Coffin Rock is a sleepy coastal town in Australia. It's forever bleak and damp there, and it's the type of place where everyone knows each other. Aside from that, there's not much goes on in Coffin Rock.

Local fisherman Rob (Robert Taylor) is quite accustomed to this quiet life, having happily settled down with his attractive wife Jess (Lisa Chappell). For a while all seems well with this pair, but a frisson is soon to be felt when their efforts to conceive a child continue to prove fruitless.

After Jess bursts into tears while holding a friend's child, she and Rob visit a clinic to take fertility tests in a desperate bid to achieve their goal. While there, Irish drifter Evan (Sam Parsonson) captures his first glimpse of Jess - and takes an immediate shine to her.

The following day, Evan wanders into Coffin Rock with his rucksack over his back. He turns up at Jess' door looking for work in the area. She handily points him towards the local cray factory, where he quickly falls into a manual job that helps pay the rent on a trailer in the town.

Once in Coffin Rock, Evan starts making it his business to bump into Jess on frequent occasions, often being openly flirtatious with her. For the record, Jess appears to be quite receptive to the attention.

In the meantime, Jess and Rob begin to grow apart as her obsession with falling pregnant becomes all-consuming.

After another row between the pair, Jess and a female pal set out to a rowdy bar one evening. Rob follows her there looking to reconcile but the distance between them proves to be too great to heal while Jess is so drunk, and she opts to leave him there while she drives home alone, drunk.

Foolishly, Jess decides to call in on handsome Evan in his trailer and inebriated sex ensues. Sobering up midway through, Jess pushes Evan away from her and leaves in a hurry. Disconcertingly, a couple of his neighbours have witnessed the event.

Jess visits Evan at the factory the following day to apologise for misleading him, and tells him there is no way she is about to embark on an affair with him. However, as we've already witnessed by way of Evan speaking to himself in suitably sinister fashion, he's not all there and is not about to take no for an answer.

What could possibly happen next? How about, Jess discovers she's pregnant? Cue an increasingly fraught relationship between Rob and Jess as she struggles with her conscience over her one-night-stand, more jibes from the neighbouring witnesses to keep Jess' paranoia sky high, and an escalating level of psychosis in Evan's behaviour. He is, it transpires, utterly mental. Or, in his own words, he's "an eedjit".

Evan's threats begin as verbal and seemingly idle to begin with, telling Jess he'll reveal all to Rob unless she has a relationship with him. But when he learns of Jess' pregnancy and automatically believes himself to be the father, things move on to a whole new level ...

A low budget and low key film, COFFIN ROCK benefits from some nice scenery location and decent cinematography. Performances are efficient enough and John Gray's score, while hardly original, does a good job at evoking atmosphere in all the right places.

The editing is slick throughout and writer-director Rupert Glasson (REAL THING; TERATOMA) displays a genuine interest in wanting to convey the intricacies of human relationships, and all the shit that inevitably comes with them. It's an occasionally astute script in this regard.

However, there are drawbacks ...

Best described perhaps as a slow-burning thriller, COFFIN ROCK has been dressed up as a horror film by its marketers, and this is bound to disappoint some of the people likely to invest in it. It's not a horror, or at least it isn't for the first three-quarters. Rather, it's a slow sombre piece about loss and desire. It's maybe too slow, taking too long to set up its premise before throwing in a token fifteen-minute finale of car chases, action and gore. The final act is at loggerheads with the relative restraint and pacing that have preceded it - although without it, you may well have come away from this film saying absolutely nothing had happened.

More so, the biggest problem with COFFIN ROCK is that it treads very familiar territory. There are no twists or turns to the plot that we haven't seen in umpteen films along these lines previously. And while a cliché-ridden film can still be fun when it's done well (see the recent HUSH for example), Glasson's film is merely competent; adept, but soon forgotten.

Best remembered for it's keen photography, occasionally brilliant use of local scenery and the manic telephone calls Evan makes to his offscreen father ("Fuck you, you fuckin' cripple!"). Aside from these elements, COFFIN ROCK has surprisingly little to offer. But it's proficient enough ...

With it's setting, it's thin premise and the foreign traveller who turns into a not-scary-for-the-most-part villain, COFFIN ROCK drew comparisons to Ringan Ledwidge's 2007 effort GONE (reviewed in the SGM archives). But GONE, while by no means a masterpiece, offered more entertainment and style than this pot-boiler.

The screener disc offered for review was a very basic affair. The film was presented uncut in a full-frame (1.33:1) transfer. Images are crisp and detailed, with strong blacks and healthy, natural colours. Shot on what looked to be digital, the transfer proffered was a strong and sharp one.

The English 2.0 audio offered problem-free playback too.

With this being a very early screener disc, there were no extra features or even menus on the disc. However, the film did possess 9 navigational chapters.

Apparently the retail disc will include a Making Of featurette and trailers (some of which may account for the 18 rating on the cover of this 15-rated film).

The tagline for COFFIN ROCK reads "Be careful what you wish for ...". I would've thought a more apt tagline was "Nice title, shame about the film".

Review by Stu Willis

Released by High Fliers
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review