Three girls are chased around an island by three crazed ex-soldier guys in Katie Aselton’s boo-goes-there horror story that would slot nicely into the big book of feminist films if it weren’t for the gratuitous (oh come on) nudity.
Not that there’s anything wrong with god-given nakedness. But back to the film. Directed by Aselton and co-written with her partner, Mark Duplass, Black Rock takes three old schoolfriends, Aselton, Lake Bell and Katie Bosworth, sends them off to a remote island they used to visit as kids, but not before pointing out that one of the three did something bad with another of the trio’s boyfriend some years back, and the wound is still suppurating.
Out on the island, the girls bump into three ex-army guys, one of whom is a vague friend of a friend. But things go from uneasily friendly to extremely nasty in a short time after a bit of booze, some unwise campfire flirting with one of the soldiers, a rape attempt and retaliation in the form of a big lethal rock to the skull.
The other two guys – we have just learnt that they got dishonourable discharges for some seriously nasty shit out in Afghanistan – decides for justice in the form of death.
But I’m telling you the plot when what you want to know is all about the nudity. Well, you could say that it is justified by the story Aselton is telling, since two of the girls have swum out to a boat, failed to get into it and are now back on dry land in wet clothes and the quickest way to get warm is… take your clothes off?
Does it last long? No. Does it matter? Maybe, because though Aselton is a good actress (though her showing in The Puffy Chair is all I’m going on) I’m not sure about her as a director.
This is a competently directed cat-and-mouse thriller that flirts with themes of sex, power and violence – can women cocktease for ever and get away with it? Is sex a form of power that women use over women too? – only to abandon them as the film slides into its final third. Director Aselton moves things along briskly, gets decent “girls together” performances from her cast and knows how to squeeze atmosphere from a restless camera, minimal rig and a soundtrack of strings and washy synths.
But I’m not sure it’ll be remembered for any of those things, so much as being the film in which a female director asked her cast to get naked because the script strictly demanded it.
© Steve Morrissey 2013