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Quint didn't care for Mumblecore Thriller Black Rock much at all. Sundance 2012!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with another Sundance review!

We have a policy here at AICN that I’m very proud of. When covering film festivals we have a rule on writing negative reviews for indies without distribution. With very few high profile exceptions we stick to that decree. Why kick a movie when it's down already?

So I have to thank LD Distribution for picking up Black Rock after its premiere last night because now I can review it!

I went into the movie knowing only that Mumblecore darling Mark Duplass wrote it, his wife Katie Aselton directed it, that Kate Bosworth was in it and it was programmed in the midnight movie slot, which meant it was a thriller or horror movie of some sort.

Before we start on the review I should state up front that I’m not the world’s biggest mumblecore fan. I like scripts, what can I say? But I have liked a few movies that would fall under that banner. Cyrus and Aselton’s own The Freebie were movies I’d put on my “liked it” list.

And for the first 10-15 minutes of Black Rock I was really digging it. Kate Bosworth, Lake Bell and director/star Katie Aselton play three childhood friends who have had a bit of a falling out. Two of the group actively hate the other and Bosworth wants to mend that rift by planning a trip out to a remote island they used to play on as kids. They buried a time capsule and Bosworth’s big plan is to force her two friends to bury the hatchet by isolating them and giving them no choice but to confront each other one last time and, hopefully, forgive each other.

Then some dudes with guns show up and it turns into a cheap, ill-shot Deliverance knock-off, but with girls! Setting aside how offensive it is to show every male in the movie as either blood-thirsty or super-rapey, it’s just the same running-through-the-woods thriller you’ve seen executed better a few dozen times. Hell, just last year there was a film called A Lonely Place To Die that was able to be a real movie, not just a photocopy of scenes you’ve seen before.

After the film, Aselton proudly proclaimed that her husband wrote the script in 18 hours. That’s not a good thing and that’s the reason why everything from about 15 minutes in feels like kids playing with their dad’s video camera out in the woods behind their house.

I heard tonight that Aselton read some of my tweets after seeing the movie and took umbrage to me pointing out that quote from the Q&A, that she and Mark spent months on the script. All I can say is that’s not what she said at the Q&A and yeah, I was being a bit of a smart-ass, but I still feel the script turns from very strong as it introduces these girls to very predictable and cookie-cutter when it actually gets to the thriller part.

I really wish the grey area she seemed to want to hit in the the dynamic between hunter and prey was followed up on. Doing it halfway puts it in a weird, muddled area. Sure, the men are rapey and trigger-happy, but Aselton flirted with one first and it got out of hand, with one of the men getting gravely injured when she defends herself, so I guess they weren’t totally in the wrong for trying to beat and murder the women? Seriously, that seemed to be the logic.

It would have been really interesting if they were able to make the men a little less Snidley Whiplash and have it unclear who is really the villain. If they were all just scared people, each side thinking the other is evil and trying to survive, then I think they wouldn’t have me being so mean on the movie.

Fleshing out the script also would have helped massage the dialogue in the latter half of the movie, which consisted mainly of “Fuck! Motherfucker! Shit! I’m going to kill you! He’s going to kill us! Fuck! Goddamnit! Shit!”

I don’t have an issue with Kate Bosworth, Lake Bell or Katie Aselton’s performances on the whole, but the film lost me less than 20 minutes in and never won me back. What makes me a little angry at the movie is that the core characters and their drama are great and it feels to me like they were wasted when the cartoony bad guys show up and it becomes a standard low budget thriller.



Ms. Aselton, congratulations on getting distribution. I’m sure there’ll be others out there that like the movie more than me. Please don’t punch me in the face if you see me walking down Main Street.

Make sure to follow me on Twitter so you can keep up with my movie by movie thoughts as I Sundance it up! I won’t write reviews of the stinkers, but I’ll tweet my thoughts on every movie I see, good or bad. Tomorrow (or rather a few hours from now) brings movies with Paul Giamatti, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Alison Brie and Spike Lee!

-Eric Vespe
Follow Me On Twitter

Readers Talkback
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  • Jan. 23, 2012, 6:16 a.m. CST

    Mumblecore rule #5

    by P

    No guns. No wait, that was Dogme 95.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 6:19 a.m. CST

    I don't care for Mumblecore at all, frankly

    by D.Vader

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 6:21 a.m. CST

    That's Kate Bosworth? Thought it was Kristen Bell

    by theBigE

    From the pictures I kept thinking this movie starred Bell. Quint - must be tough being a reviewer when you get the filmmakers mad at you. No need to apologize to us. The movie maker puts out the art, they can handle criticism. I'm looking forward to your take on Spike Lee's film.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 6:25 a.m. CST

    So what's the rule?

    by BangoSkank

    *When covering film festivals we have a rule on writing negative reviews for indies without distribution.*

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 6:28 a.m. CST

    I didn't realize...

    by BangoSkank

    ...this was mumblecore. I don't really understand what *mumblecore* is, I just know that I haven't enjoyed a single flick that has fallen under that banner.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 6:33 a.m. CST

    Lake Bell

    by hspahr

    Lake Bell is megahot - so I'll give it a whirl when it hits Netflix. That is all.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 6:34 a.m. CST

    Toughen up bitch

    by DOGSOUP

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 7:14 a.m. CST

    Another rape movie? FUCK,I AM SOLD!!

    by KilliK

    Kate Bosworth gets raped for a second time? FUCK.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 7:38 a.m. CST

    black rock?

    by Mugato5150

    Like Fishbone?

