Director: Jen McGowan
Writers: Julie Lipson, story by Stu Pollard
Starring: Hermione Corfield, Jay Paulson, Sean O’Bryan, Micah Hauptman, Daniel R Hill & Jeremy Glazer
A student named Sawyer (Hermione Corfield) is out driving, during the Thanksgiving holiday, ready for a job interview. Her friends think that she is visiting her parents, and her parents think she is staying on campus. So, when the inevitable happens (this is a horror flick after all) and she becomes lost on some back-roads after diverting from the jammed highway. No-one is going to be reporting her as missing for a few days.
If being lost wasn’t quite bad enough, a couple of local yokels suspect that she spotted them up to no good, and are chasing her down.
Now, this might all sound a bit generic so far, but there are a few things that help to maintain Rust Creek in being different from your standard ‘lost in the woods’ movie.
Firstly, let’s take a look at the events that cause Sawyer to get into her predicament.
Taking a detour due to tailbacks/jams on the highway makes sense and I’m sure is something most of us have done at some point, especially when there’s always the trusty satnav to guide you in the right direction. But then, miles into her journey, the satnav is having some issues as it tries to send Sawyer down some off-road tracks that barely qualify as a footpath, let alone a road. Does she head down these mysterious and, clearly, ‘not the right way’ roads?
No, of course not. She ignores the satnav and breaks out the road map as a way to try and find her way back to the highway.
Whilst poring over the map though, she encounters the asshole versions of Tucker and Dale, in the form of Hollister (Micah Hauptman) and his brother Buck (Daniel R Hill). They seem a combination of helpful and dodgy all at the same time, the ‘dodgy’ part being reinforced when Hollister seems to think that uninvited ass-grabbing is acceptable behaviour. What does Sawyer do when this happens?
She kicks arse, that’s what.
A knee to the bollocks sets of a scuffle that leads to the only really bad decision that Sawyer makes in the movie when during the fight, after being injured, rather than attempt to get into her vehicle and drive away, she runs off into the woods instead. But, I’m willing to overlook this as simply being her ‘fight-or-flight’ instincts kicking in, even if her instincts lead her into a mass of shrubbery, rather than the safety of her vehicle.
So, lost in the woods, no phone (it was in the car) and being hunted down by a couple of douchebags whilst also having to deal with blood loss from an injury sustained in the scuffle. Things aren’t going well for Sawyer.
They are going well for us as an audience though, as the decisions made by Sawyer that see her trying to fight her way out of trouble and so on, are all pretty sensible ones. And that’s what makes the movie work.
You’re not shouting at the screen because the lead character has made yet another stupid choice that lead them into more adversity. Instead, you’re nodding sagely at the wise choices Sawyer has made.
Sure, there are a few plot conveniences sprinkled about; such as how Sawyer just happens to be in the same location as Hollister and Buck when they dispose of her car. Or, how when she finally succumbs to injury and fatigue, she’s found by the world’s friendliest meth cook, in the form of Lowell (Jay Paulson). But everything works well enough that those things don’t feel too forced.
There are character tropes in the form of those dodgy backwoods troublemakers who may have their reasons for wanting to see Sawyer out of the way, but definitely don’t have any reason for arse grabbing; which does fall into the ‘all bad-guys are rapists’ category.
There are also the characters of Sheriff O’Doyle (Sean O’Bryan) and Deputy Katz (Jeremy Glazer). O’Doyle is your regular seemingly lazy but probably up to no good Sheriff, with Katz being the overenthusiastic deputy that you know will and will either save the day (despite most likely having been shot) or die ¾ of the way through the movie.
But that’s fine. There may be tropes but they’re not overdone and even though the ‘Chekov’s Gun’ elements are also pretty obvious, they still work without detracting from the movie. And, that’s mainly down to the writing and the characters. Sawyer’s character is great and the interplay between her and Lowell works well too, making them both into sympathetic and likeable characters. Sure, Lowell could have done a better job of quickly cementing the fact that he’s not a bad guy. But, he is a loner living in the woods and cooking meth all day so his people skills are going to be a little bit lacking.
What also helps, is how well the characters are not only played but written too. They have their reasons for doing what they do, well, apart from the ass-grabbing of course, and they are all portrayed with a straight forward and believable quality.
There are some great moments too that really help to reinforce what is going on and when we get to see Sawyers, blood-soaked leg, with the blood having now run down into her shoe, soaking both it and her sock. You can almost feel the squelch of fluid oozing out with every step she takes. You don’t get to see this happening, but her acting/reaction to the weariness that the injury has caused, coupled with that spreading bloodstain, really work well.
However, the pace of the movie is a little slow at times and although those sedate moments were mostly necessary in regards to establishing character and motive, I have to admit, there were a few times when I did want the movie to just tighten the pace a little.
The directing, lighting, editing etc. all work well, almost to the point of being unnoticeable unless you’re specifically looking out for those things, but rather than be a detriment, just shows how well the crew must have worked well together.
Speaking of which…
The film was produced by Lunacy Productions with the rights being bought by IFC Midnight.
I’m sure most horror fans are familiar with IFC Midnight, but possibly less so with Lunacy Productions, who have only been around as a company since 2015. The mandate of Lunacy Productions is to support female filmmakers with most of the key roles on Rust Creek being filled by women. This is both a great thing and also a sad one. Great because it gives more female filmmakers the chance to get to work in the business, but also sad that this still needs to be done, rather than everyone already being treated as equals in the first place.
But hey, I’m not here to get political, I’m just here to review a movie
So, overall Rust Creek was a pretty enjoyable flick that whilst not being something that will have a huge impact on an audience, is still a movie that fans should check out. For me, it’s one of those films that, whilst I enjoyed it, is one that if pressed on the subject in a year or so, I’ll probably just say, “Rust Creek? Oh yeah, I forgot about that film. It was good from what I remember. I’ll have to check it out again sometime.”
Whilst being a good movie, it doesn’t have that ‘thing’ that makes it stand out and without any stand-out set-piece, it does mean it will probably be overlooked by a lot of people. Which shouldn’t be the case, because it is worth taking the time to watch, even if you will forget it a few movies down the line.
Especially if you watch as many as I do.
As for Lunacy Productions? Well, I think this is the first title I’ve seen from them but I’ll certainly be keeping a lookout for whenever they venture into horror/thriller territory again, such as this year’s release, Becoming, or the upcoming, The Man Who Knew Belle Star.
You can find more about Lunacy Productions by visiting their website: https://lunacyproductions.com
You can also find Rust Creek on Amazon Prime: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rust-Creek-Hermione-Corfield/dp/B07WHLWT9Q/ref=sr_1_1?