Rust Creek (2018)

Rating: C-

Dir: Jen McGowan
Star:  Hermione Corfield, Jay Paulson, Sean O’Bryan, Micah Hauptman

Expectations can be a problem. I think if I had gone into this, expecting a rural version of Breaking Bad, my reaction might have been kinder. Instead, it feels like a bait-and-switch. Don’t get me wrong, there’s something to be said for films which start off in one direction, then suddenly change track – From Dusk Till Dawn is perhaps the best example. But it only works if what it turns into, is more interesting than what you were expecting, and that isn’t the case here.

College student Sawyer Scott (Corfield) is on her way to a job interview in Washington, when a balky GPS and a road closure send her deep into the Kentucky backwoods. There, she encounters skeevy brothers Hollister (Hauptman) and Buck, who clearly intend to get a bit Deliverance on Sawyer. She makes a good fist of defending herself and escapes into the woods, though takes a knife to the leg in the process. We settle in for an hour and a half of the wilderness survival thrills promised by the poster. Except, they don’t materialize.

For while asleep, she is instead found by Lowell (Paulson), a meth cooker and cousin to the previously mentioned bros. Sawyer is taken to his remote cabin in the woods, though he is, compared to his relatives, a veritable gentleman. Or, at least, apparently unrapey. You take whatever qualities your backwoods kidnappers may have, I imagine. And the film instead meanders off into a low-key character-driven drama, in which Lowell and his captive develop a relationship, while he has to hid Sawyer from Hollister and Buck, who distribute his product. Elsewhere, we discover the truth about the local sheriff (O’Bryan, apparently channeling his inner Michael Keaton), and the search for the missing girl slowly gets ramped up.

On the plus side, I learned considerably more about the cooking of meth than I knew before. So that’s nice. And I guess it’s laudable that the makers chose to go in a different direction from every other “urban girl vs. rural rednecks” film. [I note, without comment, this was both written and directed by women] However, having picked this precisely because I wanted to see something just like every other “urban girl vs. rural rednecks” film, you’ll understand my disappointment. As I said: expectations can be a problem.

I did like the cinematography, which does a great job of capturing the isolated beauty of the setting, leaving me rather conflicted as to whether or not I want to visit it. Positives: gorgeous scenery. Negatives: apparently populated entirely by psychos and drug dealers. And I can’t even complain about the performances, which are solidly functional. It just is not what I wanted to watch. Indeed, If I had been fully aware of what I was going to be watching, this review would probably not have been written. So this review may well be a case of splitting up with a movie by sending it an “It’s not you, it’s me” text.