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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:

  • Aerith and Bob: The siblings are named Rocky....and Sam.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: There really isn't any indication that the movie takes place in the 2000s. Especially when Rocky and Sam play would you rather, they talk about Shannen Doherty and Heather Locklear who were popular in the early to mid nineties. They also use pagers and landlines instead of cell phonesnote , and George gets Sam a Super Soaker as a present.
  • An Aesop: Peer pressure for the most part is harmful. It can even be deadly.
  • 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.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Downplayed. While Marty's brother Kyle is an abusive asshole, he seems genuinely concerned for Marty when he finds out about his role in George's death and agrees to not say anything about it to protect Marty. During their final scene together, Kyle tries to say something heartfelt to Marty but gives up after either he can't think of anything or can't bring himself to say 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.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Rocky's main motive for getting back at George.
  • 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."
  • The Bully: George and Marty. The film explores the reasoning behind both cases while never excusing either:
    • George is actually a mostly nice kid, but seems to have some sort of disorder that makes it hard for him to comprehend that what he's doing is wrong. When he and Clyde discuss a previous incident where George hurt Clyde, George genuinely can't comprehend the idea that he may have attacked Clyde for no good reason and asserts that Clyde must have done something to warrant it.
    • Marty comes from a Dysfunctional Family with a drug-addicted mother and an abusive older brother. He also has a lot of lingering trauma resulting from his father's suicide.
  • 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 "a JAPnote  cunt." 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 who 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.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Everyone except Marty wants to call off the original plan once they find George to be a relatively nice guy who obviously doesn't have social skills.
    • Marty makes sure Millie is covering her eyes when he flashes his penis to everyone during truth or dare.
    • Rocky, Sam, and Millie are the only characters who don't mock Clyde for having two gay dads.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • It's stated that George has dyslexia, and he also has an Ambiguous Disorder which makes socializing hard for him.
    • Marty obviously comes from an abusive home and to add insult to injury, his dad Ate His Gun.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes:
    • George is happy to be brought along the trip, but his lack of social skills causes his attempts to bond with everyone else to come across as incredibly awkward. There's also the elephant in the room that he was only brought along so that Sam's older brother and the others could cruelly prank him in retaliation for him beating up Sam.
    • Clyde also seems to be this, with Marty's constant cruel remarks about him. Though, Rocky at least tries to include him and comforts him after they plan the initial prank.
  • Genre Deconstruction: As Roger Ebert put it, "Mean Creek joins a small group of films including River's Edge and Bully, which deal accurately and painfully with the consequences of peer driven behavior."
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: An attempt to cruelly prank a kid in revenge results in the kid drowning in a freak accident.
  • 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.
  • Kick the Dog: Yes, George wasn't wrong for being upset when he finds out why he was invited to the trip. However, him taunting Marty about his dead father repeatedly was an unnecessarily low-blow. It also proves fatal, as it causes Marty to go ballistic and shove George off the boat, which in turn causes George to panic and drown.
  • "L" Is for "Dyslexia": It's stated that George suffers from dyslexia among other implied mental issues.
  • 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.
  • 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 rationalization of the plan to cruelly prank George is that George is a bad kid for beating up Sam, and they're merely paying him back.
  • Please Wake Up: Millie says this several times while trying to revive George.
  • Precision F-Strike: Innocent little Millie lets loose two s-words when she can't revive George, and screams four f-bombs at Sam when he tries to touch her shortly after.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Millie is the only female in the main cast.
  • 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 and 30s respectively when the film came out.