‘Rogue’: A Gem Despite Its Distribution Woes

The Morning After

Let me start by saying I am NOT likely to be organizing the Man vs. Nature film festival at my local second-run cinema anytime soon.

From The Birds to Jaws, the virtues of this sub-genre have so far eluded me. Some of that probably has to do with my own natural propensity to side with the critters. We have more than 6 billion people wandering around, many of them pretty crabby most of the time. My response to these types of flicks usually is “Be my guest — dig in.”

That said, Rogue, Wolf Creek director Greg McLean‘s second feature film, pretty much dares you not to like it. As it turned out, it wasn’t a dare that I could take.

While on assignment in Australia’s Northern Territory, American travel writer Pete McKell (Michael Vartan) catches a tour boat piloted by NT native Kate Ryan (Radha Mitchell). Onboard is an entertaining assortment of tourists, including Russell, a soft-spoken, middle-age widower played by John Jarratt, the man behind Wolf Creek‘s Outback assassin. When a killer crocodile attacks their boat and forces the group onto a small landmass quickly being reclaimed by the rising tide, things get desperate.

On paper it’s nothing special; the joy of Rogue lies purely in the cinematic experience.

Will Gibson’s cinematography alone is worth the price of admission. Sweeping overhead views of the virgin Northern Territory and close-up studies of insects and other wildlife are not just there to demonstrate Gibson’s proficiency with the camera, but actually underscore key themes in this movie, just as they did in Wolf Creek.

And like that film, here McLean once again sidesteps the temptation to populate his world with two-dimensional characters that serve merely as grist for the horrors to come — a laziness many rival filmmakers have succumbed to in recent years. Strangely, the two lead characters are overshadowed personality wise by their fellow passengers, who positively shine as little character quirks glimpsed early on give way to greater complexities when things get hairy. An asshole becomes a hero, an annoyance an ally.

While the ending may be a tad too traditional for those looking for a transgressive movie experience similar to that offered by Creek, Rogue‘s greatest flaw has nothing to do with its making and everything to do with distribution.

In a move all too common today, Dimension Films sidestepped that whole messy, costly annoyance that is wide theater release, opting instead for a low-key DVD distribution.

Getting upset with studio executives for being piss-poor judges of artistic merrit is ridiculous — people in such positions have never been very good dealing with such matters. However, it’s entirely appropriate to take these beancounters to task when they shoot themselves in the foot by forking over millions in production costs without following it through to distribution.

The tragedy is that Rogue is a film that truly needs to be seen on the big screen to be fully appreciated — its cinematography easily could put many of those IMAX nature flicks to shame.

To put this all in perspective, Dimension is the company responsible for placing installments of the Scary Movie franchise in theaters. Does it really have to be pointed out that bad jokes do not get funnier when those who deliver them are made larger?

Enough of my growsing. Poney up the $15 for the DVD — you’ll end up rewatching it, even if only for the detailed “Making of” featurette. Who knows, this may be the flick that convinces you to spring for that jumbo plasma screen. (And they wonder why no one goes to the theater anymore…)

Note: For more on Greg McLean and the making of Wolf Creek and Rogue, check out The New Horror Handbook, coming in November.

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