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Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Rogue River

Directed by: Jourdan McClure

Produced by: Zachary Ty Bryan
Jo Haskin
Kevin Haskin
Torrey Loomis
Rick Matros
Adam Targun

Screenplay by: Ryan Finnerty
Kevin Haskin

Starring: Michelle Page
Bill Moseley
Lucinda Jenney
Chris Coy

Music by: Jermaine Stegell

Cinematography by: Brian Hamm

Editing by: Paul Covington

Studio(s): Vision Entertainment Group
Kejo Productions
Rogue River Productions

Distributed by: Grindstone Entertainment Group (United States)
G2 Pictures (United Kingdom - DVD release)

Release date: January 16, 2012 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 81 mins

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $2 million

Box office revenue: (Unavailable)

Alright folks, as evidenced by my lack of presence over the past week, I've been pretty busy and haven't had time to review anything. Thursday was The Stone Roses gig, which was nice and relaxed, aside from ignorant Dublin taxi drivers and a couple of idiots trying to steal a megaphone off me. On Saturday though, like Captain Willard, I was plunged into the Heart Of Darkness at the Swedish House Mafia gig. I'm not even gonna say anything, just read the news reports. Baptism of fire, to say the least. That said, it's a great job and I'm enjoying the work that I do, so I can't complain too much. Also, the neanderthals are up to their usual shindig again, so I'll be like a hermit the next few days as I'm unfortunate enough not to be on holiday this year. Batten down the hatches, it's siege mentality! In other words, keep your eyes posted!

The film up for analysis today is Rogue River. This is one I found in my local Tesco for £3, and was distributed by After Dark, who have recently made a name for themselves producing genre pictures. Marketing themselves as "A New Brand Of Fear," I have to say fair play to them for releasing these movies en masse for a cheap price. Far too long have distributors been expecting people to cough up over £10 for new releases. Granted, I've recently paid £7 and £8 for copies of Fanny And Alexander and Cannibal Holocaust, but they're great editions from Tartan (who have not been the same since going into administration and the Palisades takeover) and Shameless Entertainment. More people will see these releases if they are sold cheaply and en masse, it's the old B-movie production line routine: make it cheap, increase profitability. Anyway, post DVD-marketing digression, Rogue River follow Mara (Michelle Page), who travels to the eponymous river to scatter her father's ashes. However, go awry following the theft of her car, and after accepting a lift from Jon (Bill Moseley), he and Lea (Lucinda Jenney) refuse to let Mara leave their home, and, holding her hostage, subject her to much torture. Nothing else needs to be said, plot synopsis done!

Right, starting with the good, the film has three strong performances to its credit. Michelle Page carries the film throughout her emotional and physical assault. She handles the emotional range of her character believably, and despite this being, at heart, a nuts-and-bolts exploitation film, treats the material with respect and never overdoes anything. Bill Moseley and Lucinda Jenney give their characters a complexity that probably wasn't present on the written page. Moseley in particular is good at presenting the inherent madness rippling below the calm surface. Also, while the film is average, it is at least consistently average. I put this down to debut director Jourdan McClure, whose approach emphasises control over the material. Instead of going down the easy route, he does everything very minimalistic, and tells the story in a non-overt way. Furthermore, he gives the film a slow-burning degree of modesty, and I have to respect that, because the people involved obviously respect their audience. Also, though it ain't much, the script is a slow-burner. The build-up, playing off of the characters' public politeness and showing the audience (but not telling) little details, is well-played. Finally, I have to give the film its due for having at least one nasty set-piece, which isn't just played for gore, but is instead made grotesque by the genuinely twisted dynamic of the characters involved. It markets itself as a dark exploitation movie, and I have to say that it delivers.

However, Rogue River is nothing more than a dark exploitation movie. Unfortunately, much as there is to admire, you never really connect with the material on an emotional level. Throughout the film, which is only eighty minutes, I felt a cold separation when I know I should have been engaged. As I mentioned, the script has some good things, but it is mostly uniformly dull. The build-up is solid, but after that it does feel like the characters are merely devices to move the film from one scene to another. The best of horror/genre/exploitation cinema at its best also has something under the surface. Night Of The Living Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, even the Sergio Leone westerns (which I love, by the way), all have a degree of underlying substance. Rogue River does not, and it does feel like a waste of effort not to have all this horrible stuff going on without saying something. I mean, even Tom Six managed it with The Human Centipede films! Also, the film's lighting is way too dark, and I understand it is a dark movie, but the night-time scenes contain some of the worst lighting I've seen since Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem. Finally, though it makes some of the early scenes quite serene, the score does play up way too much on horror-film cliches, so you know where I scene is going before it happens. Yep, the Emotional Heartstrings Orchestra has struck again (bastards!)! 

Rogue River is a flawed movie, of that there is no question. It has a dull script, doesn't say anything for all the nasty stuff going on (a film doesn't have to, but it helps!), is badly lit and suffers from an E.H.O. 'give away the scary stuff' score. However, as a dark exploitation movie it's a worth one watch. Granted, it's on the wrong side of decent, but there are three good performances, there's a young director who clearly has a brain in his head and it's a slow-burning film with a genuinely twister dynamic and at least one nasty set-piece. In terms the recent borders in exploitation nastiness, it's better than A Serbian Film, but not as good as The Human Centipede pictures. Underwhelming and dull, but it does have strengths.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 4.8/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Dulled (how uninspiring!)

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