Despite having one of the decade’s finest horror films (Wolf Creek) on his résumé, Greg Mclean couldn’t nab his sophomore effort Rogue a full theatrical release. Given the assortment of crap made by nobody hacks crowding multiplexes each week, that alone is something of a travesty, though making matters even worse is the fact that his killer-crocodile thriller is taut, thoughtful and inventive. As in Wolf Creek, Mclean charts a group of people (mostly tourists, led by Radha Mitchell’s local guide) venturing foolishly into the wilds of the Australian Outback and being forced to confront a monster – in this case, a literal one in the form of a giant crocodile that doesn’t take kindly to territorial intruders. If his previous story served as a condemnation of such blasé globetrotting, the director’s latest is more of a cautionary tale in which human compassion and altruism ultimately turn out to be serviceable weapons against natural threats, with Mclean – such as in a somber shot of a tour boat passenger surreptitiously spreading his wife’s ashes in the water – once again casting his characters as empathetic individuals rather than simply doomed stick figures. Rogue may keep its creature hidden for large stretches in order to generate tension through omnipresent suggestion, but its expertly orchestrated set pieces don’t skimp on the killer-croc goods, providing enough glimpses of the beast feasting on terrified humans to deliver requisite horror-premise payoffs. Mclean’s tight scripting rarely relies on stupid behavior to elicit scares and refuses to one-dimensionally condemn its characters for less-than-noble reactions to trauma, exhibiting shrewd, nonjudgmental consideration for the strains its stranded travelers are under. All the while, his evocative widescreen cinematography of the Australian landscape – part Terrance Malick-entrancing, part John Carpenter-creepy – lends the action a sense of encompassing ominousness, and in its reverence for the natural world, proves in tune with the director’s own respect for his characters, his B-movie genre, and his audience.
I was looking for reason to watch this movie again, and you just gave it to me. I caught the DVD and found it simply okay, that something was missing. In retrospect, I felt that way about my first viewing of "Wolf Creek", and both were, perhaps significantly, viewing experiences highly interrupted by my fellow viewers. Time to go back on the queue list.
Posted by: rob | August 18, 2008 at 04:24 PM
I don't think it's as good as Wolf Creek, in part because I think a killer croc premise is more limiting in terms of how you can establish tension (gotta be in the water, gotta be stranded, etc.). But it seems thematically consistent with (if not identical to) Mclean's last film, and avoids any of the simplistic cheesiness usually inherent to such genre films...
Posted by: Nick | August 18, 2008 at 04:33 PM