All photos by Darryl Mason, Northern Territory, August 2006
The banks of the East Alligator river, in the Northern Territory, were feet thick with a quicksand-like mud when we visited the area last year. The mud is a trap in itself. Once you step into it, it could suck you into your knees and then h0ld you in place until this 10 foot long monster is ready for a feed. Never, ever, get out of the boat.
The director of Wolf Creek, Greg McLean, is set to scare ten kinds of hell out of tourists and backpackers all over again with his new film, Rogue.
But instead of a shockingly cruel serial killer roaming the outback picking up unwary touros, this time McLean deposits his human cast deep inside the ancient, unforgiving realm of Australian crocodile country.
It's been a long time between feasts for Australian horror movies fans wanting to dine out on a homegrown monster movie, but this year we're going to get at least two, and both deal with killer crocodiles hunting down humans.
The second crocodile thriller is called Black Water, and while Rogue is a $30 million top-cast studio effort, with more than $6 million of the budget devoted to special effects, Black Water barely cost $1 million, and its director promises he's followed the Stephen King edict : the less you show of the monster, the scarier it can be.
Even without his front legs (bitten off during fighting), this crocodile has thrived in a muddy river in the Northern Territory for decades.
As this excellent feature from 'The Australian' explains, Rogue and Black Water are polar opposites when it comes to budgets, special effects, locations and cast, but both promise plenty of chills when they hit cinema screens in the second half of 2007.
Black Water was filmed amongst the mangroves of Georges River, south of Sydney, while Rogue goes deep into crocodile territory in the Katherine Gorge, in the Northern Territory.
The Wolf Creek director said Rogue will be "an old-fashioned horror film". He likens his film to classics like Jaws and Alien, which were monster movies, but were more focused on the characters thrust into the monster's path than just scaring the audience with gore and shocks.
Rogue will show what happens to a boatload of tourists who wind up marooned on a river island as the tide rises and the crocodiles come for a feed.
Black Water, meanwhile, will see a bunch of mates on a fishing trip getting chased up a tree by crocodiles, where they are then stuck for most of the rest of the movie - except for those devoured by crocodiles, who can actually climb trees if they really want to get you.
Can't wait. Don't know about the swamps of the Georges River, but Katherine Gorge and Kakadu (where Rogue was also reportedly filmed) are stunningly beautiful, but also stunningly harsh environments where humans are the least likely to survive when it comes to squaring off against the crocodiles.
If two Australian crocodile horror-thrillers can do some decent box office business, we might get to see more Australian horror movies filling Australian screens. It will be about time.
Young Australians don't spend tens of millions of dollars a year at the cinema watching the endless slew of terribly shit American horror movies because they like crap. They like horror movies. If Australian producers and directors don't make them, they'll watch dirge like Hostel and The Hitcher and Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes for want of a thrill and a scare.
Maybe we'll see a new genre of Australian horror movies based around our most fearsome and deadly wildlife.
I look forward to a horror movie about Japanese tourists who are accidentally locked inside a koala park and then have to survive the night while being hunted by eucalyptus-crazed koalas in full drop-bear fury.
For wannabe horror movie makers, some good advice from Wolf Creek/Rogue director McLean in The Australian story, (excerpts) :
"There has to be an idea of genius in there to warrant people seeing a low-budget film instead of a $30 million or $40million movie," says Mclean, who made Wolf Creek for $1.4 million and was rewarded when the Weinsteins spent $7.5million on distribution rights for several countries.
"We had a one-in-a-million shot of being noticed. It had to be so much better structured, acted, and more realistic than all the other horror films out there," he says. "It was designed to reverse audience expectations and generate a feeling of freshness to make them think they had not seen anything like this before.
"Low-budget filmmaking should be a place where people experiment and break rules, not make low-budget versions of boring movies ... It has to be something people have never seen before or something executed so brilliantly and with such precision that it's worth seeing."
Seconds before he slammed his huge head into the tinnie, this six foot long crocodile near Katherine Gorge appeared to be smiling at us.