'Black Rock' Review: Hollywood's Latest Slam Against Iraq War Veterans
As a horror and suspense film buff, I’d made a mental note to keep an eye out for the DVD and On Demand release of Black Rock. The trailer indicated a fun, tense "survival"-type flick--right up my alley.
Upon forking over the $6.99 to rent the new release via On Demand last weekend, I was subjected to yet another exercise in Hollywood slandering our veterans. This time, though, it was not the standard Born on the Fourth of July depiction of veterans as bitter or as alcoholics--worse, these veterans are … downright unhinged, rapists and cold-blooded killers of the innocent.
Some story spoilers ahead ...
The plot? Three female friends--Sarah (Kate Bosworth), Abby (Katie Aselton, who also directed from a script by her husband, indie darling Mark Duplass), and Lou (Lake Bell)--who’ve known each other since childhood, head to a remote island in Maine near their hometown, for a girls-bonding camping weekend.
Shortly after arriving, they encounter three fellas--Henry, Derek, and Alex--on the island, there on their own getaway weekend, hunting. One of the girls--after the obligatory disdain expressed at the boys’ hunting and arms (off-season, to boot!)--recognizes Henry from grammar school. The usual pleasantries are exchanged and soon the six are sitting together by a campfire that evening.
Having had a bit too much to drink, Abby begins heavily flirting with Henry, luring him into the woods to fool around. Sarah and Lou remain by the fire with the other two gents for more chit-chat. Derek--an Eminem look-alike--mentions he knows Henry because the three served in Iraq together (“two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan”).
Like any good northeastern liberal, Sarah’s face contorts at the news, nose upturned, becoming visibly uncomfortable.
Why? It’s unclear. But, the viewer is somehow expected to tense up at this "eerie" revelation that the guys are military vets. Because, ya’ know, that means they could be mentally unstable and dangerous company for three girls on a remote island.
Derek then mentions they returned from the war only 18 days ago. Cue to Sarah and Lou squirming even more uncomfortably now … then Derek really lets the crazy flow. He hems and haws awkwardly, as incoherent as a crackhead in a Chappelle Show skit, the very picture of mental imbalance, noting Henry (the one getting physical with Abby in the woods) saved his life in Iraq during an ambush. Well, that’s nice, right? No.
Henry, as it turns out, was dishonorably discharged, though unfairly, as Derek notes:
“Our superiors didn’t really approve of our tactics. Sometimes you can’t go by the book, you know? I mean you can’t follow every single rule. Shit gets out of hand--you gotta do what you gotta do to get the job done.”
And there it is. The tired ol' “our servicemen did/do unmentionable things abroad!” slander--veterans are not only unstable but also evil war criminals. It is unsaid but the implication is clear--did Henry kill, or maim, innocents when a "mental fuse" snapped during that ambush? That’s what we’re expected to infer.
Back in the woods, Abby, hot and heavy with Henry, has a sudden change of heart. When Henry insists and attempts to rape her, she reaches for a rock to defend herself, striking him on the head, dealing an accidental, fatal blow. She screams, the others come rushing over, but Henry dies in Derek’s arms moments later.
So what happens next? For some bizarre, beyond-the-realm-of-suspension-of-disbelief reason, Derek, in a rage over his dead friend, decides the three girls must … die. Alex (the token black male found in every horror/suspense flick ensemble) is, predictably, initially reluctant but, also inexplicably, easily comes around to the idea.
Yes, these two Iraq War vets respond to their friend’s accidental death … by looking to brutally murder three innocent women in cold blood.
What ensues is the three women--running from, outsmarting, and bonding with every bit of girl-power grit---fighting for their very lives.
Let’s examine this. Apart from the ridiculousness of the plot, and the inexplicability of how two young men would opt to kill three women over their friend’s accidental death (bit disproportional, no?), why did the film choose to make these villains … military veterans? Surely, if Aselton and her husband wished to make a girl-power, survival-type thriller … there are a plethora of villains that could have sufficed AND made the plot more believable: meth-heads, for instance, just off the top of my head.
But no, let’s make them Iraq War veterans. Most offensive of all, however, is Aselton’s claim that the film’s choice-of-villains makes it realistic:
For me there had to be a realistic threat. There are all kinds of political statements grand and sweeping that can be said, but for me, soldiers dishonorably discharged fresh from war who are damaged and not okay could be a very real threat.
Young war veterans as sadistic, deranged rapists and killers is “realistic”? If you see this piece of propaganda on Netflix or your On Demand provider, skip it.