DVD Review: Rogue River

PrintE-mail Written by Chris Holt

Review: Perfect Sense (18) / Directed by: Jourdan McClure / Written by: Kevin Huskin, Ryan Finnerty / Starring: Michelle Page, Art Alexakis, Chris Coy, Michael Cudlitz / Release date: Out now

A woman scantily clad in a white night dress, covered in blood and bruises, cries on the shore of a calm river. The woman holds a magnum 45 in her hand which she holds to her temple and blam! So begins Rogue River and experienced horror fans will realise we are in the dark heart of America again. It’s a wonder anybody ever goes anywhere anymore in Middle America, recent movies will have you believe there is a rapist or mad Christian behind every picket fence. Whilst it reverts to the old staple of sexual humiliation sadly prevalent in a lot of horror currently, Rogue River is so slight that it barely registers during its 78 minute run time.

The film starts with our heroine Mara (Michelle Page) bidding her brother farewell and travelling into the countryside to scatter her father’s ashes at the titular calm river. At the river she meets a friendly passer-by, Jon (Bill Moseley) who shares with her some observations about loss and death. Mara then finds her car has been towed and Jon kindly offers her a lift into town, they stop off at Jon’s house and meet his wife Lea (Lucinda Jenney) who is also nice enough and convinces Mara to stay for dinner. Unable to get in touch with the local Sheriff, Mara eventually ends up staying the night after a nasty accident involving her hand and some broken crockery. It’s clear that something is wrong with these two and as the night goes on they exhibit increasingly bizarre behaviour and a bloodied and desperate man shows up at the patio doors. Turns out that due to Lea being stricken by cancer and Jon feeling devastated by this news the two of them are desperately trying to start a family and have been kidnapping unwilling victims who are abused and tortured should they not play along. When the Sheriff and Mara’s brother turn up looking for her, things start to spiral out of control into a cycle of violence and humiliation.

The plot could be the plot for any number of straight to DVD horrors of the last few years. Either I have become majorly desensitized to what I have watched in the horror genre recently or this film seems majorly tame. Whilst it could and often threatens to go full tilt into hardcore horror the film never quite gets there. The disturbing elements of this film revolve around character and performance which luckily are brilliant from all three leads. The film has some wonderful weirdness in the first half which really captures that feeling you get when you go for dinner round a weird couples house that you don’t really want to go to, you know the feeling, it’s the one that Come Dine with Me captures every so often. It’s also well paced with revelations coming gradually and without a sense of trying to rush to the next scare. There is a sense of creeping dread just under the surface as you watch these characters act strangely and are aware that at any moment they could snap. The husband and wife are played brilliantly by genre veteran Bill Moseley (The Devils Rejects) and Lucinda Jenney and it really feels as if you are watching a couple who have been together for years through thick and thin and have become horrifically jaded through plain old bad luck.

All of this could contribute towards a great gothic piece of Americana but truthfully apart from being richly photographed by Brian Hamm, Rogue River doesn’t have a whole lot else going on. By the last 30 minutes the creeping dread and careful plotting have given way to lurid incest plotlines and shock tactics. It’s like the creators had this great story off the beaten path and decided to bottle it and go the same route as so many other films so that they could at least guarantee distribution. I’m no idiot, I know what sells in this day and age but for a brief moment here I thought I was going to get the next The People under the Stairs by way of Twin Peaks and because Rogue River isn’t that film, it’s ultimately a disappointment.

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