Greg Mclean got horror rolling again Down Under when his first movie Wolf Creek surprisingly turned into a hit in the face of an avalanche of poor reviews in Australia. His follow up Rogue is equally likely to face some harsh music but the feeling this time is that Aussie film audiences might just given the movie a miss. Judging from the crowd of fourteen that showed up to the 800 seat theater I attended the movie in on opening night, giving the movie a miss might be sadly an understatement. It's a movie about a giant croc rampage now that's going to be a hard sell, so how was it you ask?
Talk us through itbr> U.S travel writer Pete McKell is having a bad day. He has arrived in the Northern Territory without his luggage, it's bloody hot, the flies are a nightmare, and the locals aren't enameled of tourists. On the bright side of the water line he gets to go on a boat tour through salt water croc country. Making his day worse are a mixed group of fellow tourists and feisty boat captain Kate.
After a relaxing cruise down the river Kate decides its time to head home, unfortunately for all involved one of the tourists notices a flare. Kate reluctantly has to go further up river to investigate, much to the disdain of her passengers who have places to be. The group find an isolated lake that contains an ominously sunk boat. Before anyone has a chance to opinion just what might have happened a barely seen underwater object smashes into the side of the tourist boat, and nope it wasn't Jaws. With sinkage going down, Kate seemingly well aware of just what might lurk below the water line, runs her sinking vessel aground on a small island in the middle of the lake. This turns out to be something of a mistake as the tide is coming in and night is falling. The bickering group soon find out they are on the dinner menu as chompy the super croc starts whittling the local gene pool down. A movie with the odd tension laced scene ensues.
Ready to believe in a 28 foot croc?
Reviewbr> "I'll have you back in time to grab an ice cream on your way back into town." - Kate
Mclean opens his movie to a typical sunrise in the Territory, and that folks has been done to death previously leading one to suspect this may be a run of the mill "B" grader. Hey cool, throw extra cheese on my serving I'm getting down here. For no apparent reason Mclean focuses on a herd of water buffalo doing what buffalo do best, flocking up the environment. One of the beasts heads to a water hole for a drink. Actually pretty well constructed scene with the buffalo checking for danger before starting to drink from seemingly placid waters. Wham bam first shock scene, and yeap I jumped. You kind of know what's coming but Mclean constructs things so tightly that it's still a jolt moment, though my undies were safe for the time being. Notably Mclean dispenses with the bikini clad babe one might have expected in an opening horror movie gambit and instead throws steak on the reptile menu.
From there Mclean slow burns it as he meticulously builds his characters, you are going to like some and hate others, while laying down the croc mythology. We learn that crocs reach pretty impressive size, though legend has it some have been even bigger, guess that's plot foreshadow. Adding good gravy Kate also informs us the big critters can hit 20ks swimming below the surface without causing a ripple, can really rock and roll when they stalk their prey, are intelligent (learning the behavior of their prey), and can propel themselves almost into orbit. This is pretty good setup and all comes into play during the Island siege.
Speaking of the Island that dripped blood it's during this part of the movie that Mclean really ramps up the pace, throws on a heck of a lot of tension ... all about what you can't see, and is on the verge of making something pretty memorable. However the final act of the movie sunk this flick quicker than a croc attacked tourist boat. All the preceding character development and tension simply evaporates as Mclean decides to return to "B" grade filler. The actual resolution and final scene remain one of the dumber developments I have ever sat through. With the final scene seemingly tacked on as it serves exactly zero purpose.
For two thirds of the movie Mclean has the audience eating out of his hands, he then totally blows it with a hiuge change of direction that does nothing for his reputation in horror circles.
Now having said that I'm going to give Greg the benefit of the doubt here, it's well documented he had huge issues with post production editing of the flick, and there's the hint that the Director/Writer was playing with audience expectations on how things should go. There's certainly evidence that Mclean is pretty strong on adding the visuals to the menu. Check the newspaper headline outside the pub, and the Koori rock drawing as the boat heads into the waters of terror. Post production was handled by the Weinsteins, who ponied up $30 million for the flick, so heaven alone knows what lengths those lepals went to in order to ensure audiences wouldn't get a decent movie experience end of day. Mclean knows the horror genre, the Weinsteins demonstratively do not.
Behind the camera Mclean is on song in places but is hampered by the editing, that was conceivably done by mentally deficient monkeys on a really bad drug day. There's decent usage of the naturally backdrop the Territory provides, and one can almost be excused for thinking this is the "never never land" tourist board fronting the production budget. Mclean has the track and crane cam working for him early in the movie, and has some excellent angles from on high as the boat does it's river voyage. Great stuff, but once again the editing is somewhat abrupt in places making for a jarring viewing situation.
