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Eden Lake (2008)

DVD Cover (Dimension Extreme)
Genres:
Horror, Sadistic Horror
Director:
James Watkins James Watkins
Starring:
Kelly Reilly Kelly Reilly
Michael Fassbender Michael Fassbender
Tara Ellis Tara Ellis
Jack O'Connell Jack O'Connell
Finn Atkins Finn Atkins

6.8 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Tristan
Added: January 07, 2009
Eden Lake is one of those films that's been stuck in distribution hell for quite some time. Much like the fantastic All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, it received a UK release while the US was stuck with its thumb up its ass. Unlike Mandy Lane however, we've actually been treated to a Region 1 release, and not a year or two down the line. As I've said in previous reviews, Dimension Extreme is the very definition of hit-or-miss. For every fantastic movie they release, there's a piece of garbage just around the corner. I've been trying to follow the news surrounding it as closely as possible because I feel that the world can never have too many survival / revenge films, and Eden Lake sounded like it might be a solid one. Well folks, we can chock up another win for Dimension Extreme, because this turned out to be one of their finest films yet.

Kindergarten teacher Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and her boyfriend Steve (Michael Fassbender) are heading out of London for a weekend of camping. They venture off into the uncharted woods surrounding Eden Lake, which was once a beautiful national park and is now being torn down to make room for condos and office buildings. Ignoring the directions given by the GPS and the "Keep Out -- Construction Site" signs, Steve takes them deep into the forest, where he plans to propose at the most beautiful spot on the lake.

Beautiful of course, until you've got a group of teens bothering you with their loud music and obnoxious dog. What started off as some lighthearted hassling quickly escalates when the group of teens led by the vicious Brett (Jack O'Connell) steals their keys and takes off through the woods in their jeep. After tracking them down, Steve demands the keys back when one of the kids pulls a knife on him. One thing leads to another, and Brett's dog is accidentally killed. Steve and Jenny quickly grab the keys and take off for the jeep, only to crash it moments later, pinning Steve inside. Jenny takes off in search of the road while the gang of teens, armed with knives and rocks, quickly turns Steve and Jenny's romantic getaway into a terrifying game of cat and mouse.

This is not the traditional survival horror consisting of a masked killer, backwoods mutant or inbred family. There's no spikes on the road or crazy hitchhikers. First time director James Watkins certainly knows his way around a horror film and he followed the survival horror outline to the t. However, he used a very unconventional antagonist: a group of teenagers. This seems to be popping up in a lot more horror movies of late. Red is a perfect example of a group of teenagers who get their kicks by terrorizing innocent civilians. While Red took more of a dramatic approach, Eden Lake is balls-to-the-wall suspense. There's just enough character development to get you interested and emotionally attached to the young couple before you're sucked away into an intense fight for survival.

In a film such as this, you are usually provided with a masked killer or a group of deranged adults who you can easily root against, wanting them to get their comeuppance. This one is a little bit different however, as you've got to root for Jenny to murder a bunch of kids. No matter how vicious and despicable they are, they're still kids. On more than one occasion I felt bad when some of the kids met their end. Most of them seemed to be about 12 or 13, and were only there for fear of being beaten - or worse - by ringleader Brett. If you look at it from the kid's point of view, it's sort of Jenny and Steve's fault that this is happening. The beautiful, titular lake is going to be destroyed by the expanding city, full of well-off couples much like themselves. This creates an interesting series of conflicts; upper class vs. middle class, and adults vs. youth.

Overall, it's not the most original movie, but it is very suspenseful and very, very violent. Taking obvious inspiration from films such as Deliverance and Wolf Creek, this one delivers on all fronts. I really enjoyed how Watkins didn't hold back, and really let everyone have it. Some of the scenes were downright brutal, and I was taken aback by what he put into the movie. A young boy is set on fire, another is viciously stabbed in the neck. Both probably under 13 years of age. If this sort of thing is upsetting to you, you should probably take a pass on this one, as these are just two examples of how these kids meet their maker.

