OCTOBER 11, 2010
If you've never seen a single movie before, Rogue River might work for you. It's technically proficient, the acting is good, and even with its familiarity killing it for me, there were still a number of inspired moments. But those moments are not enough to save it from being yet another goddamn movie about someone being taken in by seemingly well-meaning strangers only to find themselves held captive by them.
I mean really, I can name-check almost a half dozen off the top of my head just from the ones that I have seen at Screamfest! Timber Falls, Macabre, Human Centipede, Keepsake, The Season... these films all have traveled the same ground that Rogue River does in some way or other, in addition to god knows how many others. The overly trusting protagonist, the multiple (failed) escape attempts that usually result in bodily harm, the guy who comes to the rescue only to be killed instantly... it's like they're all working from the same template. Even the things in the movie that seem sort of unique have been done in other movies. The fact that they kidnap her in order to have her bare them a child was the plot of Timber Falls, and that one at least had the good sense to try to surprise the audience by having the requisite hillbillies be sort of heroes, ultimately.
Here? The bad guy is... wait for it... Bill Moseley! Wow! Shocking, huh? And that would be fine if he just came right out as the bad guy as soon as he appeared, but no, the movie laughably tries to misdirect us by having Moseley act like a typical, kindhearted small-town guy for about 20 minutes, only to "reveal" his villainous nature later. Why bother? It's Bill Moseley, of course he's the goddamn villain! Again, if you've never seen a single horror movie before, this might be a surprise to you in some way. That's why I loved the approach in films like Human Centipede - the crazy doctor didn't bother hiding his contempt for human beings even for a second. It's a movie where you're not only ahead of them on the basic plot, you're ahead of them on the twists as well.
And after a while the movie even begins ripping ITSELF off, as we get not one but two moments where something bad happens and your reaction is supposed to be "Oh, no - it's her brother!" The first is icky enough to work (like I said, the movie's about this girl being forced to bear a child - do the math), but the second time around it was just idiotic. And by that point I just wanted everyone to die, so I actually laughed (OK, I laughed at the other part too, but that's because I have a sick sense of humor, not because the movie was annoying me). It's also one of those movies that pointlessly starts at the end, so we've already had most of the outcome spoiled for us anyway. They also cheat in this - when we see it at the beginning, the girl puts a gun to her head and then they cut to black as we hear a gunshot, but when the scene shows again, there's a minute or so in between. Five yard penalty, movie.
Luckily, Moseley keeps things just above the "let's just shut it off" threshold (for me anyway, there were a dozen or so walkouts throughout the film). His humorous reactions and outbursts ("Fucking Californians!") were an ill-fit for the movie's otherwise serious and grim tone, but since I didn't like the movie anyway I welcomed the diversion. He wasn't ruining the drama, the drama was ruining his comedy, in other words. I wish he had gone all out and put on a pig nose again. As I said in my review for Babysitter Wanted, I'd like to see him play more hero roles. I think he's a very underrated actor, and it's a shame he keeps getting these sort of roles that he can play in his sleep instead of heroes (or at least non-villains). But to his credit, he always gives it his all - there's no such thing as a phoned in performance with him.
Ordinarily I don't write negative reviews for not-yet-distributed films, but when it's a film festival that you can buy tickets for same as every other movie, I think it's fair game. Also, the nice thing about doing an independent film is that you're free to do something unique and original without a bunch of studio execs demanding things that will be easier for them to market. So when I see an indie film that's just as devoid of creativity as the Hollywood crap, it actually stings more. Come on guys, enough with the "We can do that too!" horror movies. Use your noggin a bit. Or at least let Moseley do something different.
What say you?