>> A film can be a valuable learning experience—for a paranoid and anxious hypochondriac like me, watching suspense and survival films are valuable assets. These films typically add to my repertoire of “things to not do under any circumstances.” Rust Creek directed by Jen McGowan (Kelly & Cal, Touch) is one of these films which had me taking multiple mental notes in case I am ever stuck in quite the quandary. Produced by IFC Midnight, Rust Creek released January 4th after a small festival run throughout 2018.
Rust Creek follows Sawyer (Hermione Corfield) an ambitious college student who decides to ditch the family holiday celebrations for a job interview. After a wrong turn, Sawyer finds herself stranded in the Kentucky forest where she struggles to defend herself against outlaws and is forced into an alliance with a stranger whose objective is unclear—basically your run of the mill survival thriller in a nutshell.
What stands out about Rust Creek is not its greatness, but its hard swing and miss. Rust Creek plays out exactly how you expect it would—and not in a good way. Trying to describe this film in an artistic sense is nearly impossible. Its editing, cinematography, and art direction are all reminiscent of a student film that took a great deal of hard work but strongly lacks a sophisticated visual language. The film’s sound design is not terrible, but it’s nothing special either—the score starts off strong and uniquely melancholic but eventually dwindles and fades much like the other formal elements of the film.
The writing is a bit of a mess as well, the story plays out like a convoluted first draft that’s in desperate need of some intense editing. There are many subplots packed into an hour and 48 minutes, many of which never fully develop or see their true potential. Most of the characters lack development and exist as lifeless clichéd archetypes, and when these characters are in crisis there’s a slim chance any audience will feel empathetic or angry—any strong emotional response to this film is quite unlikely. Perhaps focusing on the most interesting storyline—i.e. the unlikely bond between a college student and a meth cook—would’ve given this film the originality it so desperately needs.
While Rust Creek taught me to never get out of my car to check a map, it doesn't generate the energy and originality a survival thriller needs to, well, survive. It's formulaic and predictable, its characters are underbaked, and the performances feel ridged and forced. While a notable attempt, Rust Creek fails to live up to the others of its genre. << 3/10
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