Movies at the speed of Sky
You wait all this time for a decent Australian Killer Croc flick and then two turn up at once. Admittedly, there has been a bit of a delay between them on Sky. In 2009 they showed the very respectable Black Water. It was a highly effective, although low budget piece, where a small group of people go into the outback and end up stuck up a tree, trying to avoid being a gigantic croc’s latest meal. Black Water had a tiny cast and a rarely seen beast but built its appeal on some decent characters and very respectable acting talent. The beast wasn’t bad, either.
Now we have Rogue, from the director of the superlative Wolf Creek. This is a bigger budget deal delivering enough scares and plenty of tension to make it a pulp horror classic. Doing this effectively is not as easy as it looks and there are plenty of ways to screw up, but Greg Maclean has a fine handle on the balance of likeable characters, making the most of the awesome and deadly Outback scenery, and he has the added sense to barely show the croc until the last reel. There are a lot of crap CGI reptiles out there – way too many actually – but perhaps they’ve paved the way for the success of this one, which looks gloriously gnarly and convincing even at this scale, where it’s frequently in direct view of the camera. It’s big, and mean, and clearly pissed off.
And it has an attractive cast to try and chew on, although thankfully this avoids the usual slasher movie mix of perky teens. First, the lovely Rahda Mitchell fresh from surviving Silent Hill, plays the plucky tour guide, Kate Ryan, a woman who’s never left the Outback. Michael Vartan (the other hot guy from TV’s Alias) is Pete McKall, an enthusiastic travel writer. There’s also the novelty of seeing Sam Worthington two years before he became best known for playing a 10ft blue alien (Avatar, 2009) and a robot (Terminator: Salvation, 2009). Actually I still have no idea who he is, as to me he usually looks like an action man doll without the little scar to distinguish him. In Rogue he plays an obnoxious local who starts off intimidating the crocodile tourists. The rest of the luckless voyagers include a man with a sad little secret, a snobbish photographer, an uptight couple and an English family. I also have a soft spot for the ballsy Irish lady. Oh, and there’s a cute black and white dog called Kevin. Guess how long the puppy lasts?
So, this motley crew are put together for the long cruise upriver, watching the lethal crocodiles swim past from their boat which seems to ride far too low in the water. We’re shown just how far REAL crocs, let alone massive CGI ones, can leap out of the water when properly motivated. Terrifying. Then one of the tourists spots the tail end of a distress flare upriver, and Kate elects to go and check it out. They mosey into Sacred Ground, which as we all know is a byword for ‘keep the hell out or die horribly!’ Sure enough, they piss off the croc and things get messy.
Considering this comes from the director of the pants-wettingly scary Wolf Creek, a landmark, unflinchingly nasty horror flick, Rogue actually doesn’t get nearly as messy as I’d been expecting. Don’t let that fool you – there’s plenty of tension, heightened because he’s mean enough to give us decent characters with back stories and reasons to live. Don’t worry, there’s also blood, just not a whole lot. You may be pleasantly surprised at how it all unfolds. Mind you, the woman who plays the Mary Ellen character is a dead ringer for Miranda Richardson, which had me confused for the whole movie. I was very disappointed to see it wasn’t her after all!
A few questions, though. Has no one else ever entered the ‘sacred land which the giant croc protects? I suppose they wouldn’t have lasted long enough to warn people if they had, but you’d think someone would have picked up on it even if they do a great job of showing the sheer isolation of their predicament. Also, I really feel the ending needed just a little more of a twist. Sometimes these movies need the possibility of the dragon not being quite dead, if that makes sense. That was one (of several) reason that Creep failed to satisfy, too.
Finally, although comparisons can be made, there’s really no point calling this a Jaws rip-off. EVERYTHING in the ‘evil nature’ genre is a Jaws ripoff! Most ‘evil nature’ films can only be measured whether they’re almost as good, or nowhere near as good at that particular flick, and most overdo the CGI which doesn’t deliver any tension whatsoever. Rogue really borrows from the best, and this is a solid monster flick, which along with Black Water serves the ‘giant croc’ section of horror perfectly. I’d place Rogue slightly higher than Black Water because the Outback photography is gorgeous, truly stunning, and the creature is even more impressive.
Recommended as a fun monster romp that doesn’t disappoint.