Film review: ‘Black Rock’ isn’t even a rote horror programmer

Kate Bosworth, Katie Aselton and Lake Bell play friends fighting for their lives on a Maine island in "Black Rock" Credit: LD Entertainment
Kate Bosworth, Katie Aselton and Lake Bell play friends fighting for their lives on a Maine island in “Black Rock.”
Credit: LD Entertainment

‘Black Rock’
Director: Katie Aselton
Stars: Katie Aselton, Kate Bosworth
Rating: R
2 (out of 5) Globes

“Black Rock” has what one calls “indie cred.” Its funds were raised on Kickstarter. It was made by marrieds Katie Aselton (who directed and co-stars) and Mark Duplass (who wrote). Its principal cast is swelled out by a slumming former Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) and the star of a forthcoming, much more anticipated indie (Lake Bell, of the voiceover comedy “In a World…”). And to top it off, like many low budget titles, it puts through the wringer the assumption that a film made for no or little cash is automatically more “real” than its moneyed counterparts.

Aselton, Bell and Bosworth play childhood friends reuniting for a trip to the remote, uninhabited Maine island they frequented as their youth. “This is going to be SO. GREAT!” one of them declaims, in a moment that’s probably in the trailer. The three wind up conveniently running into other childhood friends, who seem worth bro-ing down with, until they reveal they were dishonorably discharged from the Army. A flirtation leads to attempted rape, which leads to an accident, which leads to a misunderstanding that could have been talked-through. And with that away we go into literal darkness, because a tiny budget means not being able to adequately light a remote island.

Even with extra hang-out chat time, the film hits every single genre note, from hoary foreshadowing to delaying the goods until the halfway mark. That one of the baddies is conflicted (but not that conflicted) can be found in half the title lurking about Netflix Instant. Crowdsourced funding and all, this has been slickly directed by Aselton, who moves from ersatz-Cassavetes to hack job horror. Even the score turns from atmospheric to generic, complete with “tribal” percussion as characters bolt through the woods or engage in knife/pointy stick duels.

That this “keepin’ it real” lark is actually a hotbed of cliches isn’t a problem. What is a problem is its lack of imagination. And the fault there lies in Duplass’ script. Duplass is a talented, sometimes brilliant actor, but the movies he makes himself (“Cyrus,” “Jeff, Who Lives at Home”) have become increasingly lazy and tossed-off, taking a few promising ideas and then settling for something smaller. They all end around the 75-minute mark, as if Duplass would turn into a pumpkin — or be exposed as a screenwriter with few ideas — if they lasted any longer. “Black Rock” can’t even satisfy the modest needs of a rote horror — but then, maybe that’s the new “indie cred?”


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