Disturbed: 'Rogue River'

A woman dumping the ashes of a loved one falls prey to an imbalanced couple.

Rogue River

Director: Jourdan McClure
Cast: Michelle Page, Bill Moseley, Lucinda Jenney
Run Time: 81 Minutes
Rated: R
Distributer: Lionsgate
Release date: 2012-06-05

While not a straight-forward horror title, Rogue River is an exercise in psychological terror. There are plenty of scenes to cause a dose of frisson in viewers from time-to-time, but the reality is that it manages to miss the mark of a decent release by a basic flaw; the antagonist pair fails to provide a plausible motivation for their actions. I’ll accept nefarious actions if either they come from a valid source, or they impact the main characters in a reasonable fashion. Evil, for the sake of evil, however just feels gratuitous.

For fear of sounding like a pedantic script-writing professor, let me say that simple malevolence is permisable much of the time. When you have a garden variety homicidal maniac, for example, that becomes an acceptable enterprise because the narrative will be carried by the cast, and their character development. However, halfway through Rogue River our protagonist is essentially rendered mute, so the audience is in a position to watch her endure a series of trials at the hands of her aggressors, and the prevailing question which comes to mind for the balance of the film is “Why?” That question largely goes unanswered.

Director Jourdan McClure first gives us a cold opening with Mara (played by Michelle Page) wrapped in a sheet, standing by a river, crying and bringing a gun up to her head. We then get a flashback to her leaving her home, bidding her brother goodbye as she is to embark on a trip where she will spread her father’s ashes into a river where he used to enjoy the outdoors.

Once on the bank, however, she is stopped when a stranger named Jon happens by. Played by horror veteran Bill Mosely, Jon carries implied doom. This is a positive, however, the narrative soon squanders the potential. Jon tells Mara she shouldn’t dump the ashes since she is in need of a permit. This, despite the fact she is standing in the midst of a forest. Doubtful any governmental desk jockey would know about the actions taking place deep in the taiga, yet she yields to Jon’s admonition, anyway.

Next they discover her car has been towed by the sheriff -- though not Jon’s car, which was parked in the same spot. Still, this serves as no warning flag for Mara. She takes a ride to Jon’s home to phone someone, where she meets his meek wife Lea (Lucinda Jenny), then accepts a dinner invite and lodging. Things begin to unravel from there.

After dinner a broken plate causes a deep cut in Mara’s hand, but rather than a hospital trip Lea forcibly mends the gash with a large fish hook. Most people would be compelled to scoot on down the road after such an incident, but Mara would rather bed down for the night.

Immediately Mara, and the audience, endures a lengthy bout of suffering; Jon spends a stretch of the film wearing nothing but his underwear. We now witness as Mara endures a series of physical and mental atrocities which, while not graphically displayed, are graphic in nature. But as gripping as some of the scenes can be, the film is undermined by a series of implausibilities and cliché’s. Mara cannot call for help because of a lack of cell phone reception (of course) and other coincidences keep tripping her up, as well.

There's one character that meets his demise through ironic action, even though more conventional and effective tools are shown visibly to be within reach. Ultimately, we get a climax that is both convenient and unsatisfying. The largest problem is we never learn why, and since Mara remains mostly a cipher she serves as little more than a target for the abuse, so the lack of motivation for the actions taken against her undermines any gripping feeling delivered by the ending.

The DVD features a commentary track with cast and crew along with a pair of behind the scenes features. “Rogue River: the Extra Bits” involves interviews with the producers, the surprise being we learn the primary producer is Zachary Ty Brian – Brad Taylor from Home Improvement fame. With “Rogue River: A Look Into the Madness” we are served extended interviews with everyone affiliated with the production, from the cast, writers, and even makeup technicians. This feature actually exposes the flaw of the film itself; they discuss at length the madness displayed on screen and some of the reasons these characters engage in such depraved behavior. This ends up becoming more revealing than what is actually displayed in the film.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

Here comes another Kompakt Pop Ambient collection to make life just a little more bearable.

Another (extremely rough) year has come and gone, which means that the German electronic music label Kompakt gets to roll out their annual Total and Pop Ambient compilations for us all.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.