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Film / Mean Creek

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Mean Creek is a 2004 Coming of Age psychological indie drama film starring Rory Culkin, Carly Schroeder and Josh Peck.

It tells the story of a bully called George (Peck) who beats up a fellow classmate Sam (Culkin) regularly. Sam's older brother and his friends decide to get revenge on George for the bullying and invite him on a boating trip for the weekend.

They plan to make him strip and jump into the river, before abandoning him and forcing him to walk home naked. Also tagging along is Sam's friend Millie (Schroeder), who urges Sam to call the plan off.

Divided opinions in the group cause the plan to backfire horribly, and they are forced to deal with the consequences of their actions.


Provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: The film doesn't really address this until they go to see George's mother but think about it. George is convinced into not telling his mother where he's going. The audience knows that the kids are planning on pushing George in the lake and forcing him to walk home naked. Imagine being a parent and your child arrives home from the trip in that condition. What actually happens is much worse - when the kids show up on her doorstep she has clearly been worried sick and rightfully assumes the worst when she sees the expressions on their faces.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: George says he has a learning disability. He says he can't read words right which hints at dyslexia while also displaying some characteristics of autism.
  • An Aesop: Peer pressure for the most part is harmful. It can even be deadly.
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  • Asshole Victim: Subverted, bordering on a deconstruction. The group start to realise their mistake as soon as George shows he might not be so bad, being happy to be invited for the trip. They seem to come to the conclusion that nobody truly deserves to be tormented. Unfortunately George lands himself in it.
  • Berserk Button: Do not mention Marty's father. George also reacts violently when Sam touches his camera.
  • Big Brother Bully: Subverted. Sam's older brother Rocky is good and kind while Marty fits the stereotype perfectly, despite not actually being related to Sam.
    • Marty's brother Kyle is a straight example.
  • Bitch Alert: Male example - Marty.
  • Break Them by Talking: George's cruel, relentless mocking of Marty's dead father ("His daddy splattered his brains all over the wall!") is what breaks Marty and, in one way or another, results in George's death.
  • Broken Record: "His daddy splattered his brains all over the wall."
  • Camera Fiend: Subverted. George has made a very personal confessional on his video camera.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Millie carves something into the tree to mark where George's body is buried, so the police can find it.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The most famous scene in the movie, when everyone lets George know why they brought him on the trip, and he subsequently cusses out everyone on the boat.
  • Companion Cube: George's video camera, which he carries everywhere. The school, the boat, and even the lake.
  • Country Matters: During his tirade, George calls Millie the c-word and prefaces it with an antisemitic slur. What makes his use of the word particularly shocking is that Millie is arguably the most sensible and innocent one here.
  • Cover Drop: The poster on this page exactly mirrors a shot in the movie following George's death.
  • Creator Cameo: Of a sort. When Marty is aiming Kyle's pistol, he mentions a "Mr. Estes". The director's name is Jacob Aaron Estes.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable: Millie attempts to revive George, it doesn't work.
  • Dead-Hand Shot: One of the posters depicts a dead George's forearm covered with dirt and leaves.
  • Determinator: Deconstructed. By the halfway point, Marty is the only one in the group that is willing to go along with the plan. Too bad George dies because of it.
  • Disappeared Dad: Marty's father who killed himself. If George has a father we don't see him.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Clyde gets bullied by Marty and George throughout the whole film and finally snaps when Marty wants to bury the body.
  • Downer Ending: George drowns, the kids bury his body but then decide to come clean to the police. They'll likely be treated sympathetically but will be forever haunted by the experience. Marty also begins a life of crime as he runs off to Mexico.
  • Genre Deconstruction: As Roger Ebert put it, "'Mean Creek' joins a small group of films including 'The River's Edge' and 'Bully,' which deal accurately and painfully with the consequences of peer driven behavior."
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Saying that is quite the understatement.
  • Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: The kids plan to do a variation of this to George as punishment.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Millie has white-blonde hair which is appropriate for the most innocent of the group. She wears a lot of white too.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: George slams the door on himself when he makes a crack about Marty's father and then further digs himself into it when he taunts the others after finding out about the prank.
  • Irony: George makes fun of Millie, Sam, and Clyde for not wanting to play Truth or Dare not knowing that they are trying to protect him.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Even though Marty was acting out of line after George's death, he was right about no one showing sympathy for people who throw fat kids in the river, and about the possibility of the kids getting in trouble for what had happened.
  • "L" Is for "Dyslexia": George.
  • Mood Whiplash: The trailer caught a really bad wind of it halfway through. The first half makes the movie seem like an innocent, light-hearted comedy of sorts. Then we see the scenes depicting George's death, and everything converts to extremely depressing.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: George. He's actually a very lonely kid with an Ambiguous Disorder which makes him very defensive of his camera.
  • Not So Above It All: After being taunted by George, Millie tells the others to start the Truth or Dare game.
  • Not So Different: The film seems to suggest that this is the case with Marty and George.
  • Oh, Crap!: George's mother when she sees the group standing outside her door. It's really Played for Drama.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Marty's rationalisation of the plan.
  • Please Wake Up: Millie says this several times while trying to revive George.
  • Precision F-Strike: Innocent little Millie lets loose two f-bombs, when she can't revive George.
  • Prison Rape: Briefly mentioned:
    Clyde: But the idea of burying the body is nuts.
    Marty: Going to jail and getting raped every night for the rest of your cute little fucking lives is nuts.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: George gives one to Millie, Sam, Clyde, and Marty when he finds out about the prank.
  • Scenery Porn: Especially when they go out on the lake.
  • Ship Tease: In universe, Rocky dares Sam and Millie to kiss, and Marty forces them to.
  • Shrinking Violet: Sam.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Clyde is disgusted, after Marty suggests burying George's body, and tells him off about the potential holes in his plan.
  • Spanner in the Works: Marty. His insistence in playing truth or dare, leads to George being killed.
  • Stress Vomit: Sam, after they couldn't revive George.
  • Totally Radical: Averted to a degree. There's no eighties slang from the kids (the creator is an '80s kid), but for some reason they act as if Super Soakers are the best thing ever, and reference fantasizing about Heather Locklear and Shannen Doherty, who would have been in their 40s when the film came out.


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