'Rust Creek' Review
A college co-ed goes on the run from a pair of rough rednecks in the woods in Rust Creek. And it's not as typical as it sounds.
Release Date: Januray 4, 2019
MPAA Rating: R
An overachieving college student gets lost on her way to a job interview. A wrong turn leaves her stranded deep in the Kentucky forest. The woman must defend herself against the harsh elements and a band of ruthless outlaws. She is forced into an uneasy alliance with a strange loner who has unknown intentions.
Director: Jen McGowan
Screenwriters: Julie Lipson, Stu Pollard
Producer: Stu Pollard
Cast: Hermione Corfield (Sawyer), Jay Paulson (Lowell), Micah Hauptman (Hollister), Daniel R. Hill (Buck), Sean O’Bryan (Sheriff O’Doyle), Jeremy Katz (Deputy Katz), John Marshall Jones (Commander Slattery)
Editor: David Hopper
Cinematographer: Michelle Lawler
Production Designer: Candi Guterres
Casting Directors: Jeremy Gordon, Caroline Liem
Music Score: H. Scott Salinas
From Deliverance to Wrong Turn, Backcountry to The Blair Witch Project, movies about city slickers getting trapped in the woods are a dime a dozen. So what’s one more, right? Well, that’s pretty much what Rust Creek is, but it does manage to put a few spins on the tired old horror movie trope.
Rust Creek is about a college student named Sawyer Scott (Hermione Corfield from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) who is on her way to a job interview when the GPS on her cell phone gets her lost in the middle of Eastern Kentucky. She happens upon pair of rednecks named Hollister (Everest’s Micah Hauptman) and Buck (Daniel R. Hill from “The Resident”) who pretend to offer help, but only end up assaulting her instead.
She escapes and runs into the nearby woods. Lost and being chased by her assailants, Sawyer winds up at the trailer-trash home of Lowell (Lucky Bastard’s Jay Paulson), who hides her from her pursuers. She’s grateful for the assistance, but also skeptical of Lowell’s motives. Sawyer is wounded, tired, and hungry, and has no idea who she can trust to help her out of her predicament.
That sure sounds like a familiar horror movie setup, doesn’t it? Luckily, Rust Creek doesn’t fall into the same old pitfalls. Well, it falls into some of them, but the movie still puts enough of a twist on the archetypical fish-out-of-water scenario to stay fresh. Written by Julie Lipson (her feature debut) and directed by Jen McGowan (Kelly & Cal), Rust Creek begins as a typical run-of-the-mill redneck-chasing-a-tenderfoot through the woods movie, but the entire thing shifts when Sawyer meets Lowell.
The man has secrets of his own, so Sawyer isn’t completely convinced that she can trust him, but she prefers her chances with him than she does her chances against nature or her hillbilly assailants. Even the police seem sketchy in those parts. So she forms sort of a Stockholm Syndrome bond with Lowell, not really putting all of her faith in his word, but completely out of any other options. And that’s where Rust Creek turns from a backwoods chase movie into a fascinating cat-and-mouse character study.
Although uncomfortably out of her element, Sawyer is anything but helpless. She’s very capable, almost a badass. Throughout the movie, she uses her physical strength, her cunning, and her intellect to improve her chances for survival. There is an argument for Rust Creek being a feminist movie, since Sawyer is able to fight off her attackers and survive without help from anyone, but really, standing up to misogyny shouldn’t be a feminist concept – it should be everyone’s default state.
In that regard, Rust Creek is just an action thriller that happens to have a female lead. And things never go all I Spit on Your Grave, so nothing is ever exploitative. Sawyer is not on the level of, say, an Ellen Ripley or a Sarah Connor, but she holds her own, and it’s refreshing to see.
If watching people running around in the woods and fighting off hillbillies is your thing, then you’ll enjoy Rust Creek. Or, at least, you’ll enjoy the first half of it. But by then, you’ll be so engrossed by the fragile relationship between Sawyer and Lowell that you’ll hang around for the rest. And you won’t be sorry.
There are few real scares in Rust Creek. The movie does offer its fair share of suspense and tension, but nothing that really boils over into fear. While the situation of Sawyer being lost in the woods and the redneck characters themselves are a bit frightening, those are all stereotypical tropes that aren’t really going to inspire any nightmares. Rust Creek comes off as more of a suspense thriller than a horror movie anyway, so the lack of skin crawls and spine tingles won’t affect one’s enjoyment of the movie.