Jourdan McClure's Rogue River may not be the world's most original, genre-bending or exciting film, but for a simple genre film it has all the perks it needs to make for a convincing 80 minutes of horror entertainment. The film popped up out of nowhere and chances are it will go by completely unnoticed for most of you people, but if you find yourself in a spot where you can get a chance to watch it, make sure you don't miss out on this one.
Rogue River ties in with other genre films like Mum And Dad where an unsuspecting stranger is held hostage by a seemingly normal family. Of course things aren't as they appear to be and before you know it you're dealing with a bunch of degenerate weirdos who lost all sense of acceptable social behavior. As with all pure genre films though, it's not so much about the concept or story as it is about the execution. And that's exactly where Rogue River shines.
It's hard to still shock people these days, so McClure tries a more subtle approach here. The events themselves aren't quite as appalling as may be seen in other notable horror films, but the atmosphere of Rogue River is a lot less pushy and more down-to-earth, which increases the impact of certain scenes considerably. There is for example one scene that links back directly to Srpski Film (a popular twist these days) which works a lot better here even if the actual scene is not half as shocking (objectively speaking).
Visually McClure holds a tight grip on Rogue River. He shoots with a respectable level of grit and with a great eye for lighting. It gives the film a somewhat barren and cold feel while still allowing for a pleasantly finished look. Add some interesting camera angles and take into account the strong use of color and you have a film that's quite enjoyable to look at, without becoming overly stylistic.
The score is rather typical (indie) horror fare, which soft piano melodies, lingering ambient soundscapes and some unnerving build-ups to increase the tension. It's hardly memorable and it does little beyond what it is intended for: creating a good and tense atmopshere that lays a strong foundation for the rest of the film. But for a film like Rogue River this actually suffices.
The acting is quite alright too, Michelle Page does a commendable job as lead actress and carries her role with ease, but it's Bill Moseley and Lucinda Jenney that really add some shine to their performances. They form an awesome couple and succeed marvelously in portraying their seemingly sweet but ill-minded characters. Part of why the films works so well is because of their effort.
Rogue River will offer you very little surprises, the obligatory twists here are practically genre cliché and are handled as such. But the scenes where the sick and twisted mind of the old couple surface really pull this film to another level, harboring some lovingly creepy and genuinely cringe-worthy moments. There are quite a few painful moments worth checking out for the fans and in the end that's what these film are all about. It's not high entertainment but still it manages some impressive emotional responses from its audience.
It's difficult to whole-heartedly recommend this film. As with most pure genre films, the devil is in the details and as far as appreciation goes this is all very personal. If you don't dig the subtle build-ups and the gritty yet believable atmosphere just doesn't quite work for you then this is without a doubt a very tedious, derivative and sub-par experience. Still, Rogue River is definitely worth checking out if you have a taste for the moderately sick and twisted, because all the potential is here.