What piqued my interest about Black Rock was the fact it’s supposedly a feminist horror/thriller directed by one of the leads in the film, Katie Aselton. Talented lady. (And talented hubby – he wrote the script.) While boldly emblazoned in every scene of the review copy are the words ‘Property of Elle Driver’ – Darryl Hannah’s blood-lust assassin in the fabulous Kill Bill trilogy.

Since there has been a dearth of female-focused films lately, and a raft of misogynist derivative tart-with-a-heart, ho-on-a-pole type excrement, I had little hope that this offering would meet even the least-stringent criteria of the infamous Bechdel Test, let alone be entertaining as well.

However, I was pleasantly surprised. Black Rock is far from perfect but it’s a nice slice of mumble gore and does have a retro-feminist vibe, even if it fails on that score on a few counts.

Childhood friends Sarah (Kate Bosworth), Lou (Lake Bell) and Abby (Aselton) reunite for a trip that Sarah has organised to a deserted island off the coast of Maine that they used to visit as kids. A lot of water’s passed under the bridge since then. Despite the fact Lou and Abby no longer speak since Lou slept with Abby’s boyfriend six years previously, Sarah manages to emotionally blackmail them into what she promises will be a Goonies-style adventure, complete with homemade maps. Which all sounds very girls-own and exciting, something I’d definitely be up for.

1374286504Yet before they can indulge in the requisite (naked) bitch-fight over cheating boys (don’t worry, guys, more on this later!), three dodgy-looking blokes brandishing guns emerge from the trees, provoking a ridiculously over-the-top high-pitched scream from Abby. Even more ridiculously, just because one of the gals recognises Henry (Will Bouvier) as a former junior school chum is enough to see Abby inviting them to party all night – even though they say they’re here to hunt and have just come back from shooting baddies in Iraq. Umm, isn’t that your cue to run for the hills, ladies? What kind of nutters introduce themselves by announcing they murder Bambi with large shotguns for kicks?

As the drink is free-flowing, things become a little Bacchanalian for Abby, who seems to still be suffering the slight of having her ex sleep with her friend and, like in most films, still blames her friend and not the ex and feels she has a point to prove. And as my fellow Movierambler Emily said: “The pivotal downfall of all women in thrillers [is] becoming too boozy and flirtatious in a rather vulnerable setting.”

When Abby lures Henry into the woods with her (drunken) feminine charms, he turns all Deliverance/I Spit On Your Grave/Straw Dogs  and the typical gender-centric cat-and-mouse game ensues. Which, just because it’s a bit stereotypical, is no bad thing. After all, stereotypes are there for a reason in films – because they’re popular.

Also stereotyped are the male leads – it doesn’t give too much away to say the ginger is the baddest of the baddies and the black guy is the only one with a hint of a conscience.

And returning to what I inferred earlier – the naked girlie slap-fest, yawnsome for most women and an utter travesty for a feminist, female-led effort. Why this scene is in there is apparently because they got their clothes wet and didn’t want to feel the cold. Umm, hello, but you are being chased by a gang of professional, psychotic killers – do you really think most women would then decide to waste time stripping, then running round stark naked while indulging in a bit of hysterical bitching and play fighting?! Can you imagine any right-thinking man doing the same in those circumstances?

This bizarre scene lets down an otherwise entertaining film. The dialogue is realistic, the bleached scenery artful for mumble gore and, like I said, there is a lovely retro feel to it. The women, especially Bosworth’s Sarah, are likeable despite being flawed. There’s action galore plus some tantalising chase scenes. And the only idiot tripping over a tree root is a bloke.

Overall, Black Rock is a genuinely thrilling, if rather predictable film, with plenty to excite horror fans of either gender.

VERDICT: [rating=4]

 

About The Author

Rhian is a freelance journalist and editor living in London. A film fan for as long as she can remember, her tastes cover the entire spectrum of cinema.