Why We Need More Films Like Black Rock

I know what you’re thinking; oh no, here’s another of Gem’s lists. Well, I would say sorry but to be honest putting numbers in front of sentences is the closest thing in my day I get to basic arithmetic. And even then I’m surprised when they end up in the correct order.

The point I should be making right now is about the brilliant Black Rock. If you’ve not already seen it, then I urge you to do so, right now. If you’re at work skiving off reading this, then I’d recommend checking out my review. Shunning obvious stereotypes and cliched plot twists, it’s a shining example of what happens when a gaggle of filmmakers come together to offer cinema something truly unique. Here’s a few reasons why this film is so compelling, and why we need more flicks just like it.

1. A Strong Female Cast

We’ve all seen Steel Magnolias. Alright, we haven’t ALL seen it. But I’ve seen it. It’s a romantic drama with a giant female ensemble cast set in the deep South which revolves around Julia Roberts’ wedding. You can probably surmise from that brief attempt at a synopsis what it will entail. And there’s the rub. It’s a shame we’re not offered enough content wherein the actresses involved are able to bludgeon those tired conventions and are given the opportunity to wrestle with characters who are more than just a girlfriend.

Black Rock says “Bah!” to that very idea and veers off into new territory. Not only is the film directed by Katie Aselton, she also stars alongside Lake Bell and Kate Bosworth. They’re names that aren’t quite household yet, but should be after their performances in this. Nothing is off the table here; candid conversation, humiliation but most of all, these women aren’t afraid to get bloody. None of that immaculate makeup with a wound conveniently located around it. These women are stripped of the pretty crutch and left to fend with their primal instincts. Their commitment is refreshing.

This film most definitely passes the Bechdel Test.

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2.  A Screenwriter Who Tells It Like It Is

Mark Duplass is a gifted screenwriter. Why? Because he tells it like it is. There’s nothing worse than watching a film, shouting at the screen and then throwing your cup of tea at the TV when characters behave in a way unlike real human beings. Mainly because you’re buggered then for anything else to watch.

Duplass has a knack for sidestepping dialogue and action that no one in their right mind would admit to (much like Cyrus which he also penned), and instead creates genuine reactions to a horrifying situation. Sure, we all say things we regret immediately (“Hello Officer, can I interest you in a set of encyclopedias?”) but that doesn’t mean we should be pigeon-holed by those instances. The women of Black Rock are much more than your first impressions of them. They’re funny, silly, smart, irrational, brave, awkward. They are real women.

This doesn’t mean that they’re excluded from the consequences of their situation. They too are equally as incredulous when an innocent drink around the campfire turns into a hunting expedition by a trio of military vets. A balance is struck between enabling these characters a chance to fight back and a chance to fail.

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3. Surprising Scares

I say surprising, because its scares come when you least expect them.  A genuine sense of fear is only gripping when you care about those in peril. Filmmakers have a tough task when they’re planning to off a character in the first ten minutes. Mainly because no-one gives a tinker’s bunkum (whatever that is) about people onscreen who they’re not able to empathise with. When Black Rock shows its true colours in the faces of its three antagonists you know that some scary shenanigans are about to occur. Here’s the genius, because you sense that the tone shifts, you’re aware of its darkened mood, but you’re not sure exactly what will transpire.

This is for me, where the film excels. It may also have something to do with a similar camping trip I took in which I told myself jokes to stop my whimpering while clutching a hammer.

Black Rock scares because its monster is you or me. It’s the worst version of man come to prey on your weaknesses. It will fill you with dread and asks what would you do? My advice? Taking a survival course might be an idea.

gem seddon freelance blogger freelance film journalist freelance writer

About the author

Gem is a freelance writer with nine years' experience. She's written about alternative health and wellness since 2016, penning original blog posts, newsletters, recipes, and social media ads for local acupuncture clinics.