Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: As part of Horrors Week, we’re recommending some of the finest (or just weirdest) killer-animal flicks money can buy.
A spiritual companion piece to his breakout 2005 slasher film Wolf Creek, 2007’s Rogue finds writer-director Greg McLean again following a series of interloping tourists into the Australian Outback, where they’re preyed upon by a primal force of nature. In this instance, that evil assumes the form of a gigantic crocodile, which doesn’t take kindly to its sacred land being visited by a riverboat driven by tour-guide Kate (Radha Mitchell). Motivated to take a detour after spotting a distress-signal flare, Kate pilots her vehicle into the crocodile’s territory and pays for it when the beast rams the craft, sending her—and her passengers, including American travel writer Pete (Michael Vartan)—to a tiny island in the middle of the river. That patch of dry land is hardly a safe spot, as the rising tide means that the motley crew of survivors are soon faced with finding a way to flee to shore or staying put—both bad options that will eventually involve entering the same dark waters the croc is patrolling.
McLean stokes considerable tension from this simple setup, thanks to lucid staging and plotting that keeps unbelievable protagonist behavior to an absolute minimum. Courtesy of well-crafted introductory passages, Rogue delineates its characters (including Sam Worthington’s redneck) with clean, quick brushstrokes, thereby eliciting empathy for their life-or-death plight and their varied reactions to their circumstances. That attention to detail is matched by the director’s frequent, evocative cutaways to close-ups of the surrounding wildlife, as well as to the imposing Outback landscape, which—as in Wolf Creek—comes across as a primitive (if not outright alien) environment unfit for modern intruders. Unafraid to present its unholy beast in all its enormous, monstrous glory but canny enough to keep such glimpses to a relative minimum, McLean’s sophomore effort proves to be a taut and often terrifying creature feature, one that censures man’s foolish belief that he can have dominion over nature while delivering shrewd, scary situational suspense.
Availability: Rogue is available on Blu-ray and DVD, which can be obtained from Netflix or your local video store/library, or to rent or purchase from the major digital services.