Coffin Rock (2009)
Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Starring Lisa Chappell, Terry Camilleri, Robert Taylor, Sam Parsonson
Directed by Rupert Glasson
Following in the wake of effective Aussie thrillers like Wolf Creek and The Horseman, comes the distinctly average psycho-stalker flick Coffin Rock. The story here follows married couple Jessie (Lisa Chappell) and Rob (Robert Taylor) who find their lives turned upside down when Jessie falls into the affectionate sights of unhinged Irishman Evan (Sam Parsonson). After trying for years to start a family, the couple visit a fertility clinic so that the condition of Rob’s boys can be tested. There, Jessie catches the eye of Evan and, after pulling their details from the systems, he soon comes wandering into the small outback town in which they live.
Obtaining a job at the local prawn farm, Evan sets to work ingratiating himself with the target of his obsession, attempting to worm his way between Rob and Jessie.
Rob, anxious about the potential ramifications of the test results, refuses to open the letter when it arrives – an action which eventually leads the couple into a vicious argument. The fallout of this sees Jessie getting incredibly drunk at the local watering hole before wandering back to the prawn farm and into the arms(and underwear) of Evan.
When Jessie later discovers that she’s pregnant, she is thrown into confusion as to whether the father is Rob or Evan, while the news sends Evan’s psychosis to new heights as he desperately attempts to claim his new family.
Coffin Rock has a few of the ingredients necessary for success, including a strong cast and tight direction but the script seems constantly afraid of making the move into the darker territory required to raise it above similar movies in the “psycho suitor” genre. When Evan eventually reaches the stage of wanton violence, the film seems much too restrained to actually be shocking – the envelope is never pushed, so while some parts may be thrilling, they’re never any more effective than can easily be found, or bettered, elsewhere. A rather unsettling scene of animal murder notwithstanding, very few scenes in Coffin Rock are memorable in any way.
Character-wise, our main protagonist Jessie is also pretty unlikeable. It is established early-on that she is the most lusted-after woman in this small town, so one would assume she’d know better than to be getting drunk and acting like a floozy. Later, even when Evan turns into a threatening beast she refuses to seek help from her husband for fear of being found out; and after confronting him herself and being presented with his proclivity for violent reactions she only comes across as weak.
Better, are the characters of Rob and Evan. Rob is a loving husband, always mainly concerned with the wellbeing and happiness of his wife. The one moment that instigates their argument and sets the story’s wheels in motion is borne from his human fragility – his unwillingness to face something that challenges his very manhood and validity as a husband. Small scenes throughout the film with Rob glancing at the letter are given a similar feel to watching a child repeatedly climb to the highest diving board and mentally attempt to conquer the fear of going over. Taylor also efficiently translates Rob’s distress upon learning of his wife’s infidelity, but also his remaining love for her as he tries to reclaim her from Evan.
The best performance of all, however, is hands-down Sam Parsonson as Evan. The guy is a total nutjob, with Parsonson actually pulling off a decent Irish accent, and easily able to slip from calm and collected to a ball of violent fury in mid-sentence. His gradually more unhinged telephone calls to his father are some of the film’s highlights; however they herald the only disappointingly obvious twist that Coffin Rock contains. Besides being a total mental case, Evan is also a coward – meting out his violence mainly on women or other men when their backs are turned. The film gets extra points for Parsonson’s performance with a raw fish during an excellent scene showing his severe lack of male bonding ability.
Coffin Rock isn’t a particularly bad movie, but the story just happens in front of your eyes. As per usual, the Australian outback looks beautiful on film, but you’ll never feel particularly invested or shocked at what goes on during the runtime, and things are severely marred by a slow but almost devoid of the intended tension last 15 minutes. If you’re a fan of the psycho-thriller genre then it may be worth a try when there’s nothing else about, and it might also make a decent date movie for those unaccustomed to scarier fare (I’m pretty certain it will be more effective for women considering the material), but to stand out among the tons of other thrillers out there you need to have a lot more than some good performances. Coffin Rock does not.
2 1/2 out of 5
Discuss Coffin Rock in our Dread Central forums!