used in both Lake Placid (1999) and Primeval. It’s an impressive beast in size and ferocity to say the least. McLean knows how to wring every bit of tension from a scene, most notably, a harrowing sequence where several tourists attempt to cross a river via a suspended rope. After the graphic violence of Wolf Creek, McLean shows surprising restraint with the gore and makes up for it with the intensity of the croc attacks. Rogue is one of those rare horror films with heart and that gets you emotionally invested in the characters while still trying to scare the pants off you. It also reminds us of the harsh reality of Mother Nature and just how much we are at her mercy.
There is an audio commentary by writer/producer/director Greg McLean. He mentions that he wrote the screenplay 11-12 years ago and has always been fascinated by the Northern Territory of Australia. McLean says that his goal on this one was to make an old fashioned monster movie with a killer croc. He points out bits of footage that was reinstated for the DVD. The director also points out the various locations they shot in and the challenges of shooting in extremely hot weather with all kinds of insects, snakes, and, of course, crocs around them. McLean speaks with an obvious passion for this film and does an excellent job taking us through his experience of making Rogue.
“The Making of Rogue” covers various aspects of the film in excellent detail: casting, principal photography, special effects, editing, and the score. McLean was inspired by a news story from the 1970s about a large, territorial crocodile that attacked several fishing boats over the course of a year. The filmmakers wanted the film to look like an epic journey and really capture the untouched beauty of the Australian countryside. This documentary shows the massive undertaking of making Rogue out in the middle of nowhere and under extreme conditions. This is more in-depth than your usual promotional featurette and fascinating as hell.
“Welcome to the Territory” consists of three mini-documentaries that basically takes segments from the Making Of doc and expands on them. The first one is on the special effects for the film’s most spectacular death scene. Next, is a look at the music for the film. We see McLean working with the film’s composer and how they approached complementing the visuals. Lastly, there is one about the Northern Territory where they shot most of the film. It’s a beautiful yet quite dangerous place. The filmmaker shot in a very remote area. Also included is more vintage newsreel footage of an actual rogue crocodile in the ‘70s.
“The Real Rogue” takes a look at how the visual effects team shot footage of actual crocs in order to create a realistic looking and moving animal. We excerpts of handlers dangling food a few inches away from a hungry croc.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.