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Rogue: The Australian Crocodile Film That Gets it Right

August 26, 2014

Rogue movie poster

You may find it odd that I am writing about a tiny Australian Crocodile film that was released unceremoniously in 2008. It has bothered me for some time that the neat little film was buried by the distributors and doomed to the straight to DVD landscape. So, Rogue will be the first film in my new series covering films that were criminally underappreciated.

I started thinking about Rogue again after I watched the insanely irresponsible Wolf Creek 2. Greg Mclean directed both films and they are characterized by a unique ability to punch above their weight.  Also, the large crocodile film Lake Placid just celebrated its 15th anniversary with a Blu-ray release and seemingly endless cult fanfare.

Lake Placid bluray

Rogue has stuck with me because of the circumstances surrounding my first viewing of it. I had just moved to South Korea for a year of teaching and was stuck inside my apartment during an incredibly rainy night. I had heard talk of a crocodile flick so I decided to rent it sight unseen. What followed was an unexpectedly good movie that was intelligently simple and always entertaining. It is by the no means the Jaws of Crocodile films but certainly is better than most water-based horror cinema. (I’m looking at you Primeval).

Primeval Gustav

The film was directed by Wolf Creek’s Greg McLean and features Michael Vartan, Radha Mitchell, Sam Worthington, John Jarratt and Mia Wasikowska. it is a well-acted and great looking monster movie that moves along logically. McLean was incredibly dismayed with the treatment the film received yet had this to say about it:

I made exactly the film with Rogue, that I was making for ten years, exactly the way I wanted, with exactly the people I wanted and the film they put out was exactly what I wanted to make. So that’s the plus side. People will catch it on cable or see it playing and go, ‘what is this film?’ Because the quality is so good and they can’t understand how these films just don’t get released properly. So hopefully they’re the sort of things we’ll find

There is no back story or expository dialogue. It is a simple story of a tour boat being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There are no crazy urban legends or hunters/reporters looking to make money off of the giant crocodile. We don’t get an overacting John Voight looking to capture it or a foul-mouthed Betty White feeding it. The one inkling of trouble on the horizon is a large cave painting that is seen on some cliffs. The natives must have been living with the monster for some time in their sacred area and learned to avoid the territorial reptile (who is described as a “steam-train with teeth”).

Rogue crocodile

Eventually, the giant crocodile whacks the boat and the hunt is afoot. The characters are industrious and use what they have in order to not become dinner. They think ahead knowing the tide will come in and flood their little island. So, they devise reasonable plans to escape. The people in the film are not two-dimensional characters who become crocodile fodder. Sam Worthington starts as a local “bro” but quickly proves to be a brave man while helping the tourists.  Michael Vartan is suitably stoic while coming across as a genuinely good dude. Also, it is easy to understand the finale because who wouldn’t want to save Radha Mitchell?

Rogue cast

You get to know the characters via their actions and interactions. Words aren’t wasted and Mclean wisely gives the characters the tools necessary to keep the narrative moving along. The best horror films involve urgency and there is plenty of it in Rogue. There are moments when people act like little punks (silly rope scene). However, what would you do if you were on a tiny island about to be swallowed up by a hungry beast?  Rogue is wonderfully straightforward and simply wants to deliver the goods.

If you are in the mood for a killer crocodile film I totally recommend Rogue. It doesn’t pander to dumb clichés and is told well by a director who knows what he is doing. Rent it. Enjoy it. Don’t enter sacred land that might be home to large river beasts.

Rogue crocodile scene

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