Director: Katie Aselton Writer: Mark Duplass Starring: Kate Bosworth, Lake Bell, Katie Aselton Running Time: 83 minutes Year: 2012
Director Katie Aselton has conjured up a masterful stalk n’ shoot thriller, slamming through the expected turns before sliding into an assault of unusual twists with a fresh eye. Dreaming up the idea herself before handing over scripting duties to her partner, Mark Duplass, Aselton has created a winner in Black Rock.
Why? Three simple reasons: Kate Bosworth, Lake Bell and Aselton herself. Mainstream cinema is lacking in female ensembles that exist outside of coochy coo parenting flicks and pithy rom coms. It’s closest existing counterpart is the outstanding British horror The Descent, and since then there’s been a scarcity of all-female casts in the genre.
Watching the story of three life-long friends who venture to an island they frequented in their youth, a prominent female voice leads each step of their ordeal. The film’s message extends farther than expected feminist rhetoric and expands on the sad fact that women are simply unable to have a good time without bastards (who in this case, happen to be men) ruining it. It’s obvious to note the comparisons to film as an institution: that women filmmakers are denied the same exposure offered to their male contemporaries. Is the film a nod to the clutches of a patriarchal system, or is it happenstance that the director happens to be a woman? Either way, the theme never invades the story to the point of saturation.
With a scant running time, nothing is wasted and every scene serves a purpose. What’s a shame is that we aren’t offered more time with the three friends before their situation turns sour.
Once their adventure turns into a nightmare, it would’ve been simple to steer towards easy dialogue and typical story turns. Black Rock, while certainly aware of its scope, harnesses the mettle of its women who transform into fight-or-flight warriors. It comes as a surprise, when you’d expect them to surely succumb to the traits designated in previous stalker movies.
The trio of leading ladies are each granted fully fleshed out characters to navigate through the story. Where you’re often insulted by one-dimensional horror characters who only prescribe to one way of thinking, here are three women who all oscillate to the breadth of their identities. Sure, there’s silliness in behaviour that’ll have you shouting at the screen, but it comes with a sobering realisation soon after. These Black Rockers aren’t simply The Smart One, The Slutty One, The Messed-Up One; they are all of those quirks and more.
Through the care and consideration of ensuring we’re following three rounded-out personas, we’re able to yield to the terror and fear that beckons them across the small island. And it’s truly horrific.
“Black Rock, while certainly aware of its scope, harnesses the mettle of its women who transform into fight-or-flight warriors…here are three women who all oscillate to the breadth of their identities.”
It’s central focus predates on our fear of being hunted, of being the object in someone’s rifle sight. Fear, humiliation, shame and utter hopelessness pervades what is otherwise a picturesque locale. That’s the rub: beauty co-exists with the ugly black heart of the human condition. You can spot the inevitable a mile away, as soon as the women encounter a group of men out hunting on the same rock. Kudos to the actors playing the three male antagonists, who incite rage and hatred for anything Other, anything outside of what they believe to be deserving of life.
This bitterness for existence and their disrespect for a just cause in battle is the charred steely spirit from which the basis of the film’s terror stems. Indeed, what could be more frightening than a squad of eager military runts, with no remorse and an agenda of rage?
Black Rock is a truly exciting film to experience. A bloodied war between women fighting for the right to stand up for themselves, and men who cannot renege centuries of male superiority. I hope Aselton continues to bring strong women into cinema, who aren’t afraid, who do not shy away from conflict and who definitely make her work pass the Bechdel Test with flying colours.
Black Rock picks up the gauntlet from The Descent – this scary, effective thriller smashes any notions that women stopped kicking butt when Ripley did.
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