Imagine Deliverance with a female slant and you have the basic set-up of Black Rock, a taut survival thriller directed by and co-starring Katie Aselton, here taking a sharp turn from the mumblecore comedy of her directorial debut, The Freebie.
She plays one of a trio of former childhood friends taking a camping trip to a deserted island off the coast of Maine. Aselton’s Abby and Lake Bell’s Lou have long been estranged, but mutual pal Sarah (Kate Bosworth) reckons this outdoors adventure is just what’s needed to repair their once sisterly bond.
Unfortunately, the island isn’t quite deserted. Three male hunters, psychologically damaged military veterans newly returned from the Middle East, are also there. A spot of boozy campfire fraternisation between the two groups turns ugly and in a trice the three girls are fleeing for their lives…
Working from a script by her husband, Mark Duplass (who’s also her co-star in fantasy football league sitcom The League), Aselton displays a sure feel for female friendships and rivalries, which gives the women’s ordeal an emotional resonance usually absent from girls-in-peril horror thrillers.
In other hands, the scene where the naked Abby and Lou clutch one another for warmth and comfort would be the opportunity for exploitative leering. Here, sensitively handled, it avoids titillation and rings true.
Admittedly, the film’s male characters are more sketchily conceived, which undermines the story’s sudden lurch into violence and makes later plot developments less plausible.
But ignore any niggles about the credibility of unarmed women taking on gun-toting military veterans and Black Rock delivers satisfyingly gripping genre thrills.
In cinemas from Friday 21st June.
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