It is bad when the characters are even asking themselves, “Is this it?”, only ten minutes into the film. By the end the viewer has no choice but to wonder the same.
The production of Black Rock is a husband and wife collaboration between Mark Duplass handling the screenwriting duties and Katie Aselton coming up with the story and working as the director for the second time in her career. Making its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival back in 2012, this stalker thriller earns merit through effort only as the film does not achieve what it intends to do. It is bad when the characters are even asking themselves, “Is this it?”, only ten minutes into the film. By the end the viewer has no choice but to wonder the same.
The film starts off with two childhood friends, Sarah (Kate Bosworth) and Lou (Lake Bell), looking to reconnect by retreating to a remote island in Maine for a weekend. But Lou’s excitement hits a speed bump when she realizes that a third friend named Abby (Katie Aselton) was also invited. These two have an unresolved issue with each other that goes way back. Just as the two make up their minds about bailing on the expedition, Sarah convinces them to forget about their disagreements and continue on with exploring the remote island just as they did back when they were kids.
Lou and Abby get into a heated argument not long after they reached the island, but as they are about to finally make amends they are frighteningly interrupted by the sight of three men with guns walking through the woods. It turns out that these men were recently discharged from the Army and came to the island to hunt deer. After the initial shock of not being the only ones on the island wears down, they invite the three men to their campfire. The night quickly grows out of hand after the excessive amount of alcohol is consumed, and the girls soon become the hunted target.
At about the halfway mark, Black Rock is still thrilling and entertaining, but unfortunately the film peaks just as it starts to become interesting. The film ends up playing out just as one would expect it to, offering no real surprises along the way. The real irony here is that a character flat out states, “Sometimes you can’t go by the book. You can’t follow every single rule.” Yet the film does not follow its own advice.
Much of the dialog in the film feels improvised and with Duplass in the credits that should not come as a surprise. The part that is surprising is how poor the dialog works. There are multiple instances where the characters seem to be at a loss of words while trying to extend the scene. Furthermore, the film verbally spells out what is happening rather than letting the scene speak for itself; most noticeable when the man with a gun shouts, “I am going to find you and kill you.” as if his intentions were not made obvious enough.
Black Rock is a bit peculiar as some of the best moments of the film occur while it is still setting up the exposition. When the story actually develops it quickly becomes less interesting and more far-fetched. In its final act things completely fall apart with a downright laughable ending that is completely unimaginative. To put it nicely, Black Rock is a rare misstep for Mark Duplass and a largely disappointing film as a whole.