Rogue River (2010)

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?


  1. I saw this movie and I liked it. It had two very cool and original kills as well as a torture sequence I've never seen before. I found the film refreshingly weird. Kinda tight that you jacked the film before the filmmakers signed a deal and your blog/review comes off more as hating. Maybe you were just having a bad day? Good luck and keep on hating on...

  2. Nope, I had a good day. Saw friends, had a good sandwich for lunch, got interviewed for a documentary... I believe my review explains perfectly well why I didn't care for the movie much. And without hiding behind anonymity.

    Glad you liked it though! I look forward to your review.

    I also saw this at Scream Fest. I sat close to one of the exits and there were no walkouts on my side. Maybe you threw that one in just to try and create some imaginary friends for yourself?

    To sum up your "review": you don't like abduction movies.

    Your "review" is more a screed against a genre of movie than any sort of critical analysis of the particular film you saw. You are entitled to not like a film. You are even entitled to slag off a film you don't like, but when you slag it off for the genre not being original, you are just being a pompous asshole.

    By your reasoning, every cop film is a ripoff, every romantic film is redundant, every sci-fi film is cliche. You should know there is a difference between a trope, a convention of the genre, and a cliche. When you watch a lot of films it is harder for a film to be novel or to truly surprise. That is the price one "pays" for loving movies. You are, ostensibly, a film critic, and should know this. That's the main problem: you're not a proper film critic, just an opinionated person, who, like so many on the 'net, have feelings and opinions but precious little in the way of expertise, training, or experience.

    Are you the Comic Book Store Guy in disguise?

    This movie is about a girl who gets abducted. If you think you've seen that one before, don't go see this one. Or, maybe this film has some cool elements in it and you might enjoy it for what it is? Is it really that easy to make a feature length film for under $300,000? How old were you when you made your first feature?

    But back to your "review." Thank you for giving away the central twist of the film. Classy move. Even most dipshits on message boards have the courtesy to write something akin to ****SPOILER ALERT!****. But no, you saw it first so you get to ruin everyone's fun who sees it after reading your piece. Go back and study up on Internet Douchebaggery 101. It's there in Chapter 1. Maybe a curious person wanted to get a feel for how other film fans viewed the film without having the movie ruined for them? Is that a possibility in your world, or do you exist only to be the first hater on the scene?

    Also, explain how Bill Moseley's character would have worked if he was villainous from the beginning? The beginning, as you may recall, is where he befriends the girl at the river so that she accepts a ride with him. Would it work better, in your opinion, if Bill Moseley ran up to her screaming with a machete in each hand and then chased her into his car? How exactly would he be villainous saying hello to a stranger at a river? So, uh, your argument is stupid on its face.


    Why not focus your review on what this film actually is? Why not talk about those parts of the film you found to be "technically proficient" and with good acting? It sounds like your real problem is with the concept, and not with the film itself, in which case you should not "review" it and should just issue a blanket condemnation of abduction/survival films.

    I met this director at Scream Fest and he was really cool and had time to talk and answer questions. You did him, and his movie, a total disservice by spouting the bullshit you did. Did you miss the part where he said it was his first film? I thought it was pretty great for a first film. I actually enjoyed Bill Moseley acting normal in the beginning. You say you want Moseley to play more heroes. Do you think he was forced into this film? Do you think he didn't read the script? Maybe what you want for Moseley, and he wants for himself, are two different things? He chose this film, dummy.

    Do you have any comments on Michelle Page's acting? How about on scene composition? How about on the cinematography? Did you like the music?

    Your comment on indie cinema versus studio movies shows how stunningly ignorant you are: if it ain't your money, someone else is calling the shots. Do you truly not understand the role or concept of a producer? By what token do you even presume to be qualified to critique any movie?

    Now, normally, I don't take the time to punch idiots in their faces, but when an idiot creates a website to crap on people who are actually making something instead of simply commenting on the product, well, I think it's fair game. You're fair game. Movie reviewing is not that hard. Buy some books on it. Learn something about moviemaking. Only then, when you actually know something, should you feel qualified to spout your views.

  5. I don't have the time to address each of your points, but a few sort of require a defense on my part:

    1. I do like abduction movies. I liked Timber Falls, I loved Human Centipede, I enjoy the Hostel films, there was a recent one called Bitter Feast that was quite good... if I flat out did not like the sub-genre, I wouldn't bother. Luckily for me, I enjoy all types of horror movies. My least favorite would be haunted house films, but even some of those I enjoy (Paranormal Activity, Poltergeist, etc). I wasn't "slagging" the film because it fit into a genre - I was "slagging" it for doing the same things that were done in several other movies without bringing anything new to the table. There wasn't a moment in the film where I felt surprised, apart from the reveal of the brother. And yes, maybe I have just seen too many movies, but that didn't stop me from enjoying others - just the day before I THE CLINIC, which is also an abduction film, and quite enjoyed that, due to some new twists, taut suspense, and several other things that I mentioned in that review. There's a difference between not liking a type of movie and not liking a specific one in that type. I'm sorry if my review of this particular film didn't make that clear.

    2. My intro and FAQ both clearly state that spoilers are common in my posts. This site is designed for discussion about films as opposed to traditional reviewing.

    3. My suggestion for Moseley's character was a sarcastic one - the point is, Bill Moseley is the villain 99/100 times in horror movies - it was hardly a surprise that he was the villain here, despite the attempts to make him seem like a regular guy. So to me that was just a delay to the inevitable. Again, the movie TIMBER FALLS did this sort of thing far more effectively, by introducing a more obvious villain first and making the real one seem like a savior at first (plus they hired an actor not known for being a villain, which made it even more of a surprise).

    (That said, I would applaud a movie that introduced Moseley with machetes in both hands and screaming.)

