AUGUST 8, 2008
I wasn’t on the Wolf Creek bandwagon; I didn’t like any of the three people we were following, and thus spending 75 minutes with them before anything “happens” was a bit too much of a chore. I liked how uncompromising it was, however (in that only the dude lived, almost completely unheard of) and how matter-of-fact John Jarratt’s killer was, but it was too little too late. However, I could see promise in Greg McLean, and so I was really looking forward to seeing Rogue when it arrived. Sadly, Dimension never gave it a wide release, and so I had to experience it for the first time at home on a relatively small screen (compared to a theater screen) on DVD. Lame.
Luckily, it’s a bit of a small film compared to Jaws or Lake Placid. For starters, the body count is pretty low – I count four deaths, all but one completely off screen. There are also a couple of animal deaths, and someone inexplicably survives an attack, but still, it seems rather low-key. Like Wolf Creek, it’s more about atmosphere and suspense, but better in two ways. One is our characters are more likeable (ironically enough, John Jarratt, nearly unrecognizable, is the most endearing), and two: it “gets going” around the half hour mark.
The only real blunder in the film is that we are presented with a large roster of characters (about ten) and more than half of them survive. But unlike other “lots of folks get away” monster movies like Tremors, most of them just disappear for the film’s final act. They are told to run, leaving our two main heroes behind, and.... they do. We never see them again until the final moment when everything’s all happy. I kept expecting Michael Vartan, our “hero”, to find their bodies or something, but nope, they’re OK. But since they are just completely written out of the movie, McLean missed a giant opportunity to milk some suspense out of their fate. We KNOW Vartan will be fine, he’s the goddamn star of the film. But Jarratt’s character has 50/50 movie odds, so putting HIM in danger would be a lot more exciting.
Speaking of Vartan, he apparently went to the Tom Welling in The Fog school of heroics. The editor is responsible for making him the hero, because they keep cutting to him even though he doesn’t actually DO anything until the final 20 minutes. So they’ll have like 20 seconds of 4-5 people putting together a rope bridge or finding supplies or whatever, and then a full 10 of Vartan simply looking at them doing that. I think it’s an hour into the movie before he even has a line of dialogue that is comprised of more than a half dozen words. It’s actually kind of remarkable.
Another odd thing about the movie is that McLean was apparently afraid to kill any of the female cast members, possibly the result of the “misogynist” type critical jabs he received on Creek (in which only the women died). This makes one death particularly shocking, because it’s a character you kind of expect to be around until the very end and THEN die, but it also makes Radha Mitchell’s survival seem really ridiculous. The croc pretty much bites her in half, but she survives and Vartan has little trouble getting her to rescue (the damn thing even helpfully leaves her in his cave while he sleeps). But also, some standard “group movie” horror victims (a hysterical whiny woman, a fat broad, an older woman who is suffering from some disease) are inexplicably allowed to survive. Come on now!
One thing I liked is how subtle a lot of the character moments are. One of the guys on the boat steals a camera from a tourist family, but not only do they not notice, it’s never even mentioned. Jarratt’s character is on the boat to spread his wife’s ashes on the river, and again, they don’t really spell this out for you by having him explain it away to someone. I was also happy to see that the croc was merely an angry croc, a bit bigger than average but not gigantic (on the extras they say that their croc is actually half a meter smaller than the largest ever recorded). He wasn’t a science experiment gone wrong or the result of toxic spilling, he’s just a pissed off animal. This is not only good because it’s not so generic, but also it keeps the focus on what really matters – whether he’s a mutant hybrid or just a regular animal, the audience is here only to see it eat someone.
Nicely rebounding after the featureless Triloquist, Dimension Extreme has provided Rogue with an ass-ton of extras. We get a 45 min documentary (good stuff) plus some making of featurettes (the one on the fantastic score is a nice touch but the others are generic) that last another 45 minutes combined, a look at the “real” Rogue (very short and covers stuff we’ve seen in the other features, so it’s kind of worthless) and a fairly interesting commentary by McLean. He points out what was added for this UNRATED! Version (shocking surprise, none of it is even PG-13 material) and some other interesting tidbits. But he also reveals that he is either daft or Dimension fucked him over, because he starts the commentary by asking you to listen to him blather on for “two and a half hours”, for a 95 minute film. There are some occasional gaps too, so who knows, maybe he actually has a 150 min cut which he watched for the commentary, and then the Weinsteins went back later and recut it again. OR, he’s just daft. But the wealth of extras (all presented anamorphic too – thank you!) makes the film’s transfer all the more amazing – I swear I thought I was watching a Blu-Ray at times. Bang up job, all the more important since it’s an amazingly well shot movie (when it’s light out, and thus no croc attacks are occurring, it comes off as a travelogue from HD Travel channel) and deserves the best transfer possible. Of course, a 35 mm film print would look even better, but oh well. Dimension can’t do two things right at once.
One thing on the extras I found funny – the actors keep bitching about how hot it is in the behind the scenes stuff. “It was 52 degrees” they will moan, but on the long doc, they never actually specify that they mean Celsius (on the shorter featurettes this is not an issue, so don’t watch it if you don’t want to chuckle like I did). So for us Fahrenheit loving Americans, it sounds like they are incredibly lame people. Man up!
Final note to dog lovers – don’t watch this movie.
What say you?