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I ♥ Giant Animal Movies: Rogue

June 5, 2010

Aussie Aussie Aussie...Ow! Ow! Ow!

Those of you who know me know that, among the rules governing the things I will and won’t watch, one of said major rules is as follows: I will watch any movie featuring an animal [villainous] which is no less than twice the size of that particular animal as it exists in nature.

To expound: I will watch King Kong, Anaconda or Pirahna — movies which feature markedly larger and/or mutant versions of gorillas, snakes or fish. I have no use for a film like Cujo, in which a Saint Bernard of actual size terrorizes Dee Wallace Stone, or 1978’s The Swarm, which focuses upon bees of woefully average size. I also, as clause 1-b of this rule, allow movies where a regular sized animal morphs with a human to create a human-sized variaton of said animal (The Fly, Mansquito).

That said, of all genres of giant animal films, I may be a sucker for the giant alligator/giant crocodile film the most of all (although this is very much a close run-off with giant sharks). There have been, in the past, a number of notable entries into this category — films like the classic Alligator, or the horror-comedy Lake Placid, or 2007’s African crocodile thriller Primeval. There are also a number of serviceable if terrible alligator/crocodile films like Supergator or the Dinocroc Vs. Supergator, which will do the trick in a pinch.

That said, I am very happy to report that I recently saw a giant crocodile installment that may be among my favorite yet — 2007’s Australian thriller Rogue. Beautiful boat captain leads hodgepodge of tourists into territory belonging to a hungry, massive croc and strands them all to be reptile food? Yes, please.

If you’ve ever seen director Greg McLean’s 2005 Texas-Chainsaw-Massacre-inspired Wolf Creek, about a friendly Outback Jack type who lures young backpackers to his ranch and disposes of them in horrific ways, you know that McLean has a gift for bringing new tricks to a table of old genres. Wolf Creek is underseen yet vastly superior to the Hostel films or later Saw sequels, which is why it’s no surprise that McLean also turned in a surprisingly strong monster-crocodile movie in Rogue.

The film takes place in rural Australia, where sightseeing riverboat cruise captain Kate (the lovely Radha Mitchell, whom I’m guessing you and I both fell in love with in Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda) leads a standard, daily tour of the Australia river canals. Her fares on this trip run the gamut, from a British family celebrating a mother’s defeat of cancer to a widower to an obnoxious photographer. And then, of course, there’s hunky Michael Vartan (Alias). Guess who’s going to end up a semi-love interest for Kate? (Hint: It’s Michael Vartan.)

Early in the tour, the boat runs afoul of two local hooligans, one played by Sam Worthington, who — if you watched this movie in 2007 — you later were probably surprised to see in every movie ever three years later. As you can guess, these two will appear an hour later to join the stranded riverboat crew as they find themselves stuck on a tidal island of a rising river in the very well-protected territory of a giant crocodile who proceeds to stalk and pick them off one by one.

One reason Rogue is so effective is that the filmmakers chose to go with an actual giant puppet croc rather than just CGI the place up, which isn’t the move you might have expected. And it’s because of this that the crocodile is so effective, authentic, and genuinely terrifying. There are, in fact, several moments in this film where I really believed this crocodile — something I’d have never felt knowing I was watching a CGI creation. The decision to make a real, tangible creature for Rogue upped its thrill level immensely. Now here’s a giant crocodile I can get behind, thank you very much.

With a few clever tricks up his sleeve, McLean ratches up the tension slowly and wrings out his audience quite effectively — using the standard first act of invisible croc, second act of getting a glimpse, and third act of croc walking around. It may not be rocket science, but it’s quite enjoyable. And it’s a giant crocodile movie. And in the end, isn’t that all I really wanted from this film? (Hint: yes.)

As a side note, it also amazes me that in the history of cinema, this is the only feature film entitled Rogue, and it’s a crocodile movie, not a spy movie or some sort of FBI thriller. Upon researching this title, I learned that “rogue” refers to any animal which is a threat to people. I’d say this fella fits that bill nicely. For a quick dip into giant-animal movie waters, you could do a lot worse than Rogue. Sure, there’s no Dinocroc involved; but sometimes you just have to take what you can get.

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