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Old 08-06-2008, 09:40 AM
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Rogue




Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: August 5, 2008

Released by: Dimension
Release date: 8/5/2008
MSRP: $24.95
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes



inline ImageAs a Canadian I understand what it’s like to see your cultural values overpowered by the force of American genre. Prom Night, Spasms, The Changeling, Terror Train and Black Christmas were all filmed north of the 49, but if you aren’t versed at spotting license plates, currency or Canadian character actors, you’d never notice. Greg McLean’s Wolf Creek admirably sought to replace convention with culture, taking the shadowed American stalker and turning him into a schlubby bloke from the outback. It recreated culture fine, but plot, entertainment, plausibility and pacing…not so much. Rave reviews and decent box office later, Wolf Creek was a hit, and Greg McLean joined the Splat Pack. What’s come of it? The big budget and oft-delayed croc pic, Rogue.

To be fair, McLean managed to film it on his own turf, and with mostly local money, which is no doubt a positive coup for smalltime Australia in the movie milieu. It’s shot local, but does it feel that way? And more importantly, is it entertaining this time? I’ve got my trunks and my didgeridoo. I’m going in.


The Story

inline ImageAsshole American Pete McKell (Michael Vartan) arrives in Northern Territory, Australia. He wastes no time in showcasing the Australian je ne sais quoi. He meets a few colorful locals at a bar, where one does the unthinkable and puts a dead fly into his fresh brewed coffee. That will teach you to mess with southern hospitality! Pete’s phone loses reception, thus doing away with the stock suspension of disbelief device of our generation. He heads over to one of Australia’s major tourist destinations – the boat tour. Something else has also decided to chew the scenery, though.

inline ImageThe Suzanne, lead by skip Kate Ryan (Radha Mitchell), takes Pete and your typical microcosm of cultural characters, through the untouched Aussie swamplands. They’ve hardly gotten out of the dock when they see another boat taunting a croc with food in true exhibitionist fashion. Capitalism brought out Spielberg’s Great White, didn’t it? So with that little precursor, the rogue croc of the title now has horror movie moral justification for his act. In typical Wolf Creek fashion though, McLean takes his time.

inline ImageAfter what seems like a Sundance screening worth of environmental character development, with ECUs of spiders and sprawling shots of rocky cliffs, we finally get to the meat of the story. The boat decides to heed a distress signal, only to find themselves stuck in the middle of Mamma Croc’s territory. She pulverizes the boat, and everyone is shipwrecked on a small little cove island. The rub is that not only is there a hungry croc circling around the water, but the tide is rising, and if they don’t find a way to escape before dusk, they won’t make the sequel.

inline ImageRogue’s another disappointment for upstart McLean, although to his credit this one at least has pacing and a cohesive plot. That the plot is about as clichéd as you can get though, takes that step forward a couple more back. Other than the gimmick of the rising tide, there really is nothing new whatsoever here, and it figures. McLean wrote this twelve years ago, and even then it’s just lifting your clichés from the seventies. I was reminded of the similar tour boat torment flick, Hatchet, and how that film satisfyingly revived an old genre with characters that seemed hip and of the moment. No landmark, but at least Hatchet felt relevant.

inline ImageMcLean’s film, on the other hand, just doesn’t offer anything other than the few croc effects the cover no doubt promises. There’s an interesting moment where some of the survivors wager sacrificing the skipper’s dog as bait for their escape, but other than that the movie really doesn’t mine the psychological dilemmas you’d think it would in its confined space. The Ruins it ain’t. The characters are much more shallow than the water, so I guess any hope at psychology would be wasted on this film anyway.

inline ImageVartan’s Pete is the most puzzlingly banal – he’s established right from the start as your boorish American tourist, rudely chastising the locals. Is that really how you want audiences to identify with your lead? He pushes a guy into the swamp though, and is suddenly deemed a four-eyed hero (what next, George Clooney as a zitty dweeb?) but he isn’t fooling anyone in the audience. Vartan’s a cardboard cutout as it is, and McLean’s script feeds all the material to the croc.

inline Image
It’s so obvious that McLean is trying to pay homage to his homeland throughout the Planet Earth reel of stock outback shots and tribal chanting (it’s foreign, get it?). This film alone probably employed every nature photographer that lives on the continent. What’s not so surprising, though, is how much he sells out his own Aussie voice in favor of your stock American lead. It’s firmly established in both the trailer and the start of the film that Pete’s from Chicago, as if that inherently makes him interesting. Instead of spending time on character, McLean spends time on conforming to caricatures that will make him money abroad. It seems even more superficial that Michael Vartan, himself French, is the one to play the American. Why not have the croc played by an emu?

inline ImageOh right, the croc’s all CG. No need for actors there. Considering almost all the effects are entirely computer generated, the filmmakers do moderately acquit themselves when it comes to quality control. It certainly looks more convincing than the beast did in Crocodile 2 (even though I’d still maintain that’s the better film). The problem with the effects still remains a physical disconnect. No matter how textured and lifelike the creatures look, they just don’t occupy the space, or possess the threatening presence that those big, clunky, stuffed robotic heads always have in monster flicks. Cosmetically the technology is getting superficially indistinguishable from real effects work, but it will never feel as authentic. And it’s this reason why nothing here is ever even remotely scary.

