Rogue (UK - BD RB)
Marcus tussles with a giant croc and only loses a few fingers in the process
Pete McKell (Michael Vartan) is a travel writer and his latest assignment has him checking out Australia. Starting with a boat trip down crocodile infested waters, Pete joins some of the other tourists as boat captain Kate (Radha Mitchell) sails them through some of the largely unseen locations and scenic rivers of the land down under.
When one of the tourists spots a distress flare further down the river, the group head towards it to offer help, only to have something large in the water wreck their boat and leave them stranded on a small island with an ever diminishing shoreline due to the tide coming in. What’s worse is their attacker isn’t an ordinary sized croc, but a giant one, and as night sets in and the water gets closer the tourists’ chances of survival grow smaller by the minute.
Roland Emmerich's Godzilla used the hell out of the slogan ‘Size Matters’. Since that turkey of a movie made such a big deal out of it, the Hollywood angle of bigger means better hasn’t exactly rung true, with that goofy spinosaurus failing to out-cool the T-Rex, giant Terminators doing very little to cause fan hysteria and Aliens beefing up after cross pollinating with Predators leaving us wishing for the day they were sneaking down air ducts. Now, out of Australia comes a movie monster that takes back the over-sized status and makes it great again.
Wolf Creek director Greg McLean brings us a giant crocodile that isn’t a bumbling computer generated annoyance, but a thoroughly efficient, thoroughly convincing, and thoroughly lethal killing machine. What’s more, Mclean delivers his premise with the tried and tested ‘less means more’ approach to filmmaking, allowing the croc to be an eerie presence as opposed to a over intelligent nuisance (see the wolves in The Day After Tomorrow or the Sharks in Deep Blue Sea for how not to pull this sort of thing off).
What’s even more impressive is McLean’s approach to what is really inches away from being a straight-to-DVD monster movie affair. For the opening scenes he opts for one hell of a casual feel. The gentle stroll down the rivers following a very normal feeling tourist trip is coupled with a calming score, some wonderfully calming shots of the wildlife of the area and a pretty well depicted group of characters. In fact, he eases you in so well that Rogue could have gone down a Little Miss Sunshine style road trip route and I think I still would have gone with it.
However, with a title like Rogue and cover art that’s far from subtle, it's not long before this gentle trip down river turns nasty. First up is a little head to head with a couple of locals, one of which is played by the teetering on the edge of mega stardom, Sam Worthington, who while in a small role here, offers up an instantly likable aura of genuine movie star (a quality sadly lacking in Terminator Salvation). Not long after, the real star of the show turns up (the croc) and the movie game ‘who’s next for dinner?’ begins.
Here is where McLean draws on tricks from other classics like The Mist and Jaws in that it's dealing with groups of people struggling to survive. He ramps the drama up, gives the victims tasks to carry out in order to get to safety and all the while leaves you with the sense that at any point someone could end up in the crocs mouth. Beyond the fact that the characters are tempting fate by climbing a rope over the water, or wading in to get some beer, I was so caught up in wanting to see the croc that my attention instinctively ended up on the character closest to the water whenever an argument broke out or discussions about what to do next arose. In fact Mclean plays on the unseen beast with absolute mastery and even when the scaled nasty does attack it’s rarely in the way you expected, causing just the right amount of tension and jumps.
As the movie comes to a close and we’ve been through the ringer of deaths and scares, the usual liability in all horror movies (the dog) leads us to the croc's lair and while it could be argued that believability takes a side step for the sake of dramatic conclusion there’s no denying that the visuals of how Michael Vartan’s character ends up is both original and thrilling. Seriously, it’s a hell of a way to end things with the giant croc.
I was very happy with how pretty this transfer looked, with its wonderfully bright and detailed aerial shots of the Australian Northern Territories and some well captured nature photography thrown in for good measure. Even more pleasing is that this continues to hold up as the sun goes down and the darkness crawls in around our stranded tourists.
McLean allows a lot of subtle and clever lighting into the night scenes and still manages to show off the HD transfer well, even showing off levels of detail in skin and material textures that can sometimes be lost in such dark settings.
Shot digitally, Rogue can sometimes feel a little soft around the edges and not quite as sharp when compared to other movies with similar locations, but that is such a minor qualm in what is essentially a thoroughly impressive and consistent transfer that it almost seems mean focusing too much on it.
The relaxing score for the first half of the movie sits well in the track and gives a subtle level of bass when called for. It sweeps nicely through the speakers and gives a real sense of movement as the story unfolds.
When the action kicks off there’s a nice amount of bass complimenting the enveloping score and it really aids the scares, especially when we’re left with the eerie splashing of the shore line knowing something is going to happen. It’s totally effective and a classic tension builder. Oh, and while we’re on the subject, the atmospherics in the croc’s cave (drips, echoes and snaps) all make for great mood setters that just make you want to get out before the big mean greenie comes home.
The Making of (46:08 SD) is a very easy to watch affair. There’s some insight into real croc attacks, a lot of footage of the location, and a nice amount of input from the cast and crew.
McLean’s commentary is a well paced, informative journey through the movie with the director explaining some of his editing tricks and his admiration for the locations. The track comes with barely any gaps and the ones there are have seemingly been strategically placed to highlight the tense moments. Generally McLean’s attitude to his work is thoughtful and his attention to detail on the effects work is handled with plenty of care (which in this usually half ass area of movies is most welcome).
‘Welcome to the Territory’ is split down into 'The Effects' (17:27 SD), 'The Music' (14:40 SD) and 'The Northern Territory' (14:52 SD), all of which are enjoyable in their own ways. The effects work is subtler than I even gave it credit for and enjoyed watching back knowing a few of the smaller tricks, the music was even more enjoyable watching it back away from the movie and the Northern Territory looks amazing, but I ain’t going because of all the damn crocodiles.
Lastly 'The Real Rogue’ (02:30 SD) is a focus on the real crocs that were studied for the effects to work, and when compared to the final movie product they pulled off the desired effect.
Always keeping the mood serious despite the goofy ‘giant beast’ premise, Rogue thoroughly entertained me from start to finish. The main cast keeps you waist deep in the suspense, the director keeps you swimming to survive and the well handled croc effects keep you locked into the horrifically ‘this could happen – so I’m never going on a boat trip’ events. The disc looks and sounds great and comes with a great set of extras, so all in all I recommend this giant croc treat.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 5th October 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital Stereo English
Subtitles: English HoH
Extras: Commentary, Making of, Featurettes, The Real Rogue
Easter Egg: No
Director: Greg McLean
Cast: Radha Mitchell, Michael Vartan, Sam Worthington
Genre: Action and Thriller
Length: 99 minutes
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