Rogue River (2012)
(18) Running time: 77 minutes
Director: Jourdan McClure
Writers: Kevin Haskin, Ryan Finnerty
Starring: Bill Moseley, Michelle Page, Lucinda Jenney
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
Afterdark Originals latest ‘horror’ comes in the form of a very familiar plot, and sadly very little else. Mara (Michelle Page) has gone on a long trip to Rogue River where she intends to scatter her dead Fathers ashes. While sat by the riverside, a stranger in the form of Jon (Bill Moseley) approaches and states “I wouldn’t do that if I was you”. Instead of being grateful at the fact this stranger has just warned her that locals do not take too kindly to ashes being dumped in the river (Hell, how many people have come here to do it?), Mara tells him to mind his own business. Jon sits down, not affected by her sudden outburst and gives her some support, and continues to do so when Mara finds out her car has gone missing. Jon offers her a ride into town, but since it is getting late, on the way he says he will stop at his house to tell the wife where he is going. Way back when he offered a ride, Mara should have known something was up, but the daft bint puts herself in harm’s way from the get-go. It gets worse…
Jon’s wife Lea (Lucinda Jenney) tell her she must stay for dinner, and soon Mara is told to stay overnight as they believe the local Sheriff towed her car. Mara may look a little uncomfortable, but come on; shouldn’t alarm bells be ringing by now? Mara has no reception on her phone, and the house phone does not seem to work either, and with night-time approaching, now would be a good time to get out. Instead, after laughing and joking with her new found ‘friends’ at the dinner table, Mara stays, ends up dropping a plate and the lovely Lea carefully, but clearly intentionally, cuts open Mara’s hand. Bugger this, run girl, get out!! What are you doing now? Oh, I see, you’re gonna let Jon hold you down while Lea gives you some stitches using something far too painful to be legal. What’s that? No painkillers? You can feel everything? Oh my, it would appear these so-called friendly people may be a few sandwiches short of a picnic, they might hurt me? Blimey, I don’t feel safe here, even still, I’ll go to bed like they tell me, I’m sure it will all be fine in the morning.
Yes, sarcasm, its great isn’t it! How stupid does an audience have to be to buy into this crap? Even some forced plot ideas like a crazy man outside banging on the window do not convince that Mara would be better off staying in the house, and that she is making the right choices. It takes a moment where Jon is sat at the end of her bed for her to realise she really needs to get out. “What are you doing?” she asks, “just watching you sleep” comes Jon’s reply, grasping Mara’s urn which holds her Fathers ashes. He follows this with “its great having you here, we feel like a family again”
Thankfully, for all the plot holes and stupid decisions, Bill Moseley does convince as a real sinister nut case. He slithers around the house, often in his underwear, like a creepy psycho who has everyone exactly where he wants them. Moseley’s performance is superb; he expertly and confidently oozes menace. Lucinda Jenney as Lea is also very on edge, you never know what she will do next, and she does have a temper. And Michelle Page, even though working with a pretty wooden character who annoys and spends most of the film crying, screaming or whimpering, is just too good to look at not to feel some sort of sympathy for. To be fair, she does give a good performance too, even though she just doesn’t have a lot to work with. Character development is not really the aim here, which is a pity because films like this need character development so you can at least feel for the perpetrator and the victim. You are allowed in to their worlds, especially the perpetrators, but you are not allowed in deep enough to really get anything from it. Shame, because the film sadly falls very flat, and all the usual clichés of kidnap movies, and even a very small amount of violence all feel used up, un-original and quite desperate. The trailer, even the DVD artwork, promise lots of violence and you just don’t get that here. However, you don’t get a strong enough story, or even back story, to really allow you to get something from the characters either.
It is not without some merits: some expertly filmed shots of Mara creeping around the large house in the woods at night rack up the tension, and being an Afterdark Originals production, the film looks very polished and very well made. In fact, this could well be one of the finest produced horrors they have ever made. There are a few decent shock moments where things happen totally unexpected, and the final third will deliver enough twists and twisted moments to make you feel it was almost worthwhile. My main concern is that the film could have been great had the makers had some guts to really push boundaries, and had they spent a little more time developing both the plot and the main characters.
In short, Rogue River is lazy, and what could have been a worthy addition to the kidnap genre and maybe even the torture porn genre, has sadly missed a real opportunity. The actors give it their all, and it feels sad to say how bad the film is considering the effort (especially Moseley) they all put in, but we have to face facts. Rogue River is a wasted chance, it has some nice touches here and there, but it is often boring, never pushes itself or the viewer into places not seen a thousand times before and even for its short running time, it feels too long. Sorry guys, good idea, bad presentation.