As much as I dislike Wolf Creek, it was at least ambitious in its sense of cultural pride. In that, McLean intentionally diverged from genre (itself a more commodified American notion) to give a personality from down under that extended all the way into the hearts of its leads. Here the link is all superficial, a big budget American movie masked with stock shots from the wilderness. Culture is more than location, which is why, despite the snowy backdrop, The Changeling is still nothing if not American. If I can offer Greg McLean a page from the Canadian culture books, it would be My Bloody Valentine, where the maritime coalminers seem just as real and authentic as the people you’d meet over there in Nova Scotia today. That’s film. That’s life. Rogue¸ by comparison, can’t even tread water.


Image Quality

inline ImageThe movie may be ho hum, but the transfer’s a beaut. Progressive and anamorphic, this 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is all things crisp. Even the finest detail can be spotted in whiskers or wrinkles, and the sheer detail that’s visible on all planes could easily confuse the discerning viewer for Blu-ray. If there’s one criticism, it’s that the whole thing seems a touch too browned, no doubt trying to compensate for the lack of backhome grit that McLean wasn’t able to capture with the actual story. Still, no doubts about it, this is a great, rich transfer.

Sound

The sound is as equally impressive as the video, a real tour de force for your LFE. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt bass like that, but whenever the croc is out and throwing people against rocks, which is quite often in the second half, the audio really pulses. Sound effects sound amazingly crisp too – torn limbs and broken bones never sounded so rich. Someone should pay the foley guys some residuals. As great as the track is, there’s still a disappointing absence of much directionality in the sound. Are there no more movies these days that take advantage of discreet sound effects? It seems as if that’s a trend that’s passed on as the allure of DVD is waning. Me, I’d still like to hear it, though. Thank you, The Beyond.

Supplemental
Material


inline ImageYou know, I feel bad for not liking Greg McLean’s movies more. He seems like a real affable guy. I’d love to have a pint and shoot the shit about horror with the man. He comes across on his solo (when’s the last time you’re seen that!) feature-length audio commentary as a real kind and humble guy. He does very well on his own, and the track is filled with anecdotes as well as a sort of dialogue he has with the choices he made in the film, which is interesting to see. He’s also responsible for a 45-minute “The Making of Rogue” documentary.

inline ImageMcLean’s doc, despite the needlessly sappy overture, is a nice candid look into the production, with a fine combination of on-set footage, formal interviews and working test footage. It covers all aspects of the production, and interesting bits include seeing McLean’s massive storyboard wall, the computer composites, and the dedication to the recently perished cinematographer.


inline ImageThere’s then three mini-docs, each one between 10 to 15 minutes, covering various aspects of the production in a little more detail. There’s The Effects, which breaks down basically every major scene in the film and demonstrates how each was made. There’s plenty of behind the scene footage, although not as many computer work-in-progress shots as I would have wanted. The shots of the construction of the actual croc puppets used for the finale were best. The Music takes us behind the scenes in the scoring, talking about the motivations, the string orchestra, and then finally at the end the actual film with some entertaining commentary. The final bit is Northern Territory, where everyone talks about how spectacular the locations are. There’s also some cool Super16 croc doc footage from the seventies that makes its way into the doc, and it’s no doubt the highlight.

The disc is rounded off with the trailer, and a bandwidth waster “The Real Rogue”, which is sort of like a special effects preview, only without any special effects. Boring. Also, the supposed “Unrated” cut is tame even by PG-13 standards. We get a couple cadaver shots and a few cuts and bruises, but not much else. With all the behind-the-scenes footage on this disc though, Rogue fans will no doubt be chomping at the bit.


Final Thoughts

Rogue’s got a dull bite. A CGI monster, characters equally as artificial, and a plot rife with every cliché in the book – to call it bad would mean it actually invited thought. Those looking for McLean’s Aussie brand of horror will also be disappointed, since the only thing homegrown about this production is the overabundance of stock photography. Film aside, the rest of the DVD is standout, with incredibly detailed images, bass heavy sound and a deep mix of extras made mostly by Greg McLean himself. He can make documentaries interesting – now why can’t he do the same for his films? Here’s hoping with his next that he zeroes in on the zeitgeist of Australia rather than just its scenery.

Rating

.
Movie - C-

Image Quality - A-

Sound - A

Supplements - B+




Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 1 hour 35 minutes
  • Not Rated
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1
  • English subtitles
  • Spanish subtitles

Supplements
  • Commentary with director Greg McLean
  • Making of documentary by Greg McLean
  • Three mini-docs
  • "The Real Rogue" promo
  • Theatrical trailer

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Old 09-20-2008, 05:23 PM
Victim
I'll have to respectfully disagree with the review. I enjoyed ROGUE alot; it's nice to see a genre flick of this type that takes itself seriously 95% of the time, and offers some genuinely suspenseful scenarios. No, the characters aren't great (I definitely agree that Vartan's character is a shallow waste); as for the CGI croc, I found it better than most CGI monsters I've seen...it definitely looked better than the croc in the crap that was PRIMEVAL. McLean's a real talent (I admired WOLF CREEK as well), and I'm looking forward to his future films.
 
 

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