McGowan and Lipson deliver a smart, resilient female protagonist in Sawyer (Hermione Corfield), a college senior who decides to forego her family Thanksgiving dinner for a big job interview in Washington, D.C. When her GPS strands her in the rural backwater of Kentucky, she’s approached by Hollister (Micah Hauptman) and Buck (Daniel R. Hill), two brothers who have their own plans for the young woman. What transpires is a fight for survival in a backwoods world of camouflage, meth, and corrupt local law enforcement.
The film's ability to create a sense of danger without being exploitative is admirable, as my concerns over Sawyer’s fate dissipated in the first act. Except for a groping and suggestive language, there’s mercifully little sex, a welcome revelation in a genre that often uses rape as lazy character motivation. (It does bear mentioning that other films of this ilk have managed to approach sexual violence successfully, including the 2017 critical hit Revenge.) When Sawyer does feel threatened, she reacts with enough perfectly-timed kicks and punches to make me wonder if self-defense classes were a required part of her college curriculum.
Rust Creek takes an unexpected turn when Sawyer, injured and near death, happens upon a trailer belonging to Lowell (Jay Paulson), a sensitive meth cook making
But for all its female tenacity and curious potential pairing, Rust Creek proves far too formulaic to generate tension, as it often falls victim to predictable action tropes (it doesn’t take a film scholar to know what happens after a newly hopeful Lowell declares that he’s getting out of the meth game). And while the commitment to creating a sense of place is admirable, it grows increasingly tiresome with each whoop, holler, and folksy saying (when describing the local sheriff, Lowell, with his thick drawl, says, “He’s the worst kinda snake – he don’t rattle before he
Rust Creek might make you never want to use GPS again, but the effect wears off pretty quickly after this forgettable survival thriller ends.
Rust Creek opens on Fri., Jan. 11 at the Regent Square Theater. 1035 S. Braddock Ave., Regent Square. cinema.pfpca.org