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 7:58 a.m. CST

    mumblecore? had to wki it.

    by phifty2

    Never knew it existed. Now that I know, my life is forever changed.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 7:58 a.m. CST

    Rape Day at Black Rock

    by buggerbugger

    Is one of the chicks a one-handed kung fu expert? If so, take my advice and try super-raping her last.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 8:39 a.m. CST

    Wrote the script in 18 hours.

    by phifty2

    Yeah that may have been the problem. However, Cameron wrote ALIENS in one weekend.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 9:06 a.m. CST

    Well Aliens wasn't terribly complex

    by Mugato5150

    I don't have a problem believing any of Cameron's films couldn't be pounded out by him in a weekend except maybe the Abyss.

  • Back when I was earning my graduate degree in Sociology, we pointed a 16mm camera at a bunch of self-absorbed hipster douchebags and their hosebag girlfriends, and let them blather on for hours and hours. The resulting films were then displayed to non-hipster test subjects, who invariably tried to jam pens, pencils or other sharp objects in their ears around the ninety minute mark. Never occurred to me to sell the films themselves...

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 11:50 a.m. CST

    What's this "mumblecore" happy crappy?

    by 3D-Man

    Been reading this site since '98 and this is the first I've heard of it.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 11:55 a.m. CST


    by lv_426

    That's the name of the new filmmaking manifesto that I just made up. It is going to be awesome. THE RULES: 1) No shooting on analog film, as your movie must only be shot on digital. Not just any digital camera either, but a DSLR. 2) You must shoot everything hand-held. A tripod is strictly forbidden, except for the allowance of up to five dolly or crane shots, and since a dolly or crane/jib needs some sort of support, we will allow a tripod for those few shots. Also, if you choose to use a steadicam, you must shoot the whole film in one continuous take then. 3) You must force your lead actor to grow a cool looking beard. 4) You must force your lead actress to learn to paint, so that she can paint during at least two scenes in the film. 5) There needs to be at least three extreme douche bag characters in the film. Whether that be one of your leads, or just supporting characters, is up to your creative genius. 6) There needs to be a cool indie band in your film. They also need to appear in the film in at least one scene. 7) No classical film composers are allowed to make music for your film. Use the band (see #6 above). 8) You must serve espresso and chai tea on set. No plain old coffee and cheap Earl Fucking Grey Tea. This isn't Star Trek TNG, with Captain Picard and his -Earl Grey hot- wandering about. 9) Your film needs to incorporate some sort of found footage angle. Whether that means the entire film is a found footage one, or maybe your characters just watch some found footage segments that have something to do with the main plot. It is up to you, the filmmaker to decide. 10) You must do all your casting and crew hiring through Facebook. 11) You are obligated to enter your finished film into both the Sundance and Slamdance film festivals. 12) I've saved the most important one for last. You must, and I stress this one with the utmost seriousness, you must take no longer than two days to write your screenplay for your Hipstermumblefoundogma_DSLR_2012_core film. Now go make some pretentiously awesome films kiddies!

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 12:12 p.m. CST

    Wrote the script in 18 hrs = headsmack

    by D.Vader

    You shouldn't be proud of that unless there was a deadline for class or a contest. If it was just for your own movie on your own time, then you owe it to yourself and your viewers to do better.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 4:25 p.m. CST

    What's the name of the movie?

    by MooseMalloy

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 4:31 p.m. CST

    The title of the movie is MUMBLECORE THRILLER BLACK ROCK?

    by MooseMalloy

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 9:06 p.m. CST

    There is no such thing as "mumblecore"...

    by TopHat

    ...the word first came to being after a sound editor for a very low budget movie complained that the actors were all mumbling and he couldn't get the sound right. It caught on with the pseudo-film critics to make them seem "in-the-know" and smart. Much like for a time every movie that wsn't shot on expensive film was called "Dogma 95 style" now every movie that isn't shot by an established studio or LOOK like it was shot by a studio is called "mumblecore". Its a way to dismiss any film that is thought would not make money. Because how much a movie will supposedly make or how many award nominations it'll get is all that matters now.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 9:28 p.m. CST

    phifty2, yes, Cameron wrote Aliens very quickly...

    by kisskissbangbang

    ...because he was adapting a script he'd already written to the Alien franchise. You have to admit, that's got to make go a little faster.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 9:34 p.m. CST

    Oops, as Rick Perry would say...

    by kisskissbangbang

    ...that should be "make it go". Leaving out words makes it go a little faster, too. Insert mandatory demand for edit function. Bygones.

  • Jan. 23, 2012, 11:44 p.m. CST

    Pretty amusing, lv-426.

    by kisskissbangbang

  • Jan. 24, 2012, 3:22 a.m. CST

    Like the mention of A LONELY PLACE TO DIE

    by melonman

    Cracking little thriller, that showed how great scenery can make even a low budget movie look amazing.

  • Jan. 24, 2012, 2:26 p.m. CST

    What the fuck is a "mumblecore"?

    by Jon Forbing

    From context, I'm guessing movies with improvised dialogue? Whatever, sounds like a '90s music genre.