Eden Lake (2008)
By: Julian on November 4, 2009  | 
Madman (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 87 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: James Watkins
Starring: Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender, Jack O'Connell, Thomas Turgoose
Screenplay: James Watkins
Country: UK
External Links
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Michael Fassbender, who followed this with a terrific turn in Inglourious Basterds, plays Steve, a city bloke who takes his girlfriend Jenny (Kelly Reilly) for a romantic weekend camping trip to Eden Lake, where he intends to propose. A dampener is put on things from the get-go when a mob of chavs give the pair a hard time as they're relaxing on the lakeside beach. Bravado sets in and Steve remains determined to save face as the young teens ignore his requests to turn their obnoxiously pumping boom box down and move away from the couple's camp site.

There's reprieve as the pair head into town and, in trying to prove to Jenny that they have absolutely nothing to worry about, Steve makes some pretty poor decisions: he breaks into one of the delinquent's houses and quizzes a local waitress about them (who turns out to be a very defensive mother; that line of questioning is quickly terminated in the face of a woman who looks more heavy-set and intimidating than most men I know). They return to their camp site and, during the night, the group steal their 4WD and take it for a joyride. Steve and Jenny track them down and, in the ensuing confrontation, Steve stabs and kills the ringleader's dog. The chavs (and a particularly ugly chavette) go wild, capturing and torturing Steve as Jenny tries to escape and, when that fails, she attempts to mount a rescue mission.

James Watkins makes his directorial debut with Eden Lake after doing a couple of writing gigs, including the disappointing horror take on the Big Brother reality concept, My Little Eye. There's been a fair bit of hype surrounding this movie and it's all well-founded: Eden Lake is a very good film, taut, engaging and really quite nasty. It's paced tremendously well, with Watkins' script, narrative and dialogue-heavy in its first half, roundly developing Steve and Jenny's characters, particularly the former. It's a pretty untenable situation for Steve and it's easy to buy into his indignant behaviour, which gives birth to some fairly significant missteps. It's stuff that I'd be inclined to put down as the character's choices based on the circumstances (initially, and on its face, it's a man-versus-child thing and Steve would look inexcusably weak before his would-be bride if he was to back down) as opposed to Watkins' lazy or clichéd screenwriting. I thought it was very well done, and certainly quite realistic.

The acting by Fassbender and Reilly is convincing, but I think the performances of the youths should be given particular notice. They're all very good, from Jack O'Connell's cold-blooded and calculating Brett, to Thomas Turgoose's pathetic and reluctant Cooper. Watkins writes a broad spectrum of neurotic, sympathetic and psychotic characters in the chav gang in hot pursuit of Steve and Jenny, but we're meant to never forget that we're dealing with kids, as antisocial, violent and sociopathic as they are. It's in this respect that Eden Lake is most effective as a film. It's probably worth noting that, at least to my reasonably limited knowledge of British horror cinema and British youth culture, that Eden Lake is one of the first horror films to tackle the social group that are chavs. Chavs are, to paraphrase the Wikipedia definition, aggressive youths with limited education and high exposure to drugs and other crime and they're a largely British phenomenon, so Eden Lake would resound most loudly there. But the film still makes some worthy comments about teenage delinquency in general, albeit of a very extreme variety, that I'm sure would ring true here.

The cover slick proclaims Eden Lake to be the "UK answer to Funny Games" but that's a lazy connection: while both movies have adult-killing youths in them, they confront different themes. The youth delinquency issues in Eden Lake aren't too dissimilar than the ones that were tackled in 1962 with Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange, and later in Kubrick's 1971 adaptation. Eden Lake carries the prescient, highly applicable social comment that Clockwork had, of an existing and increasing violent youth culture, and both films are very specific about how it chooses to convey these themes though the means to the end that they use a different – perhaps a superficial summary, but Eden Lake could be described as a "stalk and slash" horror film.

Eden Lake's faults are few and far between. I think the pacing is pretty spot on and although I stand by my earlier comments that many of Steve's errors are justified, Jenny makes some really fundamentally idiotic ones: not seeking help and taking hours to call 999 among them. Obviously this is so as to not jeopardise the narrative, but that's no excuse for Watkins not attempting to dismantle some of the vacuous horror clichés that prevented Eden Lake from being a truly original piece of work. The ending has also invited some scrutiny but it worked well for me – I'll refrain from explaining it in too much detail in order to avoid spoilers, but I found the conclusion logical, albeit a shade predictable.
Eden Lake is presented in its original, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, with 16:9 enhancement. It looks terrific. Christopher (The Cottage) Ross' cinematography is great, particularly the scenes by the lake which lend the movie a very grand scope.
Two English tracks, presented in Dolby 2.0 and 5.1. They're crisp and the dialogue is very clear. The score is moody and atmospheric and resembles composer David Julyan's work on The Descent.
Extra Features
A brief behind-the scenes doco running 6 minutes, interviews with Reilly (8 minutes), Fassbender (5 minutes), Turgoose (5 minutes), Watkins (9 minutes) and producer Christian Colson (7 minutes), a stills gallery, theatrical trailer and trailers for Let the Right One In, Hush, [REC], Donkey Punch and Frontier(s). It's a very good package but an additional interview with Watkins, running 16 minutes, is sadly omitted. That feature is on the R2 Optimum disc.
The Verdict
Eden Lake comes out of a new visceral school of European horror, violent and thematically very confronting. It's not without its faults, but this is nevertheless very impressive.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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