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Sundance 2012 Movie Review: Black Rock

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The horror/comedy genre is something the Park City at Midnight category knows far too well at the Sundance Film Festival. While it is known to work spectacularly (Tucker & Dale vs. Evil), it definitely doesn’t work every time (Troll Hunter). And the same can be said about the genre in Hollywood itself; not every series can wind up with the success of Scream. Usually they suffer a box office death in spite of the level of brilliance on display (Club Dread). When I read that Black Rock was written by one of the Duplass Brothers (director Katie Aselton’s husband Mark), I knew this had something going for it as the last time he ventured into this territory we were treated to Baghead. Together, for Aselton and Duplass, lightning definitely decided to strike as they pull off one of the best female-driven horror/comedies yet.

Sarah (Kate Bosworth) and Lou (Lake Bell) are headed off to an island getaway. Camping under the stars is the name of their game, but things get off to a rocky start when they meet at the dock to pick up estranged friend Abby (Aselton). Tension is immediate and Sarah guilts them into continuing with their adventure when she lies about having cancer. She may come clean about being cancer free eventually, but it worked to show Lou and Abby that the trio still cares more than enough about each other to head off into the wilderness where they used to spend their childhood and even have a time capsule buried out there somewhere, Goonies style.

As things reach a boiling point, Abby finally confronts Lou about an old indiscretion and, eventually, Lou apologizes, but not before she can be interrupted by the arrival of another trio consisting of men. One of the guys they actually all know from high school and now they’re stuck with no phone service on a deserted island with three dishonorably discharged self proclaimed “war heroes.” It’s only a matter of times before things take a turn for the worse as Abby accidentally kills one of the men in an act of self defense and his two buddies begin to go a little nuts. Soon enough, it’s a fight for survival as the three girls must let the past go and do everything they can to try to stay alive.

I mentioned Club Dread before as that film has a lot in common with this one. The old “Killer Who Will Not Die” scenario hasn’t been anywhere near this hilarious since the end of that Broken Lizard production. However, there are also splashes of the brilliant Tucker & Dale, and while this film may work mostly as a spoof take on the slasher-in-the-woods films, there’s far more than a dash of Deliverance and The Descent mingled throughout as well. Everyone seems to be having a blast both in front of and behind the camera and things never get too goofy to overpower the seriousness of the situation at hand. While I’m sure glad I wasn’t personally stranded on Black Rock, it was more than a nice getaway from the rest of fest.

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About Cinenerd

A Utah based writer, born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT for better and worse. Cinenerd has had an obsession with film his entire life, finally able to write about them since 2009, and the only thing he loves more are his wife and their two wiener dogs (Beatrix Kiddo and Pixar Animation). He is accredited with the Sundance Film Festival.