Sunday, October 6, 2013

Black Rock (2013)(Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

Sarah (Kate Bosworth) devises a plan to reunite her two best friends, Abby (Katie Aselton) and Lou (Lake Bell). Abby is still holding a grudge against Lou for a one-night stand with an old ex-boyfriend, so Sarah tricks both of them into going on a vacation together. With one last desperate attempt to reunite the trio, Sarah leads a camping trip to a remote island off the coast of Maine. Abby, reluctant to go at first, decides to give Lou another chance after some prodding from Sarah.

Using nostalgia from past trips (Sarah, Abby, and Lou frequently visited the island as kids), Sarah relies on childhood memories as a source of healing for Lou and Abby, but Abby is still too bitter to let go of the grudge. One day, the trio crosses paths with three local deer hunters on the island: Henry (Will Bouvier), Derek (Jay Paulson), and Alex (Anslem Richardson) are ex-soldiers, who received a dishonorable discharge from the Army.

During a campfire gathering one night, a drunk (and married) Abby flirts with Henry, and eventually, Abby lures Henry into the woods alone. Abby, realizing her mistake before it’s too late, rejects Henry’s advances, but Henry tries to rape her. Abby is able to grab a rock and smash Henry in the head with it, and Abby kills Henry in self-defense. Furious over their friend’s death, Derek and Alex pummel Sarah, Abby, and Lou into unconsciousness. The next morning, Sarah, Abby, and Lou awake tied to each other, while Derek and Alex discuss a systematic execution, starting with Abby. But Abby is able to goad Derek into releasing her for a one on one fight, giving Sarah the opportunity to throw sand at Derek and Alex. The trio is able to escape, but the fight is far from over. With intentions to kill in honor of Henry, Derek and Alex hunt Sarah, Abby, and Lou, and with no communications to the outside world, the fight for survival becomes more difficult with each passing minute.

Funny, I thought Kate Bosworth would provide the best performance (going by the trailers) here. Instead, it’s a toss up between Aselton (who also directed the movie) and Bell. Not saying Bosworth was bad or anything like that, but she’s overshadowed by Aselton and Bell, and Sarah’s screen time is cut short (more on that later). Aselton’s Abby is an annoying whiner, who complains about everything at first, but as the movie progresses, Aselton’s Abby emerges as the leader in the pack. Aselton is fearless, as a more aggressive version of Abby, and she brought some believable intensity to this character. Bell is able to feed off of Aselton’s performance as Lou. Lou is the more fragile member of the trio, so Abby has to push the courage out of her. Still, Bell deserves a lot of credit for being able to pull off the transformation, as Lou breaks out of her shell to become a scrappy fighter, who won’t quit.

It’s too bad the male side of the cast can’t match the quality of the performances from Bell, Aselton, and Bosworth. Of course, it’s easy to have feelings of anger for their despicable actions (taunting and beating up defenseless women, attempted rape, etc.), BUT the actual performances from Bouvier, Paulson, and Richardson are mediocre at best. That’s one of my bigger pet peeves for Black Rock: when you compare the women to the men, the painfully obvious imbalance for the quality of performances is impossible to ignore.

I’ll admit, this one took me by surprise, but Black Rock isn’t without its problems. First of all, WHY would you trust three (well, two I guess, because Henry is the younger brother of an old high school friend, who knew Sarah, Lou, and Abby) creepy guys you don’t know on a remote island?

Also, there’s a scene at night, where Abby comes up with a plan to crawl across the beach,  so the trio can jump on the hunter’s boat for safety. Uncharacteristically, Sarah, completely freaks out, and as she makes more noise, Derek or Alex (it’s unclear, who took the shot) kill Sarah with one shot to the head. So Sarah is easily the most calm and level-headed member of the group, who plays the role of peacemaker between Abby and Lou, but she has a meltdown out of nowhere?

It’s a double-edge sword moment. Sarah’s death was genuinely shocking for me, because with Lou’s panicky behavior, I thought she would be the first one to go. But at the same time, it’s an incredibly stupid mistake from Sarah. You know two hunters fueled by revenge are watching your every move, and Sarah is supposed to be the sensible leader, so why would she make so much noise all of the sudden?

On top of that, after Sarah blows their cover, Lou and Abby still jump in the water to swim, but the water is too cold, so they have to get out, and hide on a different side of the island? Eh, they all knew the water was too cold to swim in beforehand, so in a lot of ways, the plan was doomed from the start. Unfortunately, Black Rock features a few stupid character decisions, and it’s a shame, because without them, Black Rock could’ve been a much better film.

Still, I really enjoyed Black Rock. The fight to the death between Abby, Lou, and Derek (Abby killed Alex on the beach after he injured his leg) is a real nail-biter, because as the fight unfolds, it’s not so easy to pick a clear cut winner. Black Rock is a bloody and gritty tale of survival, friendship, forgiveness, and with the help of some strong performances from Bell and Aselton (especially Aselton), you can really feel the heartbreak and misery from the main characters, as they‘re forced to endure and outsmart the hunters. Black Rock isn’t a groundbreaking entry in the survival horror genre, but at the same time, Black Rock isn’t some unbearable and frustrating abomination. Believe me, that’s saying a lot, when you compare Black Rock to other awful survival style horror films (i.e. Wolf Creek, A Perfect Getaway, The Divide,  and those shitty straight-to-video Wrong Turn films).

Rating: 8/10

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