Eden Lake (2008)

Eden Lake is about a young couple; Jenny and Steve, who decide on a weekend away at the idyllic, titular lake, where Steve plans to propose. Their enjoyment of the country break is ruined when they, almost literally, bump heads with the local gang of troublesome, and potentially murderous, teens.

I’m always a little more inclined to give British films the benefit of the doubt. I suppose it’s some sort of innate celluloid patriotism that I just can’t control. Sometimes it pays off, other times it doesn’t. On this occasion, my fellow Brits have done me proud with a superb addition to the genre that both terrifies and resonates emotionally.

James Watkins, who both wrote and directed here, shows he is proficient as a writer and as a director. Never did I think that this couldn’t really happen and that, to me, was the most terrifying aspect. He made it so real that it left me a little apprehensive of stepping out of my front door, let alone buggering off to a secluded spot in the middle of nowhere, lest the lawless inhabitants of his film were out and about.

Another major strength is that the young actors are so good in their roles that it’s difficult to imagine they weren’t plucked straight from their lives as teenage tearaways and asked to replicate it in front of a camera. Jack O’Connell is incredible as the nastiest and most bloodthirsty of the delinquents but having played similar roles in TV’s Skins and This Is England, he should be careful about choosing future roles to prevent becoming typecast.

The directorial style also adds to the almost documentary feel that left me imagining all sorts of atrocities occurring up and down the country. The violence is, at times, so brutal that it made me wince and want to shut my eyes. It’s not especially gory but the effects department did such a good job in making it all look so genuine that you can almost feel the knife going in when the kids surround, and butcher, their ‘catch’.

Eden Lake’s biggest, and only downfall is the characterisation of the two leads. I find it very hard to believe that anyone with a snifter of knowledge about what these sort of evil teenagers are capable of, anyone who has opened a newspaper or caught five minutes of recent news, would entertain the notion of approaching them. The supposed naivety of these optimistic city-folk grated at times and as the film wore on, they both made a succession of astoundingly bad decisions which always landed them in the proverbial hot water and made me want to bang my head against a wall. Regardless of their stupidity though, I never, even for a second, wanted them to die. It never made me to want to switch allegiances and side with the gang of thoughtless, violent youths.

I think the most important thing to bear in mind whilst watching Eden Lake is that if you get bogged down in the fact that essentially, it’s a bit of a class-war with the working class folks portrayed in a poor light and the upper middle class types coming off as the victims, then it’ll probably affect your enjoyment. Some have even suggested that it’s a case of North vs. South where the Northern thugs show little regard for their precious Southern counterparts but again, I think it’s beside the point.

By the time the end rolled around, I felt well and truly emotionally drained. The latter half of the movie, incorporating a deadly game of cat-and-mouse, felt like the cinematic equivalent of being on a particularly turbulent roller coaster and as such, left me feeling sick to my stomach. Some scenes are so shocking and so harrowing that it played on my mind for weeks afterwards and although it doesn’t necessarily accurately reflect todays ‘hoodie’ culture, it paints a pretty stark picture of the depths that Britain’s youths are prepared to sink to.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

6 Comments on “Eden Lake”

  1. Bentlegs says:

    The thing I really liked about Eden Lake is the way it used the ‘hoodies’ as the bad guys. The tabloids have been telling us for ages that anybody under 25 that owns a hoody will definately stab us and pinch our phones, and Watkins has fuelled that fire, although I personally think it’s a little bit tongue in cheek. I think the notion of class war as an underlying tone is definately evident, and I think it was wholly intentional. Watkins was scaring the shit out of middle Britain by portraying horror and terror in the form of children, as opposed to monsters or zombies. I had a discussion with a friend on wether it was a horror or a thriller. It’s kind of hard to conclude, as the arguments on both parts are pretty much equal in measure. The main downpart for me was, that kid from skins, REALLY annoys me. I can’t put my finger on why either. I’m just a hater haha

    • admin says:

      He didn’t really annoy me as such, he did frighten me though!

