Saturday, 19 April 2014

Rogue River (2012) Jordan McClure

I don't know exactly when the vogue for shocker flash forward openings commenced or whether it has roots in any genre favourites, but I do know it's one of my least favourite ways to open a horror. Unless the narrative is cyclical or some kind of nested puzzle dealie I just find them a lazy means of trying to hook the audience and am immediately put on the offensive as a viewer rather than relaxing for a good time. So it is with Rogue River, a pretty basic backwoods torment venture of frustrating potential. Young Mara heads down to the river where her deceased pa used to take her to fish so she can scatter his ashes, but first a pleasant enough local named Jon tells her she can't scatter the ashes without a permit, then when she goes back to her car she finds it towed. So the aforementioned pleasant local offers her a trip into town, that is after they stop off so he can tell his wife Lea. Of course his wife invites young Mara for dinner and board, and, well, you can take a pretty good punt on what's to come... 

The big problem here is a fundamental miscalculation of how to make the story work. The basic structure is entirely predictable, with the interest and lone minor deviation from standard form lying in Jon and Lea, played rather nicely by Bill Moseley and Lucinda Jenney. An awkward, eccentric and early on winningly understated pair with a distinct undercurrent of sadness, given more space to breathe they might have made a memorable film even within predictable confines. But instead largely redundant and ineffectual scare tactics clutter what should be the suspense building first half, even sapping the couple of scenes that really work. Then when things really kick off the nastiness is tamely presented and ineptly abandoned while the forays into twisted territory are laughably abrupt and ill formed. As a whole it comes across as a forceful effort to conjure escalating twisted and shocking tension, but without actually thinking any of it through so that despite some bright spots none of it really works. Still, the film is swift and easy, never dull viewing, occasionally nicely shot and Michelle Page puts in a fairly effective harrowed turn as the central Mara. So for fanatics of this kind of stuff like me it isn't too painful, but I still wouldn't recommend it for anything more than a base level slow evening time filler. 

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