- Reviews Written:
Posted on 8/16/13 02:45 AM
Black Rock, along with Killing Season, are two films that I've recently seen that remind me of John Boorman's Deliverance from 1972 when it comes to replicating the mood and the tone set up through the unsettling and hostile yet beautiful and calming territory of nature. Black Rock, having a tight, cost-effective budget as opposed to Deliverance, manages to replicate the unnerving territory successfully, being a technically well-made, beautifully shot film, even when it often screams "indie" and "exploitation". Neither of those come off as bad things, and there's certainly nothing wrong with being either of them. However, where Black Rock fails, apart from the often great acting, is almost every aspect, and I feel like Black Rock didn't know how to properly extend it's original and refreshing idea that sounds excellent on paper to a full length film. I can clearly tell that everyone involved with this movie had a great idea in mind and wanted to make a refreshing, tense thriller with such a tight budget, but as time went on, I felt like they didn't know how to continue the story yet keep us engaged, so they couldn't do anything except rely on typical, recycled elements commonly found in horror films. That's a huge disappointment, and although it's a fairly watchable film, it honestly could've been so much more.
Black Rock is about a well-intentioned woman named Sarah (Kate Bosworth) who invites her two childhood friends, Lou (Lake Bell) and Abby (Katie Aselton), on a trip to a remote island, with the intentions of reuniting their once strong friendship after years of not speaking with each other. After bonding, and sometimes even arguing with each other on the island, the three women come across three other men, Henry (Will Bouvier), Derek (Jay Paulson), and Alex (Anslem Richardson), who happen to be hunters and veteran soldiers that were dishonorably discharged from their service. Initially, they're peaceful with each other and they grow a stronger relationship, but after Abby begins flirting with Henry and they take a brief walk with each other in the woods, they begin kissing. Henry progressively becomes more and more aggressive and Abby tries to desperately escape but she can't, so she kills Henry with a stone, destroying the building relationship between the two groups and provoking a war. What follows after this wrong, albeit unintentional move, is a deadly fight for survival. Unfortunately, I knew most of the directions that the plot would take since I watched the trailer prior to watching the movie, and I may have liked the movie more if I hadn't. However, this isn't the movie's fault as much as it's the marketing's fault, so this problem technically can't be considered much of a legitimate flaw. Overall, this is still practically just a different version of a familiar theme, and it's not much that we haven't seen before.
I must say that the acting is terrific, even if the characters are sometimes obnoxious. Some of the reactions by the characters were odd, some decisions ranged from questionable to downright stupid, and some of the arguments got on my nerves, although these are all common aspects found in typical horror thrillers when it comes to acting. Character logic is often thrown out the window, and some of the choices were outrageously frustrating. I couldn't actually tell as if the ideas regarding the above were intentional or unintentional, but either way, I didn't find myself liking it. When the characters don't follow the above, they're very impressive, showcasing their talent with their natural, realistic acting. Everything feels slightly authentic when it comes to performances, although I can't say that for anything else in the movie. These actors have tons of potential, and I haven't seen or heard of them before watching this movie, but I may have to look into their career because they could result in some very impressive performances. One of the actors, Kate Aselton (who plays Abby), actually directed the film, and she clearly showed bursts of great direction and acting every now and then. I can't say the same for the script and the dialogue between the characters, and the acting blends perfectly with the natural, everyday conversations in the first half, but after a while, writer Mark Duplass (who is actually the wife of the director, Kate Aselton) seemed to have given up and lazily wrote dialogue similar to a generic, typical horror film.
Even if there were some glaring problems when it came to the lack of intelligence (albeit great acting) by these characters and the sometimes mediocre dialogue, a thriller's biggest goal is to thrill the audience and add lots of tension between the conflicts. Initially, once the war for survival began, I was on the edge of my seat and I felt a lot of tension and worry for the three leads. However, after a few minutes, I began to realize how many times I felt that I've seen this before, and I began to lose hope for the film. As I said, it literally just becomes a simple horror movie, and it became stale and ultimately boring. It's a watchable film, and thankfully it's closer to the shorter side at about eighty minutes, but that doesn't mean it wasn't often tedious. Everything just felt too familiar, and it's a major disappointment considering the potential. The film is not devoid of good when it comes to the actual conflict, because it's still really nice to look at, even for the whole film. The cinematography and camera work is gorgeous stuff, with some insanely beautiful scenery as they're on this remote island. There are tons of vibrant, colorful, and stunning backdrops, and when it comes to the actual look, it's never dull. There's also lots of blood, and most of it looks cheap, dating back to those old exploitation flicks from the '70s. It never took me out of the film, but I thought I'd just point that out. The music is also great stuff here, often switching from beautiful to eerie, and it's also a highlight.
There's one line in the film that perfectly sums up Black Rock as a whole. At one point, Sarah says, "This doesn't feel right", and I couldn't agree more. Nothing really did feel right, and I found myself quite frustrated with the experience although it was watchable. There's also a mediocre climax and an ambiguous ending that I suppose is a fitting ending, but I wasn't satisfied nor impressed by it. Black Rock could've been so much more, but it decided to take the easy route out and devolve itself into a generic horror thriller. I watched this film anyways despite hearing about bad reviews because I thought it would be interesting and entertaining, and the first half certainly delivered, but the second half completely crumbled in front of my eyes. If you still want to watch Black Rock at this point, then just go for it, but don't say you weren't warned. Black Rock is an ambitious thriller that certainly sounded excellent on paper, but the execution was a misfire and it ended up being an unsatisfying experience.