Not only should you see Rust Creek because it’s a decent action thriller that doesn’t rely on any big-name celebrities. You should see it because it’s an independent film made on an independent film budget. It delivers the same thrills comparable to a big studio film. Your brain may tip-off that certain moments are low budget and that there are a few minor plot holes, but your heart won’t care.
From director Jen McGowan, Rust Creek follows college student Sawyer (Hermione Corfield) driving home to Kentucky from college for Thanksgiving, but makes the detour of a lifetime to apply for a job in Washington D.C. Soon, Sawyer finds herself lost in the middle of the Kentucky forest and her GPS keeps sending her down roads that don’t exist (warning…never rely on one map app).
Out of frustration, Sawyer pulls over to find directions using this ancient piece of parchment known as a road map. With said map spread out on the hood, two brothers, both locals, Hollister (Micah Hauptman) and Buck (Daniel R. Hill), pull up and offer their unsolicited help. Sawyer instantly realizes she’s in danger and attempts to escape. During the scuffle, she is stabbed in the leg but manages to escape none-the-less.
The rest of Rust Creek is a game of cat-and-mouse between Sawyer and the boys. The injured Sawyer has to survive in the cold Kentucky forest on the cusp of winter. Hollister and Buck must find Sawyer before she draws attention to what the boys are really up to.
“…a game of cat-and-mouse between Sawyer and the boys. The injured Sawyer has to survive in the cold Kentucky forest…”
Survival in the cold overnight was not easy for Sawyer, but she stumbles on a desolate mobile home, where she comes into contact with Lowell (Jay Paulson), the third brother. But unlike the other two, he is not a killer or a thug, he is a meth chemist working feverishly to finish an essential batch of Ecstasy. Lowell decides to hide Sawyer from his brothers until it’s safe to get her to town.
I could make a big deal about the fact that Rust Creek is a female-driven film with director Jen McGowan, writer Julie Lipson, and D.P. Michelle Lawler. Whether a film is good or not should have nothing to do with the gender of the creatives. A film is good, solely because it’s good. The lesson here is that women are just as capable as men to tell any kind of story brilliantly…period. So, give them a chance.
Back to Rust Creek, the look and feel of its production design are comparable to any mid-size budget big studio film. Speaking of which, there are no special effects or elaborate stunts used to add unnecessary excitement to an already good story. The point here is that anyone can make a quality thriller, without the bells-and-whistles Hollywood thinks its thrillers need.
“The moment you say…’but what about…?’ that fact is quickly addressed and resolved…”
Julie Lipson’s story moves at a brisk pace and covers everything. It’s not lazy in any sense of the word and ties up most loose ends. The moment you say to yourself, “but what about…?” that fact is quickly addressed and resolved in a way that advances the story.
For example, Sawyer loses cell phone reception with her mother, of course, mom is going to file a missing person’s report. Sawyer’s car is abandoned on the side of the road. This is an integral part of the plot and is used beautifully on two separate occasions. Let’s also add the sheriff’s investigation that takes a twist, which thriller fans will see coming, but still sneaks up on you.
The acting is good, especially for indie film standards. As Sawyer, Hermione Corfield is probably the most famous of the film’s cast. She is the film’s solid foundation and carries it to the finale. She’s believable, strong, and sympathetic. What I love most is she never conveniently gains some kind of adrenaline raged super-power to fight the baddies. She’s a real college student desperate to survive. Her relationship with her “captor” Lowell is just what this film needs in the second act to slamdunk the ending.
Let me end by saying that Rust Creek is an excellent example for future filmmakers to show that good quality action-thrillers are not reserved for the big studios.
Rust Creek (2018) Directed by Jen McGowan. Written by Julie Lipson. Starring Hermione Corfield, Jay Paulson, Micah Hauptman, Sean O’Bryan, Jeremy Glazer. Rust Creek screened at the San Diego International Film Festival.
8 out of 10 stars