My Favorite Movies – Black Rock (2013)

14 Dec

By Tanner Smith

Three girlfriends go camping on an isolated island and guess what–they’re not alone. That’s the setup for the tense and well-executed thriller “Black Rock,” which mixes both mumblecore and bare-bones genre filmmaking flawlessly. Who cares how limited resources were for making this film when there’s such skill and craftsmanship, not to mention an appealing cast of protagonists to root for, involved?

Directed by and co-starring Katie Aselton and written by her husband Mark Duplass, “Black Rock” features three women (Aselton, Kate Bosworth, and Lake Bell) who decide to rekindle their childhood friendship by escaping to their favorite place from growing up: an island off the coast of Maine. Two of the friends (Aselton’s Abby and Bell’s Lou) aren’t on good terms due to a betrayal from long ago, but the third and ringleader of the trio (Bosworth’s Sarah) manages to keep the peace (for a little while, at least).

Right off the bat, all three actresses are extremely believable in their roles. I buy them as friends, their dialogue rings true, they share unique chemistry, and they’re a cut above your standard thriller movie characters. (Aselton, in particular maybe because she also directed the film, stands out with real charm as a comic actress early in the proceedings–but her emotional moments late in the film are effective too.)

Not long after they’ve set up camp, they find they’re not alone, as three hunters (Will Bouvier, Jay Paulson, and Anslem Richardson) happen upon them. They recognize one of them from way back when, so they figure they’ll spend some time together, catch up, get a little drunk, and have a good time…

It doesn’t turn out that way.

Without giving away specifics as to how this came to be, all three women are now threatened with death by these gunmen (who, by the way, were in the military and have served numerous tours overseas), who plan to hunt them through the woods and kill them. A bit of “Deliverance” mixed with a bit of “The River Wild” mixed with a chilling and tight script from Duplass help make the back half of “Black Rock” effectively thrilling. What also helps is that by then, I’ve come to know the key characters and root for them to take some control of the horrific and grisly situation. Thankfully Sarah, Lou, and Abby aren’t completely helpless nor are they invincible superheroines–they feel like real people thrust into a world they didn’t make.

But when the chips are down, they do prove to be worthy badasses. An interesting theme “Black Rock” keeps is one of the power of friendship, as cheesy as that sounds. Each group, of the heroes and the villains, is loyal to each other and that’s what motivates their actions.

Oh, and while keeping this spoiler-free, there is a scene in which Lou and Abby strip naked in the woods at night–but this scene isn’t gratuitous; there’s a reason for why they’re doing this.

You know how they say don’t go camping in a horror movie? Well, how can you know you’re in a horror movie unless something terrifying happens while you’re camping? That’s essentially the mindset of the movie.

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