The trick with doing a movie about a killer crocodile, alligator, shark or octopus is just to make sure the thing doesn’t look fake. There are a ton of these movies and, particularly with the croc/gator films, the monster usually looks like fifty dollars worth of latex being operated as a puppet off-screen. The Si-fi Channel has, in recent years, proven that computer generated aquatic monsters can look even faker than latex, which is probably vindication for those puppeteers. Finally, for the record, the best of these movies ever, in my opinion, is Alligator, with Robert Forrester and a gator that emerged from the sewers to eat a kid in a swimming pool, among other great things. That was a combination of a real gator on a miniature set and a latex gator that didn’t look real either, but fuck the movie was so nutty that you didn’t care. Ah the 80s.
Anyway, in Rogue the croc is effective because the filmmakers keep it off screen through much of the movie. It’s the Jaws trick- all you have to show is the fin for most of the film and the shark at the very end and you can scare the crap out of people. In the last ten minutes or so, there’s a CGI crocodile that looks a wee bit goofy (seriously, you can’t escape CG looking goofy unless you have Industrial Light and Magic money), but by that point, you don’t care because the rest of the film has been so effective.
Rogue was made by the same Aussies who made Wolf Creek, a slasher film set in the Australian outback that basically pulled the “Psycho switch”- the storyline shifted radically after about half an hour- in addition to being much crueler than expected. I remember actually being shocked when the character we’ve come to expect will fight for survival in the movie is killed early and brutally, throwing the whole film off-balance. The ending of Wolf Creek was a bit of a disappointment, but at least they were willing to fuck with the audience.
This is another Aussie horror story- apparently, crocodiles really are this big and mean in Australia and the filmmakers explain in the making-of documentary that they’re just adopting true stories of croc attacks. In this case, the story is about a river tour boat that pisses off a very big crocodile and gets wrecked on a small island with the tide coming in, and they have to figure out how to get off the island.
Rogue is more a popcorn movie than Wolf Creek (which was not-at-all a popcorn movie), and the thrills are fairly effective without the story getting as rough as that film. They’ve definitely taken notes from Spielberg about how to utilize animals and kids and make minor characters believable and likeable before menacing them with the monster. Like early Spielberg, you could also see this one playing well at a drive-in. As for gore, it’s a bit tame, although a few people get chomped up good, and overall the thrills are effective. So, score one for the Aussies.