Eden Lake (2008) – Horror Film Review

Eden Lake (2008)James Watkins’ EDEN LAKE won Empire’s Best Horror Award 2009, and was also nominated for their Best British Film Award. The film has some fine, young, British actors performing brilliantly as the threatening teenagers, most notably Jack O’Connell [ring leader Brett], Finn Atkins [Paige] and Thomas Turgoose [whom the London Critics’ Circle awarded their Young British Performer of the Year award to, for his excellent portrayal of young Cooper].

Nursery worker Jenny [Kelly Reilly] and her boyfriend Steve [Michael Fassbender] are heading to an idyllic and secluded lake to spend a blissful weekend together. His plan is to propose to her in these perfect, romantic surroundings. Only a few minutes into the film their satellite navigation system advises them ‘at your first opportunity, turn around’. If only they’d heeded this advice! Of course, they ignore it, instead driving off-road to Steve’s favourite spot by the lake. Almost immediately their peace is shattered by a group of obnoxious teenagers, hell bent on making their weekend miserable.

The sensible thing to do upon encountering these obdurate youths would be to leave…..quickly. But Steve, using the mature argument of ‘we were here first’ is having none of it. Why anyone would stay within spitting distance of such unsavoury characters as a matter of principle, is beyond me, but it is a move that both Steve and Jenny will later regret.

When they confront the gang, for stealing their belongings and their car, there’s a violent altercation and Steve accidentally kills ringleader Brett’s dog. So begins the most horrifying story of violence, torture and savagery I have ever witnessed.

The problem with Eden Lake, is that, unlike most horror movies, this one is believable. In fact, in the U.K. teenagers like this [known as ‘chavs’, or ‘hoodies’] are not uncommon, and crimes not dissimilar to those in Eden Lake have actually been committed. No doubt a result of bad parenting – which was a result of bad parenting – these teenagers simply don’t seem to know when the line has been crossed, when things have gone, way, way too far. They have no conscience.

Because of the realistic nature of Eden Lake, it is extremely uncomfortable to watch. The nightmare ordeal this couple endure at the hands of this group of teenagers is disturbing and barbaric and leaves a nasty after-taste. Because of the unimaginable terror and the credible way it is directed and acted, this is not a film you will forget in a hurry.

Eden Lake shows perfectly how things can escalate out of control, how other people will join the violence to save their own skin, and how parents will do absolutely anything to defend their children, no matter how revolting those children are. It holds a huge mirror up to the worst society has to offer, and the reflection is a blinding and horrifying image.

If you like your horror movies truly horrifying, Eden Lake is as good as it gets.

EDEN LAKE (2008). Written and directed by James Watkins. Cast: Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender, Tara Ellis, Jack O’Connell, Finn Atkins, Jumayn Hunter, Thomas Turgoose, Thomas Gill, Shaun Dooley.

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Deborah Louise Robinson

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