A teenager on her way to an interview at her top college stumbles into a web of small town corruption based around a meth ring—what could possibly go wrong? Rust Creek shows us that a lot can go wrong, not just within the world of the film but more importantly with the film’s writing, directing, and acting, among other things. (GPG: 1/5)
Review by FF2 Contributing Editor Giorgi Plys-Garzotto
Rust Creek starts out feeling like a supernatural thriller, and I was gearing up in anticipation for some eerie, eldritch monsters with Southern accents. Sawyer (Hermione Corfield) is drawn away from her family Thanksgiving to attend an interview at her first choice college, but she gets lost on the road in a tangle of incomprehensible backroads in unfamilliar and quite suddenly sub-Mason-Dixon terrain. It’s unclear where she’s supposed to be, but the college is meant to be in Washington, D.C., so we’re never given a concrete explanation of how the geography works out, but ah well. The long story short is that Sawyer quite suddenly finds herself totally lost, driving through one horse towns where everyone stares at her in a way I would usually expect from people who are going to turn out to be a hive mind of swamp monsters. There were strong Tru Blood vibes throughout the beginning that made me think that supernatural horror was where this was supposed to go, especially when I noted that her GPS had suddenly stopped working and she appeared not to be getting any signal on her phone.
Sawyer’s real troubles start when she encounters two strange men on the road who offer to drive her to their place to give her a place to stay for the night. Sawyer seems smart enough to refuse, but she proves herself to not be smart enough to stay in her car with the key in the ignition when there are two threatening strange men confronting her on a lonely country road. They manage to overpower her for long enough to seriously wound her, prompting her to go on a Revenant-esque trek through the woods as she escapes from them and attempts to find shelter. This part of the movie is, for one thing, the part where I began to realize that there would be no vampires in this movie, and for another, the part where it’s basically just her bleeding, steeling herself to undertake painful medical procedures on herself with only sticks and mud around for supplies, and grunts in pain a lot. This part of the film was mercifully short, and only this kept me interested in the film.
Fast forward to the next morning, when Sawyer finds that she was discovered by a man and taken to his cabin. The problem is that he has her tied up, and also that the two men she met on the road come to visit the cabin soon after she wakes up. Surprisingly though, the man who is sheltering her, whose name she comes to learn is Lowell (Jay Paulson), keeps her presence a secret from the other two criminals, Buck (Daniel R. Hill) and Josh (Jake Kidwell). The first thing we learn about these men is that they have the most stereotypical redneck names imaginable. The second is that they’re running a meth ring for the town sheriff. We get the sense that Lowell is mostly protecting Sawyer because he is feeling so overwhelmingly lonely due to hanging out alone making meth in a cabin all day with only Buck and Josh for company. This also seems to be part of why he urges her to stay with him for a while longer, until Buck and Josh stop looking for her. In the meantime, she has to hang out with him in his house, and bond with him over learning to cook meth.
You might have noticed by now that most of the character choices in this film are unbelievable. Instead of running for her life, or even asking to use his phone, Sawyer is perfectly happy to hang out with Lowell without being told twice. She’s on her way to this huge interview, and if she wasn’t going to the interview she would have Thanksgiving with her family, but instead of trying to get back to civilization and live her life she just…chills out with Lowell, having weirdly romantic conversations about the chemistry of meth? The relationship between Lowell and Sawyer is kind of interesting, but it’s totally undermined by the fact that it’s so unbelievable for either of them to make the choices they do. Needless to say, the generic redneck meth-heads are the barest tropes; I don’t think either of them has a single line that hasn’t appeared about a hundred times in other, better movies.
All this criticism so far doesn’t even get into the sub-plot involving the sheriff covering up the meth ring and Sawyer’s kidnapping from an earnest young officer working under him. You see, the earnest young officer has heard this missing persons report about a girl last seen driving into their area, and has this “hunch” that there’s something going on. The sheriff just repeatedly says “you’re off the case!” and other standard sheriff lines like that. Earnest Young Officer (Jeremy Glazer) finally finds out about the whole thing when he gives up and leaves the station to go home for Thanksgiving, realizes he forgot his coat inside, and ends up walking in on the sheriff having a blatantly incriminating phone conversation that apparently started five seconds after the younger officer left. I think the younger officer gets killed off or something; to be honest I do not remember. The whole plotline takes all of five minutes of Rust Creek’s screentime.
The ending is basically what you would guess, so why spend $1.99 on Amazon just to confirm you were right?
Q: Does Rust Creek pass the Bechdel-Wallace test?
Nope! Sawyer mostly talks to the criminals, who are all male.