Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Radha Mitchell, Heather Mitchell, Barry Otto, Michael Vartan, Stephen Curry
Directed by Greg McLean
Distributed by Dimension Extreme
We’ve been talking about Greg McLean’s follow up to Wolf Creek, Rogue, for the better part of a year now. It’s nearly unfathomable how this never made it to theatres. Well, at least it’s home now on DVD, and hopefully there’s an audience out there who will be hungry for it. After the disappointing Primeval (which I dug if only for its silly factor) and the ever-so-bleak Black Water, the world is ready for a really good and really fun killer croc movie, and this near 25-foot long bad boy delivers exactly what it should!
Sometimes shit happens. Even on vacation. After seeing a flare go off, a tour guide (Mitchell) and her group (headed up by Michael Vartan) go to investigate the source of the distress signal. Where were they touring, you ask? Australia’s Northern Territory — home of deadly crocs. And poisonous snakes. And eels. And spiders. And generally everything else that I absolutely do not want near me under any circumstances. Whatever happened to theme parks and resorts? Anyway, upon getting to the area where the flare came from, our heroes’ tiny ship gets tossed and then beached. The source of this mayhem? One really pissed off crocodile who, with the rising tide, gets closer and closer to having his belly full for the coming weeks. Can our crew hold out until help arrives? Worse still, who’s to say said help won’t be met with their same fate?
The set-up is as simple as it is effective, and Rogue is a film that takes the giant man-eater formula and amps up the intensity to a bone-jangling 11 on the terror scale of 1 to 10. Simply put, this movie works on all the right levels. From a truly intimidating looking beast to characters you actually care about to a location that really has to be seen to be appreciated.
There’s no question Australia’s Northern Territory is the biggest star of the film, and Rogue is riddled with aerial shots that are absolutely breathtaking. Not since Lord of the Rings have I been as awed by a film’s setting. We’re talking terrain so big and robust that it serves to make our humans’ plight seem all the more threatening. These vacationing tourists are clearly out of their element, and as a result, despite the land being vast, things end up feeling mucho claustrophobic. This is all testament to McLean’s keen direction and sense of mood. From start to finish Rogue is clearly a winner … but it’s not perfect. There is a bit of bad that creeps up from time to time in terms of pacing, but it’s nothing that will keep you from digging on this ferocious beast of a film.
The DVD itself is also packing some bite in terms of supplemental material. Things kick off with an audio commentary by writer/producer/director Greg McLean. Going it solo doesn’t slow this man down at all. The track is brisk, interesting, and riddled with information that never gets boring. This was a hell of a shoot, and if you aren’t convinced of that from listening to the commentary, the several featurettes that await will more than make it clear what an arduous task was set before the cast and the crew.
The Making-of Rogue a documentary made by McLean himself, is a 46-minute look that’s more than just your typical making-of; what we have here is a step-by-step video expedition of what it took to get this creature in the can. Amidst the cast and crew interviews we learn of the actual story of the croc Rogue is based upon — a huge creature named Sweetheart who caused a great deal of terror in its day. Really good stuff! Also covered within this croc-doc is what lengths the filmmakers had to go to in order to get permission to allow cameras into a part of the Outback that’s never been filmed before and how said location influenced the personal and professional performances of all those involved. It’s all very fascinating stuff, and it doesn’t stop there. In Welcome to the Territory (a gallery of mini-documentaries), we’re treated to three featurettes that run between six and seventeen minutes each specifically covering the effects, the music, and the wondrous Northern Territory.
Capping things off are the theatrical trailer (if only … it would have been amazing to see this in an Imax or something of the sort) and my only real disappoint on this disc — a featurette called The Real Rogue. You would think from the title that this would be a more complete look at Sweetheart‘s story, but alas, it’s nothing more than a three-minute video podcast that appeared online to promote the movie that’s comprised of heavily edited footage from the other featurettes. This left me scratching my head. I mean, why? Just why?
Bottom line — Rogue is the best damned killer crocodile movie to be made in more than a decade. Oddly enough it’s also the one that had the hardest time reaching audiences. It never ceases to amaze me how far worse films get huge releases when quality ones like this do little more than sit on the shelf waiting for the blessing of the great home video gods. Hopefully this movie will find its fanbase on DVD. It’s truly deserving.
4 out of 5
3 1/2 out of 5
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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
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