It’s certainly a bad day at Black Rock for Kate Bosworth and her two BFFs. Director/co-star Kate Aselton and Lake Bell both cherish Bosworth’s friendship but they have their own shaky history festering between them like an open sore. The three women go for a ‘last hurrah’ camping trip to the titular retreat with treasure hunts and restorative bonding in mind. That’s until they chance upon a trio of ex-soldiers, not long back from Helmand Province, on a suspicious shooting trip.
More often than not island settings immediately instil narrative suspense. Indeed, once the women shore up on a deserted beach the potential for drama reveals itself in fraught chatter and mention of either lack of provisions, isolating distance from observable humanity (in the form of, uh-oh, NO MOBILE PHONE RECEPTION), or, as here, all of the above.
Black Rock teases us with exploitative elements like disrobed women fretfully scarpering around a forest in the thick of night but the potential for She-Beast style feminist rampage is yet sadly unexplored. It veers down a routine plot ravine toward a particularly fumbled resolution. But as with any survivalist drama of this ilk, once relatable characters are plonked amid seemingly insurmountable surroundings the capacity to give any kind of shit about them instantly intensifies.
The early banter between the ladies feels nicely relaxed if a little practiced, although it works better than the peril-fuelled dialogue later. (The screenplay is from Mark Duplass, who has a variety of Mumblecore films under his belt but very few thrillers.) Of the performances, Aselton works hardest in a role that requires inherent prickly insolence and a spiteful streak that suggests her character might be more duplicitous than originally assumed. Bosworth does well, too, with the central role. But two-thirds of the male group (Anslem Richardson, Jay Paulson) are out-acted by the island scenery itself and Lake Bell sadly feels like a flaky third wheel, despite the early tension with Aselton. At times Black Rock feels like a protracted episode of telly horror series Harper’s Island. At others, it seems to swipe bits from any of the following: Wilderness, The Breed, A Perfect Getaway and The Beach. There's even a passing female-centric nod to Deliverance. Some moments do elicit thrills but the scrapes ultimately collapse under a ham-fisted plot that promises fresh terror territory but customarily ploughs the same old turf. C-