      I think it’s quite clever that the people who came up with the original idea decided to use teengers as the evil entity. It seems to be quite common ground now, but despite lots of other films cottoning on to the trend, it still hasn’t managed to dilute the effects of Eden Lake for me :)

  2. Bentlegs says:

    I think the reason he didn’t scare me is because being somebody of the same (or similar) age, I just kinda look at him as some wannabe tough guy as opposed to the evil character he actually is. I think thats my testosterone taking over in a ‘as if I’d be scared of THAT little scrote’ kind of way haha!

    I definitely agree with downfall you mentioned. The way they insist on approaching the kid’s becomes annoying. Watching the film a second time frustrated me when he went to the house at the beginning and just waltzed in and hid upstairs, then climbed out of the window. Seriously, who would EVER do that?!

  3. David Scullion says:

    I personally found Eden Lake like a Daily Mail fantasy, where all the pent up fear and anger towards the lower classes were screwed up, eaten by the screenwriter and vomited on the screen. This film genuinely made me angry throughout, as it showed barely any of the “underclass” as sympathetic. I was actually seething by the time the ending shat out it’s last twisted stereotype-beating.

    The lower class scum adults slapped kids, had naked orgies, screamed at each other, drove like nutters, while the children were basically psychotic and seemed to happily set an Asian kid on fire (because they’re racist, see? Bloody BNP bastards or something).

    Although a tensely made horror movie, it was just so obviously a “Them versus Us” story that made out the lovely, nature-loving Middle Classes were at war and outnumbered by the evil Lower Classes, whose moral compass has been destroyed through years of drinking, f*cking and beating their relatives “cos they is c*nts”.

    I figure subtlety was sacrificed for headlines, which it got in bucketloads, earning some unsurprising split reviews for some of our leading classist papers:

    Daily Mail review – 5 Stars – “At last! Here’s a first-rate British horror film that taps into our deepest fears and offers a thought-provoking insight into such topical subjects as knife crime and gang culture”

    The Sun review – 1 Star – “It is not often that The Sneak feels like walking out of a movie. But this exploitative, patronising and nauseatingly violent take on Britain’s yob culture had your critic eyeing up the exit.”

    I doubt I need to say more than that – I fully understand why people loved it, but I found the heavy-handed way the creators portrayed our “underclass” utterly offensive and endlessly infuriating. But maybe that’s just because I come from Essex…

    • admin says:

      I completely understand everything you’re saying and believe me, I stay as far away from the Daily Mail as I can but I still maintain that this is a really good horror film and that if people get too bogged down in the possible ‘messages’ the makers were aiming for then it will almost certainly ruin the experience for them.

      If you’re going to argue class war then what about North vs. South? If anything I should be offended by this movie. Except for the fact that it’s sadly quite representative of the little shits up North. They are feral and racist and a lot of the parents I was familiar with wouldn’t think twice about giving their kids a swift smack. Anybody who disgarees with me obviously grew up in a nicer area of the North West than I did!

      At the end of the day, what you get out of a movie is what you consciously choose to get out of it. I generally don’t like my political beliefs to infringe on my horror viewing so I left all that at the door. Had I not, then I would probably find myself agreeing with you entirely.

  4. Arnie says:

    I can see the point about the Daily Mail fantasy, but having gone to school with many individuals who were exactly like the antagonists in this film, I can safely say that they were quite well portrayed. Obviously not all lower class kids are violent scum-bags, but throwing in a more balanced mix of personalities would have diminished the threat somewhat, and taken the edge off of the film.

    Besides, playing on the fears and misunderstandings of the general public is what movie writers do, and chavs are the current boogeymen, just like back in the 80′s it was communists and in the early 90′s computers were going to kill us all.

    I’m not kidding about the kids I went to school with by the way, various peers have been up in front of judges for kidnapping, burglary, GBH, murder and literally tearing a man’s ear clean off of his head… :-/

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