31st May2013

‘Black Rock’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Lake Bell, Kate Bosworth, Katie Aselton, Will Bouvier, Jay Paulson, Anslem Richardson | Written by Mark Duplass | Directed by Katie Aselton

black-rock

Black Rock tells the story of three girls Abby (Aselton), Lou (Bell), and Sarah (Bosworth) who, in an attempt to mend broken fences between them, venture out to a deserted island where they run into three war veterans who are on the island to hunt deer, having recently been dishonorably discharged from the army. Recognising one of the men, Lou invites them to join them at their beach campsite for a few beers. However things take a nasty turn when one of the men, Henry, tries to rape and attack Abby, who accidentally kills him in self-defense. Already slightly unstable, the death of their friend sees the other two vets snap and they attack and tie up the three girls, who eventually managing to escape, have no option but to play a cat and mouse game with the vets in the hopes of getting off the island and staying alive.

Another take on the classic “Most Dangerous Game” story, by way of Deliverance, Black Rock comes from writer/director Kate Aselton, who also happens to be the wife of Mark Duplass, one of the leading lights in the mumblecore movement. Duplass also wrote the film from Aselton’s story, and whether it’s his influence on the script or on his influence on his wife’s direction, Black Rock features a lot of the familiar tropes of mumblecore – small-scale storytelling, indie aesthetics and improvised scripts – and applies them to the horror genre.

I’ve seen a myriad of rape/revenge tales over the years, many of which were written and directed by men and were filled with misogyny and focused on brutality (that’s not to say there isn’t a place for these types of films). Yet it seems, and it seems cliched to say this, but judging by Black Rock it takes a woman to make a film which leaves all those genre cliches behind and present an almost genderless tale that, whilst is still mean-spirited and adheres to the cliches of the sub-genre, doesn’t question the notion that women can be as tough as men, treating it’s cast of characters as equals.

Despite its mumblecore leanings Aselton still knows she is making a horror film and Black Rock follows the conventions of the genre pretty well, building in to a solid and brutal conclusion that, thanks to the time spent building the relationships between the three women – something which can be wholeheartedly attributed to Duplass’ script – really has you feeling for the female protagonists in a way that is usually missing from many other horror flicks, especially in this type of story.

I will admit that going into the film I wasn’t really expecting much from a “mumblecore horror” film, yet I found myself surprised by how much I enjoyed Black Rock. Aselton obviously has an eye for horror and mixing genre tropes brings a new sense of realism to a much-maligned story, asking more of an emotional investment from its audience than many similar movies.

Black Rock is released in the UK on June 21st.

***** 5/5

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