Last year, Frontière(s) shocked audiences by taking a perfectly generic style of horror and breathing some new life into it. I think that Eden Lake has managed to do this for the survival horror genre. It was suspenseful, brutal, unforgiving, and most importantly, terrifying. Steve and Jenny were a very real and believable couple, and after taking a look at the youthful generation of today, I'm disappointed to say that the group of teens was also very believable. Even with the slightly unoriginal plot, and the very bleak ending - think The Mist - I'd definitely recommend this one to any horror fan. The acting was spot on, the characters were believable, and probably the most terrifying aspect of the whole movie - this could actually happen. You're probably saying to yourself, "yeah right", but hop online and find these stories. Teens murdering people with ice picks and hammers in the woods, caught because they video taped the whole thing. Leave it to horrific, real life news stories to lead to some of the best horror movies around.

10/10
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Greg Follender #1: Greg Follender - added 01/07/2009, 09:12 PM
Interesting...

As for your last paragraph's reference to the teen wood slayings in the headlines... I would suggest your checking out the French thriller "Them". It speaks directly to those particular stories without being overtly married to them.

Of course, it seems utterly preposterous for me to assume that a horror guru such as yourself hasn't seen such a film... but on the off-chance that you haven't, let me be the first to recommend it to you.

I think that you might really enjoy it;)
Tristan #2: Tristan - added 01/07/2009, 10:10 PM
I've wanted to see that one for some time now. Technically though, you're the first person to recommend it to me. I'll make a point of hunting that one out now.
Greg Follender #3: Greg Follender - added 01/07/2009, 11:22 PM
I won't lie and say that it is a perfect horror film... but it certainly is unique and has a bit of a fresh perspective as far as the "antagonists" of the film are concerned. If you found Eden Lake refreshing, my guess is that you'll really dig on "Them".

Let me know what you think...
Tristan #4: Tristan - added 01/07/2009, 11:24 PM
Unless Chad gets to it first, I imagine I'll be doing the review. Aside from the odd film here or there, I review everything I watch.
Greg Follender #5: Greg Follender - added 01/07/2009, 11:34 PM
Nice.

I wish i was as ambitious as you.
There are a lot of foreign films I'd like to get off my ass to review...
Tristan #6: Tristan - added 01/07/2009, 11:39 PM
There is no ambition whatsoever. I bet if you worked it out, there's a review a week, at best.
Greg Follender #7: Greg Follender - added 01/07/2009, 11:41 PM
LOL... you kill me;)

Still, I just haven't the time or discipline what with all my other crap going right now... maybe once the economy picks up again (chuckle)!
grain of sand #8: grain of sand - added 01/14/2009, 03:47 PM
This one left me feeling really weird at the end.. I really liked it though, these kids were almost TOO believable.
10/10
bluemeanie #9: bluemeanie - added 01/16/2009, 02:43 PM
Not bad. Not bad. I was not expecting too much from this but was pleasantly surprised. The acting was very strong and very realistic and it reminded me somewhat of "Wolf Creek", another film I enjoyed. Solid flick. 8/10.
cky2kendall #10: cky2kendall - added 01/21/2009, 12:55 PM
Might be one or two years late on the whole "hoodie culture", but it's still brutally faithful to the stereotype. One of those horror movies where you feel it could happen, especially living in the UK. 8/10
Chad #11: Chad - added 01/31/2009, 08:45 AM
Really good movie, but there were too many "only in the movies" moments to get a perfect score. I won't get into spoilers, but anyone who has seen it will know what I mean - the car at the end, the outsider kid, the family, and of course, that ending. Look, I didn't mind the ending and I fully understand what they were trying to say with it, but don't you think it's a little coincidental? Again, it was a really good movie, but more reality would have made it a perfect release. 9/10.
BuryMeAlive #12: BuryMeAlive - added 03/17/2009, 05:27 PM
Ok, seems I'm alone on hating this one... All ultra violence in the world doesn't help when you got such a lame and unoriginal plot. 2/10
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