Men are trying to kill them, and the women hiding in the woods are huddled together, completely nude and desperate.
They’re hugging each other for warmth after splashing through water that has soaked their clothes and, on such a cold night, could soon plunge them into hypothermia.
But this is also the moment Black Rock, a girls-in-trouble Sundance thriller starring Katie Aselton, Lake Bell, and Kate Bosworth, joins its sexy let’s-get-the-actors’-clothes-off sensibilities, with something a lot more intense.
“On the next level, really, that’s where the girls start to turn primal,” says Aselton, who also directed.
Aselton (who’s known for TV’s The League, and previously directed the romantic drama The Freebie) says she wanted the extended nude scene for a several reasons, one of them being homage to the sexploitation flicks that inspired the story (written by her and husband Mark Duplass.) “It’s me playing by the rules of the genre, and abiding by those rules on my own terms,” she says. “It’s like, okay I’ll do nudity, but it’s not going to be in a super sexual way.”
In Black Rock, the three women have gone camping on a remote Maine island for a getaway weekend. Then they happen upon a group of ex-soldiers poaching game, and after an attempted sexual assault all-out war breaks out between the two groups.
That leads to a botched escape where the women end up in the woods, peeling off their cold, wet clothes. After one long, shivering conversation, something in the women shifts from prey to predator.
Soon the naked figures are lit in shadow as they scrabble through the dirt for something that could be used as a weapon.
“That is a true animal instinct. It’s 43 degrees, you have to take those wet clothes off if you’re going to survive, and they’re vulnerable, but they’re finding their strength,” Aselton says. “That’s truly when their inner strength is taking over, and that’s exciting.”
Aselton says the scene could have become a lot more overtly sexual: “I was really particular about how I wanted it to be shot. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie. It’s beautiful. I mean, we shot a lot more of it,” she laughs. “But it’s not necessary.”
It’s rare for actors to direct themselves in such a vulnerable state for so long. Being huddled nude in the brush is not a comfortable state for running a film set.
“It was difficult, but it was all about preparation before the scene on both sides of the camera,” Aselton acknowledges. Plus, indie film sets are famously intimate, so no one had the luxury of being shy. “It was so funny. We called it a closed set, but we had such a small crew that the ‘closed set’ really only kept one [production assistant] off,” Aselton says. “We were like, Mmm, okay, I guess everyone’s welcome!”
Black Rock was one of the Sundance movies picked up early for distribution, and Aselton expects it to debut in the summer.