Rogue River (2012)

You can imagine the first script meeting for Rogue River. Kevin Haskin and Ryan Finnerty get together and ask a very important question – “What is, like, totally gross and horrible and sickening?” Then they wrote it. Then Jourdan McClure directed it. Then I watched it. Bastards.

Whilst The Woman – another recent “kidnapped woman” horror – is a compelling, sadistic character study that claws at the depths of the human psyche, Rogue River is just sadistic, and incredibly poor because of it.

Mara (Michelle Page) returns to the River Rogue in Oregon in order to scatter her father’s ashes. As she’s about to pour daddy’s charred remains into the water, a man appears and informs her that “littering remains is frowned upon in these parts”, telling her she needs a permit to scatter ashes.

Oddly unfazed by this stranger, Mara accompanies him back to her car… which is missing! Oh no! So – insanely – she accepts a ride from this random stranger bloke. Is this a good idea? Of course not. It never is.

The stranger is Jon (Bill Moseley) and he invites Mara to stay the night with him and his sister Lea (Lucinda Jenney). Naturally the couple are completely nuts and – when Mara accidentally slices her hand on a plate – they hold her down and sew the wound up themselves! No doctors, no leaving, very odd behaviour.

There are some greatly disturbing moments in the first half of Rogue River – Mara wakes up to find Jon at the base of her bed, naked, holding her father’s ashes – but these creeping moments of horror are all packed into the beginning, where we witness a decent portrayal of the uncomfortably insane. Sadly, once the violence begins it spirals into cliché and aggravating predictability.

It is written to shock – “Let’s get you fucked” – and the creators pull out every horrible idea they can think of. Kidnap, torture, sexual assault, incest, boiling water down the throat, gaffa tape, leg bonds, guns, blood, violence and a great place to stuff your dad’s ashes. Yawn. See it done better a hundred times (not in real life. Honest guv’nor).

Rogue River is simply very poorly constructed, with far too many questions left dangling. Why didn’t Mara’s brother help her scatter their dad’s ashes? Why did the police not investigate the missing policeman? These are all important plot points and it seems Haskin and Finnerty ignored reality in favour of “film logic”, but it simply doesn’t work here.

Despite the story being awful, there are some genuinely good things about Rogue River. Jourdan McClure does a decent job of directing what is essentially torture porn, knocking out some superb imagery and creating tension where the script clearly had none.

Our actors also do a decent job with inflexible roles. They’re two-dimensional and awkwardly dull in places. Horror veteran Bill Moseley (Army of Darkness, Carnivàle, anything made by Rob Zombie) and Lucinda Jenney are disturbing throughout, always close to mania, and Michelle Page does a fine job as the beleaguered, beaten and shattered Mara. Sadly their talents are wasted here and they never peak into excellence.

Rogue River is pointlessly horrible and completely ineffective as a horror movie. Yes, it gradually gets more grotesque and twisted, but it’s strangely dull in its execution. This is the bastard child of I Spit on Your Grave and Mum & Dad, but without the character or purpose. There are hundreds of films like this, some worse, many better. Rogue River does not require your attention.

Rating: ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

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