Rogue

English Title: Rogue

Country of Origin: Australia

Studio: Dimension Films, Village Roadshow Pictures, Emu Creek Pictures

Director: Greg Mclean

Producer(s): Greg Mclean, David Lightfoot, Matt Hearn

Screenplay: Greg Mclean

Cinematographer: Will Gibson

Editor: Jason Ballantine

Runtime: 95 minutes

Genre: horror, creature feature

Starring/Cast: Sam Worthington, Michael Vartan, Radha Mitchell, John Jarratt, Stephen Curry, Caroline Brazier

Year: 2007

Volume: Australasian

Synopsis:

Arriving in Australia’s wild Northern Territory, American travel writer Pete McKell (Michael Vartan) joins a river cruise to take a closer look at the dangerous salt-water crocodile. After a scenic tour through picturesque gorges and idyllic landscape, the boat’s skipper Kate Ryan (Radha Mitchell) responds to a distress signal in a remote waterway. Passing primordial Indigenous Australian rock-paintings warning of an ancient creature guarding the gorge, the boat is violently rammed by a gargantuan crocodile. The boat is beached and the tourists are stranded on a small island. But in a tidal river system, the water levels are rising, and soon the entire island will be under water. To make matters worse, the survivors are in the territory of a killer crocodile marking each of them as a food source. The characters must escape from the island before it’s too late.


Critique:

The killer crocodile film Rogue is a curious beast, a pun difficult to avoid. Released in late 2007, Rogue was Greg Mclean’s second feature following the release of the popular low-budget slasher Wolf Creek in 2005. The latter film’s extraordinary success had earned Mclean a reputation as an emerging ‘hot-shot’ director. The most expensive Aussie horror flick ever produced with a budget of A$28 million, and backed by distribution heavy-weight Dimension Films, the movie was highly anticipated following Wolf Creek’s worldwide success. Yet the movie was by all measures a commercial disaster. Rogue was effectively dumped by Dimension Films for its US theatrical release – while Wolf Creek opened on 1,749 screens in the United States, Rogue opened on just 10 screens – killing its box-office prospects, though its performance at the international box-office up until that point had been poor. The movie earned just US$4.2 million at the global box-office, Wolf Creek in comparison grossed US$27 million from a budget of A$1.4 million. However, as the website Thenumbers.com has observed, ‘[Rogue] didn't flop because of bad reviews. In fact, it is being called the best killer croc movie ever, and it is certainly better than most horror movies that earn wide releases’[1]. Therefore, a question often asked is ‘what went wrong with Rogue?’ In terms of the marketplace, Rogue’s performance was handicapped by a major decline in the horror genre’s popularity in cinema markets following the exhaustion of the torture porn cycle. In a similar vein to the fate of the slasher sub-genre in the 1980s, audiences tired of an endless stream of formulaic, ultra-violent torture flicks resulting in waning demand. The horror genre dipped to 2.9 per cent of the US box-office in 2008, down from 7.16 per cent in 2007 and between 5-6 per cent since 2005. Consequently, Rogue was released into a much tougher marketplace than Wolf Creek had been three years earlier. This was compounded further by an influx of dubious creature features – Primeval (Michael Katleman, 2007), Prey (Darrell Roodt, 2007) (the South African horror), Beyond Loch Ness (Paul Ziller, 2008), and to lesser extent The Host (Bong Joon-ho, 2006) – sapping any remaining interest there may have been for a giant killer crocodile movie. In terms of the film itself, Rogue’s screenplay was among the first feature films Mclean had written, and was essentially dusted-off and green-lit by Dimension Films based on his success with Wolf Creek. While Mclean is a skilled artisan in subverting established horror conventions – he kills off characters that should not die, he subverts audience expectation, and adopts minimalist music scores among others – there is nothing shocking or controversial about the film. Rogue is more a thriller than hard-core shock horror, which was disappointing for viewers expecting a ‘nasty’ film in the vein of Wolf Creek. While Wolf Creek instilled fear in viewers through disturbingly realistic depictions of torture and violence, Rogue is low on shock value in a marketplace demanding graphic violence and high levels of gore. For Australian viewers, the film was produced for an American audience, and was ironically too Australian – ‘mate’ and associated clichés felt contrived, Radha Mitchell’s Australian accent was ‘over the top’, and sweeping shots of canyons and picturesque landscapes appeared to come straight from an Australian tourism campaign. To Greg Mclean’s credit, the film is divinely shot, and he remains an immense filmmaking talent. The crocodile is the star of the film, a huge CGI generated killing machine that unfortunately needed more screen time. Though not a classic, Rogue is an enjoyable movie for milder horror audiences more so than hardcore horror aficionados. Despite a disappointing commercial performance, Rogue is easily among the best creature features of the 2007/08 market cycle and one of the better killer crocodile films of all time.   



[1] The numbers.com (2008), DVD Releases for August 5. Available: http://www.the-numbers.com/interactive/newsStory.php?newsID=3602

 

Author of this review: Mark David Ryan