Rust Creek


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Rust Creek
"Director Jen McGowan proves expert at drawing out the humanity in her characters, making the brutality of those bent on protecting their own interests far more disturbing."

Ever since Richard Connell's The Most Dangerous Game was adapted for the screen in 1932, cinema has been fascinated by the idea of hunting humans. Rust Creek is, however, one of the first such films to be written and directed by women. It's a crucial difference because, by and large, the danger of being hunted is something most women have given serious consideration to. The setting for this film is the backwoods of Kentucky, not some lonely late night parking lot or alley, but the fundamentals of the situation are the same and this difference in perspective contributes to making it considerably more convincing than most of its predecessors.

Hermione Corfield plays Sawyer, a college student travelling to Washington DC for a job interview who makes the rookie mistake of trusting her satnav and seeking out a short cut when traffic on the interstate is bad. Happening on a couple of hicks who initially seem helpful, she asks for directions only to find that they have other things in mind. This isn't a situation that Sawyer has gone through life unprepared for. At close quarters she gives as good as she gets, but she's wounded and they succeed in separating her from her car. Out among the trees in unknown territory, with the air rapidly beginning to chill, she has to figure out how to survive whilst they make ready to hunt her down.

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Rust Creek is realistic about the scenario it presents. Sawyer may be able to fight but she's no wilderness expert and it doesn't take human intervention to end life in that kind of wilderness. It's her good fortune that she stumbles across Lowell (Jay Paulson), a backwoods meth cook who, despite his limited social skills, is not the monster she initially takes him for. It's less fortunate that he happens to be in the pay of the same petty crime syndicate as her initial assailants. As he hides her, waiting for an opportunity to smuggle her out of the area, an odd couple friendship develops. She becomes intrigued by the wealth of knowledge and skill that this shy, formally uneducated man brings to his work, whilst her tales of the wider world broaden his horizons.

It's the tenderness of this central relationship on which the film hinges. Director Jen McGowan proves expert at drawing out the humanity in her characters, making the brutality of those bent on protecting their own interests far more disturbing. She's also skilled at handling the flow of time. Inside Lowell's cramped trailer, the minutiae of his work absorb the attention - the more so because we're made aware from the start of the dangers that could stem from a mistake - enabling events to slow right down before we cut back to the pursuit that places Sawyer in mortal danger.

Although there are points at which the action moves a little too slowly, overall this is an impressive example of how to do a lot with a little, making the most of the actors and the setting to tell as story that understands hunting as it really is - with all the tension and uneasiness of waiting included. And whilst it may look as if the natural advantage resides with the guys with the guns, nothing here is a foregone conclusion.

Reviewed on: 30 Dec 2018
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Rust Creek packshot
A student finds herself wounded and hunted by dangerous criminals after taking a short cut through the Appalachian mountains.

Director: Jen McGowan

Writer: Julie Lipson, Stu Pollard

Starring: Hermione Corfield, Denise Dal Vera, Jeremy Glazer, Laura Guzman

Year: 2018

Runtime: 109 minutes

Country: US


San Diego 2018

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