Pete McKell (Michael Vartan) is an American travel writer getting a taste of the sights and sounds of Outback Australia - and also getting the taste of a fly in his coffee thanks to the barman overhearing him say his service is terrible when he's on his phone. After disposing of the coffee, Pete makes his way to the dock of the local river tours and joins his fellow tourists on the boat captained by Kate Ryan (Radha Mitchell) who will be guiding them on their pleasure ride. It promises to be a picturesque journey, but what they don't bank on is the wildlife; Kate gives them the lecture on crocodiles, not knowing how relevant this will be...
If there's one thing that Rogue did right it was get permission to shoot in some of the most beautiful scenery Australia had to offer, with the photography of Will Gibson, whose final film this sadly was, doing his nation proud. There's something exquisitely mysterious about the Outback that films made there apparently effortlessly capture, and this film was no exception, taking in scenery that no other movie had ever viewed before. So that was a plus, but what of the rest of it? As a follow up to writer and director Greg Mclean's worldwide hit Wolf Creek one might expect this offering to be similarly brutal, yet is was a disappointment financially, suggesting it did not go far enough.
The main issue that emerges from Rogue is that it's simply too generic, with its flown-in American guest star and unremarkable suspense sequences. It could be any TV premiere horror movie were it not for the sheen of its photography with its monster of the week villain who does not appear until the film is around a third over. That initial half hour is intended to build up tension, with a couple of yahoos zooming up in their speedboat (one of them played by Sam Worthington) and a minor standoff with the passengers which ends when Worthington's Neil falls in the water. Mclean does well to sketch in the tourists' personalities here, but they all pretty much act as you would expect when the croc strikes.
What happens is that on the way back from their sightseeing trip they notice a distress flare on one part of the river which branches off into an area where they are not usually allowed to take tourists: well, their alarm bells should have started ringing right there. But they don't, and amid some grumbling Kate decides to head off in the direction of the flare to see if they can help, leaving them eventually stranded when the boat is hit by an unseen creature that might just be the giant monster of the title. OK, it definitely is the giant monster of the title, and now it has the passengers in its territory, it's not going to let them go without a fight - this is a big crocodile, and it takes a lot to feed it.
It might appear we're in serial murder territory too, as the reptile picks off the hapless humans one by one, but really this was a throwback to those revenge of nature movies that the seventies produced; after all, Australia came up with quite a few of them too. The message is that by being so trivial about the landscape as to want to go sightseeing there without proving their worth by truly engaging with it, the tourists are being punished, and Mclean generates some mileage out of the way the big meat eater is far more powerful than any of them, as a representative of the country which plans to overwhelm them. While it's playing out this scenario there's little the film does that's egregiously wrong, it's simply that it presents little that is new apart from an excellent animatronic creature, and it's the kind of film you're likely to forget you've ever seen a few months down the line. Music by Frank Tetaz (listen for the apt choice of song over the end credits).
[Icon's Region 2 DVD has a documentary, director commentary, a making of and more as extras.]