Delivering a powerful story and strong female protagonist, Jen McGowan impresses with the surprising and thoughtful survival thriller “Rust Creek”.
IFC Midnight is best known for their deep library of smart, inventive horror films. But with the start of 2019, IFC Midnight releases a more cerebral film — RUST CREEK.
Described as a “survival thriller,” director Jen McGowan and screenwriter Julie Lipson fashion something deeper and more complex than the average thriller.
McGowan and Lipson create a drama within the stereotypical trappings of the thriller genre that reveal things aren’t always what they seem at face value. To paraphrase the Merchant in Disney’s ALADDIN, RUST CREEK is no ordinary movie; it is more than what it seems.
Sawyer (Hermione Corfield) is a college student who gets a chance at a once-in-a-lifetime interview for an exciting job opportunity. As Sawyer drives through the woods of Kentucky, her GPS fails and leads her far from any town or major thoroughfare. Lost and frustrated, Sawyer pulls over to check out her map.
Two brothers, Hollister (Micah Hauptman) and Buck (Daniel Hill) come upon Sawyer and offer to help her find her way to the highway. Quickly, their true intentions become clear, and Sawyer must fight her way out of the situation. Injured in the fight, but able to stun the brothers, Sawyer runs to the woods along the road to escape the predators.
Lost, bleeding, and losing hope Sawyer is found by a local loner, Lowell (Jay Paulson). The question for Sawyer is how long can Lowell hide her from Hollister and Buck, and can she really trust Lowell’s intentions.
RUST CREEK is a movie that draws you into the human and emotional drama going on, and then will hit you with incredible tension or sudden violence. There’s a deliberate ebb and flow that draws you into the characters’ stories, and then McGowan will hit with a scene of shocking violence or high stakes showdowns where Sawyer is in peril.
Sawyer is no shrinking violet in this thriller. Like Hollister and Buck, viewers may mistake her small frame and, yes, being a woman, for weakness. But there is strength in Sawyer that is rare for a survivalist type of film. Sawyer knows the situation she’s in and is able to defend herself physically and maintain her wits, while being chased through woods unknown to her by her would be rapists.
I found Sawyer to be a symbol of the entire movie.
She is more than what she appears to be on the surface. Like her, the motives of Lowell, Hollister, and even the town sheriff are more complicated and deeper than what they first seem. The characters’ layers give the story needed depth, so that when the violence does happen it’s more than just being shocked by the act. You find yourself caring about what happens to these characters, even the less savory ones like Hollister and Buck.
Don’t be fooled by the genre trappings put forward in the marketing of RUST CREEK. This is much more than an exploitation-type survivalist movie. With some patience for the unfolding story, and giving yourself over to the incredible actors in this movie, RUST CREEK delivers something more than chills and thrills.
RUST CREEK is a thoughtful, female empowerment story that doesn’t need to resort to the usual tricks (i.e. graphic rape scenes, ignorant and dirty hillbillies, etc.) to deliver a powerful and moving film.