The reckless, vulgar party behavior of teenagers in the Australian film Blackrock (1997) precedes a horrifying rape and murder of one of the party participants, a 15-year-old girl.

Recalling a real-life 1991 incident of which I know nothing, it is a searing and necessary minor achievement directed by Steven Vidler and based on a play by Nick Enright.  The main character, Jared (Laurence Bruels), is the one who throws the well-attended wild party and who, alone, witnesses the rape (though not the murder) of the girl.  But he does nothing for her; he just watches, astonished.  He allows his friends to perpetrate sheer evil.  Hard truths pile up and do a number on Jared’s nerves.  He rebels against his divorced mother but pulls back from that rebellion too; he becomes distant toward his girlfriend.  He is confused, shocked at himself, isolated.

The film is a part-time study of adolescence, and also of a Western world not without its inevitable moral ignorance, inexperience and paralysis.  The ignorance of the teenage rapists is so strong it leads them to commit this particular crime.  The inexperience of Jared is so strong it results in the paralysis.  He is so dissociated from anything providing a moral ballast that he cannot act against wickedness done to another.  In contrast, his best friend Ricko acts, but psychopathically, as when he clobbers a boy who takes a swing at Jared.  Like the rapists, Ricko is a brute.

Blackrock would have better had it not been melodramatic, but as it is, it is engrossing cinematic drama.  And you won’t find a more expert collection of teenage actors than the one here, for amid all the verve and passion there is little overacting, which means little exaggeration.  Granted, some of the adults do a trifle better (more depth and nuance) but on the other hand, among them there are overactors.  Vidler should have restrained them a bit.