Rust Creek (2019)

Sawyer Cotter is an over achiever who is very much looking forward to a new job and decides to drive home. While driving home, she accidentally loses her bearings and winds up on a deserted path on the back woods of Kentucky, where she meets Hollister and Buck. The pair happens to be drug traffickers who suspect she might have seen what they were up to. Anxious, they attempt to kidnap her, but Sawyer manages to fight them off and flee in to the woods. As they track her down, Sawyer has to rely on her wits to find her way back home, and becomes a part of a bigger plot involving the drug wars.

Jen McGowan’s film “Rust Creek” is promoted as a survival thriller where character Sawyer has to survive in the woods and fend off attackers, the film is so much more downbeat. While the first twenty five minutes feature Sawyer trying to survive the elements, a majority of the narrative involves a bigger, more tension filled thriller about drug dealers, meth production, and Sawyer accidentally being dropped in the middle of a devious plan involving the local sheriff. A lot of “Rust Creek” is based around what Sawyer is witnessing and what she can do to survive in the middle of an element that she’s unfamiliar with. That sudden change in tonal and narrative direction works for and against “Rust Creek.”

I was very interested in watching how Sawyer would get out of this situation, but it almost seems like the writers ran out of material and just dropped her in to this elaborate crime plot about small town drug dealers and conspiracies. There’s not nearly enough material involving her trying to stave off the elements and survive in the wilderness, and that’s disheartening considering they write Sawyer as a pretty clever heroine most of the time. However, the narrative does get much more interesting the deeper Sawyer delves in this situation involving the cogs of small time drug dealing and distribution. It becomes especially tenser as she’s taken in by Lowell (Jay Paulson is great), a seemingly nice young man who finds her in the woods and nurses her back to health.

His connection to the grand scheme of the movie amounts to a ton of interesting tension and a great dynamic between the characters. Hermione Corfield does a great job while co-stars Micah Hauptman, Daniel R. Hill, and Sean O’Bryen are perfect bastards, posing as pretty despicable villains of the piece. “Rust Creek” doesn’t re-invent the wheel, but it’s a strong thriller I had a good time with, despite some disorienting twists and turns. Crime thriller fans like yours truly will love the engaging plot twists and the incredibly tense climax.

Now in Limited Release and on VOD.