Movie release schedules can be a bitch. Greg McLean’s follow-up to his lauded Outback shocker Wolf Creek has sat on the shelf on these shores since its Oz release in 2007.
With Black Water, Lake Placid 2 and Primeval Kill getting first bite in the UK, the distributors obviously faced a dilemma: how many giant croc movies can audiences stomach?
Despite being last out of the swamp, Rogue is easily the most polished of the recent crop. It’s inspired by‘Sweetheart’, a 5.4m saltwater croc who made headlines in the ’70s. “The real-life story of this Jaws-like monster that existed in Australia blew my mind,” says McLean in one of the disc’s featurettes as TV newsreel footage shows the hysteria Sweetheart fuelled before its capture.
Opening with a bunch of tourists on a river tour in the Outback, McLean gets the build-up just right. Backs are constantly turned to the water and we’re teased as we wait for the inevitable snap attack.
Meanwhile, spunky tour guide Kate (Radha Mitchell) delivers plenty of sub-Attenborough zoological exposition (“Crocodiles have been perfecting their hunting skills for 200 million years”) to her boat-load of Yanks and Brits – most of whom are whinging supporting characters with ‘croc chow’ all but tattooed on their foreheads.
The tension mounts brilliantly, aided by the superb orchestral music score (a featurette reveals how violinists terrorised their instruments with knitting needles). Strings haven’t been battered this effectively since John Williams went ‘Da-dum, da-dum…’
McLean’s daring move is to keep the monster hidden for a long time. It’s only half-successful, though. Audiences aren’t as green as they were when Spielberg did it back in 1975, and when we finally get a complete reveal of the CG croc, you can’t help thinking: is that it?
Meanwhile, a saggy middle section – where the tourists are trapped on a tiny island while the croc circles them – squanders the expert build-up before the movie rallies for the creepy, into-the-lair finale.
What’s missing is any of the head-on-a-stick nastiness of Wolf Creek or even the tongue-in-cheek camp of Alligator. Instead, Rogue is a straight-ahead horror that needs just a bit more bite.
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