Sometimes we think IFC will distribute just about anything that was made even slightly professionally, and this becomes extra apparent in the case of Rust Creek, the newest from the company's supposedly-edgier Midnight brand and filmmaker Jen McGowan (Kelly & Cal).
Young Sawyer (Hermione Corfield from bit parts in movies like Mission Impossible and the more recent Star Wars), a promising chemistry student, is heading to a job interview someplace in the South during Thanksgiving, but when she gets lost because phone GPS is apparently bad, she's swept up in some barely there plot about a backwoods drug ring run by paint-by-numbers hillbilly types and their meth-cook cousin with a heart of gold (Jay Paulson, Mad Men).
Rust Creek starts off enticingly enough with a simplistic but seemingly authentic look at how insular communities distrust outsiders and can be rather scary, but whereas a film like Deliverance had the truly disturbing goods, the characters here feel more like broad stroke caricatures crafted by a writer whose idea of Southern folks was forged in the crucible of bad standup, sitcom and movie jokery and a complete misunderstanding of what makes bad guys scary.
Take Hollister, the leader of the drug operation (Homeland's Micah Hauptman); it's all shit-eating grins and frights conveyed by wide-eyed and overbearing fight-picking, but he's never truly scary—even when descending into the usually nightmarish combination of toxic machismo and stupidity—so much as he's one-dimensional. Ditto for his brother Buck (Daniel R Hill, The
Resident), who was probably cast for his tight-lipped and imposing appearance but here brings basically nothing. As Sawyer, Corfield doesn't impress either, though it's hard to tell if that's because she's working from a poor script, tethered to other boring performances or because the minimal hints at Stockholm Syndrome are flat-out irritating.
Regardless, Rust Creek drags, and the peril never feels pressing or real. Instead, the twists and turns wind up telegraphed too obviously or, worse, lead nowhere in particular. What might have been a meaningful look at at a certain cross-section of society, the terror of helplessness, the heartbreaking nature of meth or even the nationwide drug epidemic playing out on a smaller but no less vital stage feels more like a profoundly reductive half-tale from movie makers who seem to have a myopic view of their own setting. Rust Creek is thus boring at best and mind-numbingly tedious at worst. We expected better all around.
-Reductive and chock-full 'o' tedium
Directed by McGowan
With Corfield, Hauptman and Hill
Jean Cocteau Cinema, R, 108 min.