Rogue River (DVD)

Still waters run deep.

So Rogue River is rated R for bloody violence, torture, and “aberrant sexuality.” Yeah, this’ll be a fun time at the movies.

Mara (Michelle Page) drives out to the middle of nowhere to spread her father’s ashes in Rogue River. When her car is towed by the local sheriff, she gets a helping hand from a local man (Bill Mosely, Repo! The Genetic Opera) and his wife (Lucinda Jones), spending the night at their cabin. It’s not long, however, before Mara discovers that this kind couple is not so kind, with sinister plans for their houseguest.

Another day, another low-budget horror offering from Lionsgate. This one falls somewhere between the “survival horror” subgenre and the “torture” subgenre. Our heroine is trapped in a house with two psychos. Will she manage to escape, or will she succumb to their sadistic schemes? To the film’s credit, the scares are mostly psychological, rather than graphic. There’s some gore, but the filmmakers are more interested in freaking you out with the idea of what you’re seeing, rather than merely aiming the camera at bucketfuls of blood and guts.

It’s unfortunate, then, that a lot of the scary stuff has no context. It’s as if the creators sat around trying to come up with the freakiest stuff they could think of, regardless of whether it makes narrative sense. The psycho is shown carrying around a teddy bear at one point? Sure, why not? A woman wakes up to find a naked man in her room, telling her he likes watching her sleep? Yeah, that’ll give people nightmares. The female villain pees herself at one point? That’ll keep the audience off guard, so do that. And so on. The off-kilter, pervy nature of the killers is creepy, but it’s creepy without context. They’re not characters so much as they are a collection of excuses for jump scares. It’s true that their motivation, such as it is, is spelled out a little more in the later half of the film, but by then it’s too late.

Rogue River also has a lot of those dumb things people do only in horror movies. The killers keep leaving Mara alone, so she tries to escape, only to have them catch her at the last moment. I can see this happening once, but over and over? Also, it’s a lot later in the movie than you’d think before she finally decides to try a telephone. Throughout the first act, I kept asking, “why doesn’t she go for the phone?” A third act plot twist is the movie’s biggest and most horrifying shock, but it’s also a hell of a coincidence when you stop to think about it.

Michelle Page makes the most of the victim/hero role, portraying equal parts fear and a steely determination to escape. Bill Mosely hams it up big time, which we’ve come to expect from him. Director Jourdan McClure keeps everything moving along at a quick pace, and shows a great sense of style in some scenes.

The audio and video on the DVD, are quite good, making the most of the bright colors in the outdoor scenes. On the jokey cast and crew commentary, everyone gives their own movie the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment. There are also two feaurettes and a trailer gallery.

Rogue River has some truly great “nightmare fuel” moments, but a handful of great scenes do not a satisfying movie make.

The Verdict

Toss it back in the river.

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