Rust Creek Movie Review
Written by Becky Roberts
Released by IFC Midnight
Directed by Jen McGowan
Written by Julie Lipson (story by Stu Pollard)
2018, 108 minutes, Not Rated
Released on January 4th, 2018
Hermione Corfield as Sawyer
Jay Paulson as Lowell
Jeremy Glazer as Deputy Katz
Sean O'Bryan as Sheriff O'Doyle
Micah Hauptman as Hollister
Daniel R. Hill as Buck
Following her car breaking down on a side of a road, a young woman is forced to flee into the woods after being attacked by two men. Yawn? But wait, let me catch you mid-mouth-gape, a stripped-down synopsis doesn’t do justice to Jen McGowan’s debut thriller, which evolves into much, much more than the primitive cat-and-mouse-hunt revenge thriller it threatens to be in its opening scenes.
College student Sawyer (Hermione Corfield; xXx: Return of Xander Cage) is driving across America to a job interview in DC when she gets lost and breaks down in the Kentucky woods (Rust Creek) only to be attacked by two local predators (Micah Hauptman and Daniel R. Hill). After escaping their grasp and fleeing into the woods, injured Sawyer must find the courage and strength to outwit her pursuers, survive the elements and find her way to safety. And when she inadvertently gets mixed up with the area’s drug cartel, she’s forced to rely on her instincts when it comes to whom to trust.
A harrowing survival story, Rust Creek is more than meets the expectant eye, belying its simple and contained revenge-thriller-esque wait-and-see premise (because we haven’t watched enough of those play out…) and developing a substantial, ever-building narrative that outgrows the three characters and initial incident – in a not-too-dissimilar-way that Nocturnal Animals does. There are certainly nods to some of the more distinguished thrillers of recent years, as Rust Creek becomes as invested in the paralleling police investigation (and involved detectives) as it is Sawyer’s in-woods survival and the people she encounters on the way. Where exasperatingly nerve-racking scenes surrounding Sawyer’s concealment coexist alongside plot twists and turns.
The former are some of McGowan’s most rewarding, the edge-of-your-seat minute or twos littered throughout the film as uncomfortable reminders of the life-or-death circumstance. And it’s here, in her character’s most reactive situations, where Corfield most impresses in her physical role. Rust Creek’s easy-to-root-for protagonist, who is a gutsy and pragmatic tough cookie, is entirely conceivable courtesy of her visceral and emotionally measured performance. We’re handed her pain and desperation to keep on fighting, as well as her anxiousness and calculation during fleeting moments of relief – and it’s mostly uncomfortable, as it should be.
McGowan may cast her net wide – there’s even time for an unlikely friendship-of-sorts to blossom amid the harrowing plight – but studious focus, character centricity and ever-moving pace ensures it works on all levels until a satisfyingly intense climax. A nominee for thriller of the year, if you like them mercilessly disturbing.