Black Rock Review

The Plot:

Three young women take a camping trip to the remote island they visited as children to reconnect and set aside their personal issues. However, they soon discover that the island is not quite as deserted as they thought. After encountering a trio of seemingly friendly hunters, the girls soon find themselves locked in a terrifying battle for survival.

The Good:

Lake Bell, Kate Bosworth and Katie Aselton are likeable performers that do their best to inject actual personalities into their characters, especially during the film’s opening set up. The film at least bothers to try and give its heroines some mundane drama and backstory before it plunges them into an implausible nightmare. It’s not much, but it’s more than a lot of truly awful and unwatchable horror films manage.

Male genre fans will no doubt also be pleased that the film conveniently discovers a flimsy excuse halfway through to have its pretty stars strip completely naked. It might be heavy handed fan-service but it’s well timed to peak waning interests.

Although there’s just about enough gore once the trouble really starts to keep hardened horror fans vaguely satisfied, the film doesn’t really linger on its grisly moments,  like so many low budget genre movies do in an effort to be memorable and notorious.  Even squeamish audiences should be able to easily brave their way to the end without too much trouble. Perhaps that’s not necessarily a desirable compliment for a true horror film.

The Bad:

The Horror genre is stereotypically guilty of generic clichés and sadly Black Rock takes a well a worn premise that feels predictably familiar and fails to add as much originality as it clearly hoped to.

Iconic 1970s film Deliverance infamously dealt with the concept of encountering violent gun wielding lunatics in a remote wilderness and his has since inspired endless lazy re-tellings. Black Rock joins the ranks of this sub-genre but does little to distinguish itself beyond making its endangered heroes women. A simple gender swap isn’t really enough on its own to turn a by the numbers tale into anything more sophisticated or intriguing.

The film’s plot is essentially a glorified game of murderous hide and seek, played out on an unfortunately small island located a little too close to civilisation. Finding a more expansive and convincingly remote setting would have made the film’s cat and mouse antics a little more plausible. Although it really doesn’t help that the film’s traumatized heroines seem to insist on casually strolling around the woods and bickering loudly, whilst supposedly hiding from deadly trained killers.

Horror films often ask audiences to suspend disbelief as characters make irrational decisions that sacrifice common sense to serve the plot.  But Black Rock frequently asks far too much. Plot holes and implausible silliness instantly evaporates any real sense of tension. Watching the girls take breaks from being terrified to slap each other and squabble over boyfriend dramas is especially disheartening.

A great horror film also ideally needs a great villain. It takes a convincingly menacing threat to deliver an exhilarating rush of fear. Sadly Black Rock only delivers lazy stereotypes and inadequately bland actors. The film aims to be more tense than grotesque, but it just doesn’t pack enough psychological and emotional punches. It’s difficult to emotional invest when characters face unimaginative and predictable perils.

Though some fans may find the unnecessary nude scenes at least distracting it does suggest either a misplaced confidence or resigned desperation from director/star Katie Aselton. Despite Aselton’s presumably best intentions the film ultimately falls into many of the most obvious genre clichés.

The Ugly Truth:

Black Rock is watchable horror fare that fails to live up to other better versions of its familiar premise. Seasoned horror fans will perhaps be especially disappointed that the film fails to deliver either genuine scares or generous buckets of blood.  It’s never entirely awful, but it could so easily have been so much better.

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