I needed a little psychic cleansing after Wednesday night's slog through the cesspool of human depravity, so I switched gears a bit and settled on a monster movie by Aussie horror auteur Greg Mclean. You would be forgiven for thinking that the killer gator movie was a carcass picked clean. I mean, we already have Crocodile (1 and 2), Killer Crocodile (1 & 2), Alligator (1 & 2), Big Alligator River, Eaten Alive, Dark Age, Krokodylus (aka Blood Surf), and Lake Placid. I'm sure I missed one or two, but you get the point. Well, it turns out there is a little life yet left in the genre, because 2007 was a banner year, bringing us three (count 'em... three!) more examples, including Primevil, Black Water, and Rogue. The last is far the best of the bunch. It is also the biggest budget Australian horror movie to date.
Mclean first carved a name for himself with 2005's Wolf Creek, an outback slasher flick that was supposed to "do for backpacking what Jaws did to swimming in the ocean." Ironically, the number of backpacking visitors to Australia increased 9% in 2006, so there you have it. Some humans not only like to be scared--we might actually have a death wish.
What lifts Rogue above the low-water mark of most killer croc movies, and monster movies in general, is that it is well-acted and full of realistic, compelling characters. Mclean spends as much time introducing us to these people as he does putting them in peril, so that when the monster does arrive, we actually care whether they escape or not. He also keeps the setup simple and believable. The surprises arrive not only in the form of giant snapping jaws but also in how the film shifts gears for the final third. At first I found myself thinking Rogue had jumped the gator, so to speak, and I'll admit to groaning a bit when the setting for the final showdown was revealed. Unlike most monster movies, though, the monster itself was fairly realistic so that it didn't spoil the tension to see too much of it.
All in all, Rogue is an enjoyable, if lightweight, thrill ride and I recommend it without reservations.
Scorecard (out of ten skulls):
My psychological status: