Rogue: A Lake Placid Wannabe
By J.B. Rockwell
If you’ve read more than one of my Bad Movie Reviews, you’ve probably figured out that my movie selection process is somewhat… well, random. At times, I have a specific movie in mind, but mostly I just let fate throw something in front of me.
This time, though, Lilyn requested something special. By which I mean, something Australian since SciFi & Scary is celebrating Australian films this month. When she approached me about watching an Australian film for my Bad Movie Review, I think my response was something along the lines of, “Uhhh… sure?” followed by a quick and desperate Google search using the terms ‘Bad + Australian + Movie’.
Oh, yeah. Rocket scientist, that’s me.
So, what popped up? This outback pile of crocodile crap. Now, you know me, I love a good monster chomp and stomp movie—Don’t believe me? Take a look a the movies I’ve watched for this site—and this one had potential, except it. Was. So. Freaking. Slooooooowwwww.
Also, it’s alternately billed as a thriller—it’s not thrilling, not at all—and a horror movie—not really horrifying either, even though people die—but comes across as a really weird, travel advert for Australia. Interspersed with shots of deadly, deadly saltwater crocodiles here are these long, panning shots of frankly gorgeous wild territory ala Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, interspersed with long and stultifying shots of overheated and kind of bored-looking people baking to death as they float down a dead calm river and wave away a seemingly endless army of flies.
My god, Australian, what the hell is with the flies????
Two more problems with this film—yeah, I know, I’m giving away my review right up front:
- The subject matter runs a little to close to Lake Placid—a bad movie I heart so much it actually hurts—but the execution blithely ignored everything that made Lake Placid a spectacular bad movie, namely, a sense of humor and Betty White.
Why so serious, Australian? Crocs gotta eat, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun.
- For an independent movie, they sure spent a lot of money–$18M, are you kidding me???—but, sadly, the execution doesn’t show it. The set for 90% of the movie is a boat on the river, followed by a mud island in the same river. That costs, what? Maybe $100 a day? Granted, they scored two named actors in Radha Mitchell and Sam Worthington and I suppose some of the others might be big enough names in Australia to have cost but c’mon, people, you only get like 5 minutes of that croc so how the hell do you spend $18M on everything else?? Also, I’m starting to get really worked up puking all over this movie, so let’s move on and talk about the plot.
A boatful of tourists on a river tour adventure in the Australian outback end up with more adventure than they bargained for when they cross paths with a massive, man-eating that destroys their boat and traps them on a rapidly flooding mud island.
*starts to make snarky comment, swallows it and moves on*
Radha Mitchell (Best known for Pitch Black—a movie I absolutely adore) as Kate Ryan: No-nonsense outback riverboat captain who’s the only one doing anything to save the poor stranded people but still gets the shaft from the movie’s director who has some noodly little whine boy travel writer come save her. Also, owns an adorable dog that, thanks to when-boy Travel Writer Pete, end up being a snack.
Michael Vartan (Best known for … Alias? Never actually watched the show but, sure, let’s go with that) as Pete McKell: American travel writer-cum-wanker who does nothing at all useful the entire movie—including keeping the adorable dog from getting killed—but is somehow supposed to be the hero because he poked the big crocodile with a stick.
Sam Worthington (Best known for Avatar—c’mon, you may not have liked it but you know you all saw it) as Neil Kelly: Redneck Australian duck killing enthusiast who enjoys guns, drinking, killing things, and flashing pressed ham at tourists. Also too dumb to survive this movie.
Robert Taylor (Best known for playing Sheriff Longmire in Longmire) as Everett (no last name given): The soft guy who’s actually a tough guy and somewhat sensible, which is exactly why they kill him off early. #CrocBait
Other actors who are likely known in Australia but not in the US (Best known Australian Things) as Boat Bait: If they ain’t dyin’, they’re cryin’. Everyone else in this movie is mostly useless set dressing.
Budget & Box Office Info:
- Release Date (US): 27 April 2008
- Budget: $18M (US) estimated
- Box Office Sales: $10.4M
Sequels & Crossovers:
Nuthin’, nuthin’ and more nuthin’—despite alleged ‘critical acclaim’ this movie kinda tanked it in the box office (and for good reason). All that said, I think I read somewhere that this movie was inspired by or inspired Lake Placid—a Bad Movie I heart so much it hurts—and whatever the truth of that statement, it pales in comparison. Ya know why? THEY FORGOT BETTY WHITE.
*drops mic, exits stage left, swings back around and finished recounting the trash*
The Story (in a Nutshell):
American travel writer Pete McKell arrives in a rugged, way-out and extremely redneck Northern Australian town where he signs up for a cruise along a river known to be home to a large saltwater crocodile population. Unfortunately, he fails to notice all the gruesome crocodile pictures on the wall of Bill’s Bar, Taxidermy and Bait Shop (no idea what the place is called, guessing they sell all those things based on the décor, though). If he had, he’d know this Gilligan’s Island three hour tour aint gonna go so well.
Soon after, Travel Writer Pete goes skippitty-doo down to the river to board at not-at-all croc resistant metal bottomed boat. At the helm of this Good Ship Lollipop is ‘tough but pretty’ (yes, that’s actually how they describe her, grrr….) Kate Ryan serving as tour guide and riverboat captain. Along for the ride are her adorable Australian Shepherd pooch Kevin—the red-shirted ensign of this film—and an… eclectic variety of travelers, and barging into the idyllic scene of river canyons and local wildlife and CROCODILES THAT MOST DEFINITELY WON’T EAT YOU NOPE NOPE NOPE is Kate’s former husband, Neil—who also works on the river, likes to shoot things and spends most of his time half-drunk.
So, Neil skates in, flashes his ass and generally making a pest of himself before falling overboard, and the tour moves on. After that, things turn peaceful for a while, but soon enough, the shit hits the fan.
The Rest of It:
Just when they reach the point where the tour boat is supposed to turn around and head back before, ya know, night falls or run they run out of fuel or any of a dozen reasons why reputable tour company would go the fuck home and definitely not doing anything stupid in crocodile territory, someone on the boat notices an emergency flair. So, of course, they divert to go check it out, and of course they reach the source and immediately get attacked by Monster Croc, and of course the boat springs a leak and everyone has to bail out onto a tiny mud island in the middle of the river.
Oh, by the way, did I mention this is a tidal river? Yeah, it is, that’s why there are saltwater crocodiles in this river, not the pinwheels and bouncy houses kind that just nibble at your toes rather than turning everyone into meat biscuits for venturing into their territory. Also, it means that, when the tide comes in, Mud Island slowly turns into No Island as the river level rises and consumes this tiny chunk of land.
So, they’re fucked. Especially since the boat radio is all gobble-de-gook thanks to them venturing so far from civilization and the walkie-talkie took a good soaking and doesn’t work either.
Right. Totally plausible. Business model involves venturing down the river into the unknown on a daily basis and they don’t dropped the extra $5.99 to get waterproof comms devices. Seriously, Australia, this director assumes you’re all a bunch of idiots.
As you can imagine, given the circumstances, everyone immediately turns against each other rather than banding together to figure out how to not get horribly, horribly killed. That’s when our redneck hero Neil shows up with his drunk buddy—everyone cheers! They’re saved! They’re saved! Okay, so Neil’s kind of an asshole, but surely—
Oh. Wait. No. Neil’s boat got ramma-lamma-ding-donged as well. Aaaannnddd Neil’s buddy got eaten. Aaaaannnddd Sheriff Longmire’s a meat snack as well.
Right. Quick recap: Nice scenery, lots of flies, two boats destroyed, no working radios, night’s falling, the tide’s coming in and both Sheriff Longmire and Neil’s drunk buddy are both dead. On the plus side, they haven’t killed off the pupper (yet), so…
Anyone smell happy ending?
Yeah. Me either. But wait! We still have Travel Writer Pete! Surely he’ll—nope, nope. He’s pretty much useless as well.
Right. Back to Neil then. If anyone has a chance of MacGuyvering them out of the crocodile infested outback, it’s a sweaty guy in a trucker hat who obviously still carries a torch for his ex. To that end, Neal decides to make a swim for it and string a rope to the bank on the far side to help everyone escape, reasoning that the crocodile will be busy eating the people it already sntached up and, if he’s really quiet about it, Monstroso won’t notice him trying to sneak off. This, of course, allows for a touching moment with Katie-kins where they hint at their past years of canoodling and the tender—oh so very tender—redneck trucker hat feelings that remain.
So, into the drink Redneck Neil goes, and it’s swimmy-swim-swim to the other side where he ties the rope around a not-at-all healthy or stable-looking, half-dead tree to create an improved zip line to allow the others to cross hand-over-hand without having to set their little piddies in the water.
Of course, this whole
plan’s doomed to failure—I’ve watched enough I Originals to know that. In a twist,
the crocodile snatches Neil from the bank first, not one of the conveniently
placed snack sticks dangling over the water, and afterwards turns its jaws on
the handily strung meat.
So much for that bad plan. Looks like our crew’s back to square one. Wait. Make that minus one. In addition to nabbing one out of the three people on the improvised zip line, Croc-ma-doc nips in and snatches another guy off the island. So, there down to… what? Like ten people now? Doesn’t matter. We’ve still got Kevin Dog, Captain Katie and Travel Writer Pete, the latter of which (in a completely surprising move) decides to slide into the gap left by dead Redneck Neil and take over as Sinking Island alpha male. Having learned absolutely nothing from Neil’s failed attempt to ‘slip away while the crocodile is distracted’, TWP decides to do exactly the same thing. Only this time he’ll use a baited hook as a distraction, and they’ll all swim for it en masse, making as much noise as possible.
The first snag? No bait. Naturally, everyone in the movie besides Our Pal Katie agrees to sacrifice Pooch Kevin for the greater human good because they’re all a bunch of heartless assholes, but fate intervenes in the form of some water fowl Drunk Dead Neil killed earlier when he still had a boat. Now, I could be a jerk and point out how convenient that is—radios are for shit, flares and medical supplies floated away but somehow the Christmas gooses managed to stick around—but, honestly, I’m just happy they didn’t go that route to kill the dog, so bait hook, deploy! Everyone swim for it like malformed ducks!
Except you, Travel Writer Pete—you gotta stay behind to watch the hook (for unknown reasons). And you, Dog Kevin—apparently crocs are attracted to dogs and if you go into early Chocodile won’t take the bait.
In case you’re wondering, I’m not making that up. Not sure if it’s true, but that’s the explanation this movie provides.
After much waiting, and with the water precipitously rising, Mega Croc finally takes the bait and the mass flail is on. Despite the thrashing and screaming, everyone makes it safely across, except Kate who gets snatched halfway. Travel Writer Dave jumps in after her, but it’s too late, she’s jerky, so with a heavy-heart he bundles up Rover Kevin and sets off into the surrounding swamp.
By the way,
everyone else already left. Not sure where they’re all going, but they
abandoned Kate, Travel Writer Pete and the dog pretty much as soon as Crocra
swam over for a midnight snack.
After wandering for hours and with the sun slowly rising, Rover Kevin bolts off unexpectedly, forcing Travel Writer Pete to give chase, following his barking to a big old hollowed out tree with an Indiana Jones style slippy-slide tunnel leading to a water lair in the back.
Oh, and he finds
Neil. Or what’s left of him. Which is like his top third.
Despite the fact that this is obviously a crocodile lair and not at all a good place to go snooping around, Travel Writer Pete slides in, and when he finally finds Kevin, he also stumbles on Kate. A pretty well munchified Kate, but not a dead Kate—either girls don’t particular taste good or Croczilla is interested in a little… interspecies negotiation, if you get my meaning. *wink-wink*
At this point, Kevin Dog inexplicably takes off again and, based on the pained squeak that follows, finally meets the end I pretty much expected since he first appeared.
Bastards. Why ya gotta kill the puppers?
Unfazed by the dog’s death, Travel Writer Pete hefts half-dead Kate in his arms and starts hauling her out of there just as Crocamandius—who is freaking MASSIVE—makes his galumphing, belly-sliding entrance. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the best part of the movie. Not because we finally get to see the whole crocodile—okay, partly it’s that—but because Crogmago enters with a disarticulated leg dangling from his jaws.
Yeah, you heard me. Total Jurassic Park moment. And I wasn’t kidding—this really is the best part of an otherwise pokey as Slow Poke Rodriguez movie.
So, Croc eats his spare leg, hauls himself to the center of his lair and promptly falls asleep. Now Travel Writer Pete and Kate are stuck—croc to one side, escape path to the other, a stretch of water they need to cross to get to said escape path lying in between. As you can imagine, that doesn’t go so well, and Travel Writer Pete ends up ditching unconscious Kate to try and fight the croc off with a big stick.
That’s right, a big stick. Granted, he’s American, but what kind of idiot thinks they can beat a croc with a stick. Oh, right. An American.
So, after whacking
away with his pole, Travel Writer Pete gets trapped in a tight corner, loses
most of a hand, and stabs McCroccins in the eyeball with a bone shard or
something. Kate, meanwhile, is just lying there—still unconscious and ready to
be eaten. Unfortunately for Crocky, she’s also
tucked up in a hard to get at spot, forcing him to smash and bash his way in
after her to get some long-denied luvvin’.
To distract Sir Crocs-A-Lot (and save that sweet, sweet luvvin’ for himself), Travel Writer Pete makes a whole lotta noise and sets himself and his big pokin’ stick up as bait for Crocky, who very obligingly skewers himself on the pointy and dies with a tiny-baby wheezy squeak. Once the thrashing stops, Travel Writer Pete crawls free and collects Kate, trucks her out of the swamp and back to where they started to find two helicopters and a bunch of rescue crew looking after the other survivors who were located… how exactly? Given the crap radios I have a hard time believing the Minnow came equipped with an emergency beacon, and they were well off course so how would anyone know to—
Ya know what?
Forget it. I don’t even care. They airlift Kate and fly away, and thankfully
This… was not a good movie. This… was not a good bad movie. As croc flicks go, I’ve seen several that are better, as indie flicks go, I’ve walked away much more impressed. As Australian flicks go, I’d recommend The Rover with Guy Pearce—there’s no crocodiles and no water but that’s how you use the landscape to enhance the story and viewing experience of a flick.
Other news of final thoughts, I’m still confused by this movie’s mixed message. On the one hand, it’s all, ‘Come to Australia! We’ve got beautiful scenery!’ and on the other it’s, ‘Come to Australia! You’ll end up horribly dead!’
- Bad Moving Rating: 1.5 (out of 5)
- Regular Movie Rating: 2 (out of 5)… For the scenery. Not the plot, not the pacing, but damn I kinda wanna go there despite the, ya know, Cruncha-Muncha Crocodiles…
According to IMDB and Wikipedia (the twin fonts of all useless and potentially suspect knowledge), the film was inspired by the true story of Sweetheart-a giant 5.1 meter saltwater crocodile responsible for a series of attacks between 1974-1979, Sweetheart attacked outboard motors, dinghies, and fishing boats but never actually killed anyone. In July 1979, Sweetheart was finally caught alive by a team from the Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission but drowned while being transported when he became tangled with a log, his mounted body is on permanent display at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.
J.B. Rockwell is a New Englander, which is important to note because it means she’s (a) hard headed, (b) frequently stubborn, and (c) prone to fits of snarky sarcasticness. As a kid she subsisted on a steady diet of fairy tales, folklore, mythology augmented by generous helpings of science fiction and fantasy. As a quasi-adult she dreamed of being the next Indiana Jones and even pursued (and earned!) a degree in anthropology. Unfortunately, those dreams of being an archaeologist didn’t quite work out. Through a series of twists and turns (involving cats, a marriage, and a SCUBA certification, amongst other things) she ended up working in IT for the U.S. Coast Guard and now writes the types of books she used to read. Not a bad ending for an Indiana Jones wannabe..
J.B. also writes a once monthly Bad Movie Mayhem review for Sci-Fi & Scary.
I thought this was okay once I quit asking myself questions. LOL The scenery was gorgeous.
Yeah. The must’ve borrowed a lot of stock footage from the tourism department. 🙂
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