Rogue River (2011)

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Rogue RiverStarring Michelle Page, Bill Moseley, Lucinda Jenney, Michael Cudlitz, Chris Coy

Directed by Jourdan McClure

Backwoods horror meets the rape/revenge genre in Jourdan McClure’s Rogue River, pitting a recently bereaved young protagonist against a pair of whack-job country folk. Said protagonist, Mara (Page), is a young woman who sets off to the titular location to spread her father’s ashes. At the riverside, she’s approached by a seemingly affable individual in the form of Bill Moseley’s Jon. After doling out some friendly advice regarding the legality of spreading remains at the site without permission from the proper authorities, Jon offers to walk Mara back to her car and let her get a little emotive discussion off her chest.

It seems the local authorities also don’t look too kindly upon parking in the area, as by the time the pair have moseyed on back to the parking space, Mara’s car has apparently been towed courtesy of the County Sheriff. Jon offers to give Mara a lift into town, but first they’ll have to make a stop off at his home so that he can touch base with his wife, Lea (Jenney). Being such a friendly couple, Mara has no option but to join them for dinner and, ultimately, spend the night in the spare room. Increasingly unnerved by the escalating oddness of the pair’s behaviour, Mara quickly finds herself the unwilling captor of two seriously unhinged maniacs and forced to participate in horrific acts of torture and sexual abuse.

Bill Moseley delivers as usual in the kind of everyman-turned-yelling-psychopath role that he is too often typecast in, but at least his efforts are matched by Lucinda Jenney’s wild-eyed unpredictability as the incontinent, cancer-ridden Lea. Lead Michelle Page isn’t given a whole lot to do for most of the film but whimper, cry, and run but delivers what she has to with consummate conviction – something which most certainly aids what is, in Rogue River’s case, a legitimately shocking climax (in more ways than one).

Scenes of torture and violence are impactful without being overly gratuitous, offering a refreshingly underplayed take on the subgenre, and director McClure knows what he’s doing when it comes to playing with tension and milking as much production value as possible from some stunning locations. Still, the feeling of familiarity is ever-present, and though it throws a couple of nice curveballs (the final scene delivers a devilish, if somewhat cheap, gut punch), for the majority of the runtime Rogue River manages to be sufficient, but unexceptional; involving, but unsurprising – lacking in invention, but not skill.

With backwoods horror flicks being a dime a dozen these days, the twisted attitude and strong performances only just manage to make Rogue River worthwhile for fans of the subgenre and, of course, Bill Moseley. Anyone else is more likely to find it a complete waste of time.

2 1/2 out of 5

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Gareth Jones

Copywriter and critic sporting a lifelong obsession with all things horror. A little bit sane.