Admittedly the genre of mumblecore isn’t one that crops up on the well written webpages of UKHorrorScene.com very often, but in the case of Black Rock its genesis lies in the husband and wife team of Mark Duplass and Katie Aselton who announced themselves into the film fraternity with the excellent movie The Puffy Chair back in 2005. Mark has since gone on to helm such acclaimed pictures as Jeff, Who Lives At Home and Cyrus, while Katie took her debut flick The Freebie to Sundance, while this – her sophomore effort sees her act, direct and set up the story for her husband who’s on screenplay duty.
Abby (Aselton), Lou (Lake Bell) and Sarah (Kate Bosworth) are heading to the island of Black Rock. Childhood friends, they’ve decided to reacquaint themselves with one another after a few years after a few years punctuated with disagreements. As they meet up, the reluctance of Lou and Abby to take part is obvious, but with Sarah desperate to get them all together she even drops the fake bombshell that she has terminal cancer in a bid to break the ice. White lie exposed, the threesome agree to forget their differences and they hop on a boat over to the secluded destination.
Once there, Sarah breaks it to the others that they’re going old school and hands them all compasses to guide them across the island to their destination. The others reluctantly agree, but after a few wrong turns the walk becomes quite arduous and in the frustration of it all old wounds open back up again and arguments commence. Fortunately for Sarah, the other two manage to patch things back up but while they’re doing so they are spooked by three hunters. Lou recognises one as a former acquaintance, and with the hunters having failed to catch anything, they do the honourable thing and invite them to share their food that evening where they discover they’ve only just been discharged from the army.
With Abby getting a little drunk, she sneaks out of camp for a midnight rendezvous with Henry (Will Bouvier) one of the hunters. However, in the midst of their dalliance Henry gets a little too rough and when Abby pushes him away he resists leading to Abby dealing him a blow that proves to have fatal consequences. When the other two hunters discover what’s happened, they vow to take their revenge for their friends’ death.
Where Black Rock succeeds is in its desire for credibility. In the three lead roles we have a collection of respected thirty-something actresses as opposed to barbie-doll teenies running about in their pants. This gives the movie an air of reality in what is after all a very unlikely situation. Secondly, the time and patience spent in establishing these characters benefits the film greatly as is sets up an affinity with them and also aids in establishing the various layers of conflict.
There’s a contentious scene towards the end of the movie where two of the actresses find themselves having to take off their wet clothes to avoid hypothermia. They spend a period of time naked and getting warm through each other’s body heat. Some might say it’s a typically exploitative moment to throw in some eye candy, but under Aselton’s direction it turns into a powerful scene of two women previously at loggerheads stripped bare and forced to confront their longstanding grievances.
On the downside, it would be wrong not to question the plausibility of two armed servicemen not being able to track down and kill a couple of unarmed females. The final scene of confrontation may also prompt a gentle rolling of the eyes, as well as the inclusion of some very generic survival-by-numbers hunter / prey dialogue. Minor gripes aside though, I thought this was a brisk, lean thriller that made the bold move of having characters you care about fighting to get on with each other in a perilous situation.
6.5 out of 10