The good folk at After Dark have come in for a little criticism from certain quarters of the horror fraternity lately. It seems their products are being regarded as a little docile by today’s standards. I think they may have been a little wounded if director Jourdan McClure’s inaugural feature is anything to go by. Starring horror stalwart Bill Moseley, Rogue River is anything but a tame movie...

The picture centres around Mara (Michelle Page) who makes a one girl pilgrimage to the movie titles watery setting in Oregon an attempt to bring closure to the recent death of her father. But her intention of emptying an urn containing her late father’s ashes into Rogue River is interrupted by a native stranger, Jon Wall (Moseley). After warning her that the local authorities may not approve of such an informal burial, he attempts to console her. Jon finally discloses that he also has lost a loved one – his daughter. It’s enough to gain a little trust and she accepts his offer to walk her to her car. It proves, however, to be the catalyst for a sinister series of events. It appears her car has been towed by the overzealous local sheriff. Stranded, Mara has little option but to accept Jon’s offer of heading back to his cabin to meet his wife before Mara can call help.

Once inside the homely cabin the hospitality is laid on even more thickly, with Jon’s wife Lea (Lucinda Jenney) insistent that Mara stay for dinner. Although a little overwhelmed by the generous offer, Mara again accepts. It doesn’t take long though for the quirks and eccentricities of the welcoming couple to turn a little sour. Are the perfect hosts simply desperate for a little company in the isolated setting – or is there a more ominous motive behind their invitation?

To say Rogue River is a mixed bag is somewhat of an understatement. What I am referring to by that is how the movie moved from having some slickly delivered shocks to being frustratingly hackneyed. The narrative itself is in alarmingly familiar territory for a start: A single female in the sparse outback, in apparent crisis, befriended by strangers, held captive. On the face of it I admit it does lean toward tedium. But one of the movies strengths was its ability to deliver some chilling sequences that were devoid of actual gore.

This is largely due to a couple of excellent performances from Moseley and the quite superb Lucinda Jenney. Their lunacy simmered whenever they graced the screen and it’s a shame that the movie opted to sprint toward revealing the true extent of their menace.

One of the main reasons their characters were not allowed to slowly develop was undoubtedly due to director Jourdan McClure choice of opening. When the main protagonist Mara is shown in a clearly traumatised state, battered and on the brink of suicide in the initial frames of the picture, the narrative had no option but to race toward the calamitous situation. Had that opening been omitted, it would have allowed Jon and Lea the chance to be exposed in a slower and, dare I say it, more sophisticated manner. It’s a shame as their performances were brilliantly tinged with a subtle whiff of insanity, even when playing the apparent good Samaritans.

The movie infuriatingly drew on the almost compulsory "my cell phone has no signal" predicament and, at times, failed to convince me that Mara couldn’t have actually escaped had she really have wanted to. I appreciate some fans may simply find this unforgivably stale but overall I was prepared to overlook these shortcomings and enjoy the movies strengths instead.

The picture’s cinematography had an eclectic blend. Initially it showcased some wonderful scenery shots to give the setting a realistic feel while the latter half of the picture conveyed a claustrophobic feeling of entrapment while in the bowels of the cabin. The lush green of the foliage and the opulent glisten of blood really came to life in the DVD’s crisp print.

The violence was fairly measured at first, opting for some cringe worthy sequences before exploding in a crescendo of all out gore!

The movie did have a plot, which again was not 100% original, but did do the movie justice. Even though I personally found the climax ludicrously absurd rather than shocking, be warned, the taboo twist could be construed as a little distasteful to those of you with a weak constitution. (See, I told you the movie had a few positives!!). Then again, maybe it simply tried too hard to offend which ultimately rendered the film a little ridiculous.

For me, it was a vicious and twisted movie that provided a few genuine jumps and an eerie atmosphere but which unfortunately ran out of steam a little toward the end. Moseley and Jenney are definitely worth watching and with a run time of just over an hour and a quarter, Rogue River is hardly a drone of a movie.

I think I will definitely be taking note of McClure’s future projects as there were flashes of brilliance in his feature debut.

Review by Marc Lissenburg

Released by G2 Pictures
Region 2 PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review