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Rogue River (2012)
22nd Jan 12
After driving to Oregon’s Rogue River to scatter her father’s ashes young Mara soon finds herself held captive by married couple Jon and Lea.
It’s true that originality can be somewhat lacking in movies, especially genre movies, however take a well known template, jazz it up with fresh angles and the chances are you’ll be forgiven for the lack of new ideas elsewhere and build up a respective fan base. Kevin Haskin, who co-wrote Rogue River’s script with Ryan Finnerty, claims that they have done just that by seeking to explore with their story how people that first appear ordinary can actually be disturbed. Other’s involved in the production have dribbled on about Haskin’s characters having ’so much dimension and nuance to them’ and that ’the story is different from the typical horror movie…a lot more intense, a lot more thought-provoking’. Sounds promising doesn’t it?
They also make sure to chuck in a provocative cover - to ensure the rental fees come trickling in; but don’t be fooled. The cover shows a scantily clad woman with her aesthetically pleasing frame up to her knees in water. It has nothing to do with the film at all although it is true that the lead character Mara (Michelle Page) is in a state of disarray come the finale - but not in such a titillating fashion. It’s designed to get people picking it up for an evening’s viewing and it will definitely do just that. Add a quote from a respectable film magazine declaring that Rogue River is ‘an ordeal of agony, incest and out-and-out insanity’ and who wouldn’t be tempted? And if that wasn’t enough to whet the appetite there’s also the casting of genre favourite Bill Moseley (The Devil’s Rejects, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2) in the male lead. By now you’ll be grabbing up a copy of Rogue River; parting with hard-earned cash to rent or buy it and eagerly throwing it on to watch the moment you’re back home and settled.
It won’t take you long to realise that when the magazine quote talked about ‘an ordeal of agony’ that they were spot on with their description. Rogue River is an endurance test that will have you feeling as trussed up and despairing as much as the female lead. Lacklustre doesn’t even begin to cover it. First time director Jourdan McClure has a decent cast at his disposal but what he lacks is any oomph in the writing department; instead he has been lumbered with a Misery wannabe for the torture porn generation that ticks off the clichés in a groan-worthy fashion from the start. Writer/Director Lucky McGee’s The Woman has a woman trussed up against her will, albeit a feral woman, managing to unsettle, shock and provide surprises exactly what you want from something that could otherwise end up run-of-the-mill. Here writers Kevin Haskin and Ryan Finnerty insult their core audience by offering up nothing new at all; instead just trotting out everything as expected. Did they assume the viewers they were catering for had not seen a horror movie before?
As Mara looks to scatter her recently deceased father’s ashes into Oregon’s Rogue River she is unexpectedly joined by a gentleman called Jon (Bill Moseley). He advises her that it would be against the law to dispose of her father’s remains in the flowing river and then offers to walk her back to her car only to find that it has been towed away by the police. Mara tries her mobile phone to sort out getting her car back and wouldn’t you just know it but there’s no phone signal to be had - yeah, THAT old chestnut! Anyhow Jon kindly offers Mara a ride into town but should first stop by his home and inform his wife Lea (Lucinda Jenney from The Mothman Prophecies that he will be doing so. Lea is accommodating and insists that Mara stay over and sort out her affairs in the morning. One evening meal later and Mara is soon being held against her will and it quickly transpiresthat Jon and Lea are actually brother and sister rather than a married couple and are looking for Mara to procreate and provide them a baby.
Rogue River feels tiresome and unsurprising from the opening scene. We see Mara bloodied and worse for wear pointing a handgun to the side of her? head. A shot is heard as the screen fades to black. We know that this is a scene we will see again come the film’s climax and we also know that by the image of Mara about to shoot herself fading to black that she definitely hasn’t done so. So far so generic! We then cut back to seeing Mara taking off for a long drive to find a suitable spot to scatter her father’s ashes and stopping at a remote part of Rogue River before her life takes a turn for the worse.
Mara seems completely unmoved by the events that happen to her aside from the odd sniffle and sob. From finding her car gone, to accepting a car ride with a stranger she insipidly takes every suggestion onboard with a quiet nod. When talking about the quality of the potato being served for dinner she is told ‘I hope you like it as you’ll be getting toeat it all week’ and never ever stops to question why a week when she‘s only meant to be there for one night. It takes seeing Jon in just his pants (the shock!) and finding out that Lucinda wears a wig (the shame!) along with the troubling discovery of a still breathing fella in their freezer for Mara to start whimpering; but by then it‘s too late! She’s soon trussed up in leggings to restrict her movements and nothing else of any interest happens at all.
Cops show up at Jon and Lea’s house searching for Mara and you just know nothing will come of it and that - cliché alert! - they’ll be shot and killed before they leave the property. In fact nothing that occurs in Rogue River surprises at all. At just seventy seven minutes it manages to feel much much longer. The writers obviously feel they have the ingredients in place to shock their audience and feel that certain issues like kidnap, torture and incest will do enough to illicit the response they are aiming for without ever once stopping to wonder if their audience may have seem enough of this type of movie before; not to mention one done a hundred times better too. Chances are that by the time you switch the movie off you’ll be crying as much as the female lead and feeling equally as tortured and tormented. Avoid!
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