Mclean simply can't avoid the Speilberg influences with Rogue. Water level shots abound, and yes there is a nod to Jaws with a couple of the underwater POVs. The other influence here would be Romero's Night of the Living Dead, with the characters constantly arguing amongst themselves and proceeding to make the situation worse through their actions.
Gorehounds will have to settle for exactly two scenes where the claret flows. Mclean shots quick attacks and doesn't have geysers of blood happening. In the final act, where a couple of characters end up in the croc's tucker box, I was expecting a full on Rob Zombie style descent into out right gorenography, but thank fully Mclean side steps that trite development.
And before anyone asks yes the creature effects are bloody good. Seamless integration of CGI by Wheta studios that will have you believing in the beast.
As a writer Mclean is surprisingly pretty good, the script for Rogue was written before the one for Wolf Creek. Each of the characters is well defined and you wont have any issues with working out who is who during the movie. Mclean seems to have taken the road of turning genre conventions on their head. We get two male actors of the "needing the brown stuff to hit the fan before bringing out the best" in them, one of whom may survive the night. No one is presented as the "coward" character, though on occasion one or more characters do fit the "bus load of idiots" idiom. The surprising thing is that Mclean sets up his possible victim list, has a culling of the herd happening, but for the final act has two characters on their own. Not entirely sure that works, but will make for identifying who becomes croc tucker an engaging exercise. Mclean takes bits and pieces from your standard "monster" flick, gives them a bit of a polish, and then heads down a different path to most "B" grade movie makers. At least we have a horror movie maker trying new things here.
Radha Mitchell (Kate) heads the bill and does well. Ms Mitchell is believable as the Northern Territorian Lass who has never been out of the Territory before. She does feisty pretty well, and hits the emoting stakes like a true blue. Michael Vartan (Pete) also had me convinced with his American Travel Writer who suddenly finds new depths in himself through adversity. Sterling performance from an actor I've not seen a lot of. He does big city seppo confronted with hill billy locals well. Vartan and Mitchell are smoldering away as their characters interact, great chemistry, but Mclean decides not to go down the romantic path. Sam Worthington (Neil) is an up and coming Aussie actor that hasn't had too many big roles yet, but should get them due to the International exposure likely to be gained via this movie. Keep an eye out for him, he could be the next big thing from Down Under. Is John Jarratt becoming a Mclean regular? Sorry didn't note his character's name here, but he's the tubby dude wearing the funky hate that will bring smilies to Down Under faces. Jeez that's a bad look Jarratt.
Mclean kind of forgot about the T&A angle here, and considering this movie isn't likely to receive a PG13th rating that could have been mistake. Radha Mitchell is looking pretty good in her shorts, and that's about it unless giant CGI crocs have you running for the Kleenex packet.
Francois Tetaz added the score which is pretty good and matches the mood and tension Mclean brings to the movie. Tetaz is keeping up here and a highlight of this movie is the sound department. Added bonus was a couple of Koori interludes in the first act, unfortunately dumped by the second act, and those croc attack sound bites ... crunch!
Summary Executionbr> I'm pretty much your beer and potato chip Reviewer over here and expect only a few things from a "B" grade creature feature. A giant creature, preferably the result of eee-vil Government experiments, or created by an eee-vil Corporation dumping toxins into the water system. Add in a couple of leads that are at least not looking at the camera, and I'm pretty happy with things. Mclean hit the ball out of the park with my requirements though the post production shenanigans have pretty much destroyed what could have been a great movie. Still I had a hell of a good time during the movie, though at $15.50 a ticket on opening night I did not get value for money.
The movie has just opened in Australia and judging from the opening screening I went to could be in trouble already, though it may pick up over the weekend. On the trivia front, the croc's lair was filmed in a warehouse in Maidstone Melbourne, and this was the same one used for that remake of Charlottes Web which tanked in 2006. Could be cursed ground if Rogue also fails to find an audience. Much of the exterior shooting was done on location in the Northern Territory, though the Island scenes were shot on a man made lake in central Victoria. Strangely the art crew spent a lot of time painting rocks etc to make dreary Victoria look like the tropics.
Half and half recommendation on this one. Mclean has clearly shot a better movie than the one currently in cinemas. A better option may be to wait and see if we get a Director's version of the movie on DVD, rather then the overly influenced Weinstein one. However for creature feature or Australian horror fans a must see outing, that at least strives to get out of the "B" grade swamp. Take a chomp out of it and see if it's digestible.
ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...br> br> Definitely worth tracking down and adding to your collection.