  6. 4. In fact, I did like the music! It reminded me a lot of the sparse, melancholy score from the film FROZEN, but different enough to be its own thing. Incidentally, if you want to read my review for THE CLINIC, there's a little aside about commenting on music.

    5. Ms. Page was quite good. And yes, the film was technically proficient. Here's the thing - I didn't care much for the movie. It would be confusing to readers to spend a lot of time praising things when it's ultimately a negative review, especially when I don't do scores or grades. Likewise, when I love a movie, I don't spend too much time discussing its flaws - I acknowledge them in passing (i.e. "some of the acting isn't great, but...") and spend time focusing on the point.

    6. I've run this site for nearly four years, and in that time have written nearly 2000 reviews. Of those, I've only deemed 97 of them "crap" (your own word!). Those films are the lowest of the low, without any redeeming qualities, as far as I'm concerned. You might note that Rogue River is not one of those films. Regardless, I created the site to share my love of horror movies and discuss them with others via the internet. I read every comment and try to reply as often as I can. And if you re-read the first line of the last paragraph, you'll note that I ordinarily do NOT write negative reviews for un-distributed films, primarily for the reasons you allude to. If I was an "idiot" who "creates a website to crap on people", I certainly wouldn't bother with that sort of courtesy. Contrary to what you may think, I would much rather be writing positive reviews and championing independent films. I'm about to write one for TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL, in fact. I did so for other films I saw at Screamfest and at last week's Shriekfest. But I assume this is the only review of mine you read or will read, so I guess you'll just have to take my word for it. But, as I also pointed out, film fans were paying 10 bucks to see the film just as they would I Spit On Your Grave or any of the other films playing at the Mann's right now, so I think it's fair to speak my mind, if anyone was actually putting any stock whatsoever in what I have to say (and believe me, not many do - I couldn't even convince my own friends to go see My Soul To Take).

    7. I'd just like to point out that this is the first time anyone threatened to punch me in the face. You must have been a big fan of the film! If you have a blog or site, please link the review - I'm always up to reading opinions that differ from mine. There is a positive one up on IMDb right now - I assume that's not yours? If you're not a reviewer of any sort, then your comments here will have to suffice. Luckily my readers tend to read the responses.

    At any rate, I'm glad you enjoyed the film and had a good time chatting with the director. It's a very laid back festival and very open to fan/filmmaker interaction. Some director friends of mine I first met at Screamfest, in fact. And incidentally, at last year's Screamfest I had the pleasure of meeting Paul Moore, a director who had made the films Dark Harvest and Keepsake (an abduction film!), both of which I quite hated. He introduced himself to me, jokingly "thanked" me for my reviews, and then we had a nice conversation, and he thanked me (seriously) for my honesty, as well as my kind words concerning a short film he had in the festival. Now there's a guy I thought it would be a bad thing to run into, but he couldn't have been nicer. Hopefully the director of this film is as professional and forgiving!

    Thanks for reading!

  7. You know what movie sucks? ROGUE RIVER.

    Wait, what were you guys talking about?

  8. from the looks of his "post" he's probably affiliated with the movie in some way, it is painfully obvious. get some thicker skin and make a better movie if you plan on sticking around the business for a while.

  9. 1: I love when the writer of a movie hides behind "Anonymous" and threatens to punch a writer in the face. Super classy.

  10. 2: You know what's hilarious? When a writer gets defensive because he knows his movie sucks.

  11. 3: Rogue River cost $300k and that's supposed to be impressive? That's a pretty huge budget for a single location movie -- at least from a professionals perspective.

  12. 4: I wonder what the director would think of your comments under this review? In fact, I wonder what the entire horror community would think if we posted the IP Address for everyone to see? You see, a good writer should know what twists and turns are coming... you're in for a shock.

  13. I threaten to punch brian in the face every day. Trust me, he isn't worried

  14. He is completely right when he says he also saw this film at Screamfest. Can't refute that. Don't believe ge was sitting near an exit though.

  15. Know what's awesome? Collins is far more respected in the horror community than anyone involved with Rogue River.

    And by the way, in the preface to "Internet Doucehbaggery 101," I believe there's a whole page devoted thin-skinned scripters who are so inexperienced and dumb that they attack online reviewers. Seriously dude, knock it off. You're making your fellow professionals look bad.

  16. Don't you let "Anonymous" get you down sweetie (And don't you just loathe people who hide behind anonymity or ridiculous pseudonyms?). He's just a jealous malcontent who isn't fit to unwrap your Twinkies or crack your beer for you. All of us loyal HMADers (Yes, I seem to have become addicted damn you but don't let it go to your head because it doesn't prove anything. I'm also a cutter.)hang on your every word, for better or worse. Often much worse. You may be an internet douchebag, but you are OUR internet douchebag and we l...we, you know what I mean.
    But, Anonymous--if you ARE involved with the film industry, please look up my contact information. Jobs have been somewhat scarce as of late. My rates are reasonable and I do not have a "no nudity" clause.

  17. Rose McGowan is without a doubt the most headscratchingly odd internet troll I've seen in ages.

    Yet mildly funny... in a peculiarly delusional way.

  18. Why thank you David. My delusions are indeed peculiar. Whose aren't? But I'll take compliments--even slightly back-handed ones--wherever I can get them. XXOO

  19. Yeah the "Forced to have a baby" angle is not only overdone it is too contemporary with the lunatic fringe freaking out because it's fraid of bercoming a minority so it wants to foirce women to bear children. YAWN.

  20. shot my load all over my body when she was foced at gun point to fuck her sybling was forced to spend hours picking dried semen from my downstairs gardenanother part i found hott was when the old lady urinated on the kitchen., the fridged i also loved her fukt up keemo haircut and would highly reccomend this film to other perverts like me wow what a thrill!


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