Movie Review: “Black Rock”

1starWell, at least the credits to “Black Rock” showed promise.
It was written by one of the Duplass brothers, creators of “The Puffy Chair,” “Cyrus” and “Jeff Who Lives at Home.” Mark Duplass wrote it for a member of that “Puffy Chair” circle, actress turned actress-director Katie Aselton, his wife.
But slumming in the land of the horror-thriller doesn’t pay off for anyone involved. “Rock” is a poorly written and ineptly directed genre piece that lacks tension, suspense, fear, all those things that make’ a “thriller” thrilling.
Lake Bell, playing one of a trio of single thirtyish women off for a camping trip on the tiny coastal New England island of their youth, puts it best.
“This is SUCH a bad idea.”
Sarah (Kate Bosworth) has lured Lou (Bell) and Abby (Aselton), two ex-friends estranged since high school (over a boy, naturally) under false pretenses. They’ll spend a weekend on remote Black Rock, remembering old times, drinking, digging up a time capsule they buried there in their youth. Just us girls, right?
They’ve barely stepped out of the surf when they run into three hunters (Jay Paulson, Will Bouvier and Anslem Richardson), younger guys whose older siblings they knew in high school. And when the ladies ask the one pertinent question that will determine the rest of of their weekend, they utterly botch their reaction to it.
“Wait, is it hunting season?”
Um, no. And these guys? Fresh out of the military. “Dishonorable discharges,” they offer. And still the women don’t flee.
Because that would prevent the drunken night of mixed signals, attempted rape and violent self-defense. That would preclude the women fleeing into the dark, chased by unstable creeps armed to the teeth. That would spare us this pearl of Duplass-scripted wisdom.
“They’re trained soldiers! Trained to KILL people!”
Aselton and her comrades get to be beautiful actresses all roughed up from the wilderness and being hunted. Their responses to their peril are predictable and not particularly inventive. The movies have a century of “Most Dangerous Game” stories to draw on, unarmed, unprepared people struggling to outwit armed stalkers.
What do these ladies do? They strip. Naked.
“We have to get out of these wet clothes!”
The plot-driven nature of this exercise means that nobody makes much of an impression, save for the gorgeous Bell, who shows up on set with presence to burn. The stunts, escapes and fights are grim and grisly, but generic. We’ve seen all this before.
And despite the odd moment of sisterly bonding (the point of view sometimes switches to the camp of the inexplicably psychotic men), there’s little here aside from that plot and a vague curiosity.
Who will live, who will die? And whose wet clothes will dry first?

MPAA Rating: R for some strong violence, pervasive language, sexual references and brief graphic nudity
Cast: Kate Bosworth, Lake Bell, Katie Aselton
Credits: Directed by Katie Aselton, scripted by Mark Duplass. An LD Entertainment release.
Running time: 1:21

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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