Thursday, June 17, 2010

Eden Lake (2008).

This one got under my skin.

It's nasty. The experience of watching this film is like hearing of a terrible thing happening to someone you went to school with: you take it in and think you deal with the information... but it just keeps resurfacing in your mind for days afterward.

Eden Lake concentrates on Jenny (Kelly Reilly) a white middle-class teacher. Jenny is pretty and wears pretty dresses. She and her boyfriend Steve head to the country for the weekend, to the shores of a lake surrounded by acres of forest and miles from the nearest town. He is going to propose, it seems, as he is carrying an engagement ring around with him. Oh dear, if there is ever a death knell for a couple in this genre, it's that.

All is dandy for a time. They aren't strictly meant to be on this land, but Steve is familiar with the area and they take their Land Rover cross-country, laughing at the sat-nav telling them to turn back. You just know this moment is weighted, despite their joviality. If only they had listened to that seemingly meaningless warning.

But the couple aren't alone at Eden Lake, and the other occupants of this idyllic spot aren't hiding behind trees and stalking them in the dark, either.

They are a group of local teenagers who do not give one solitary shit about out-of-towners. They swear, spit, let their Rottweiler pester a sunbathing Jenny and generally make their obnoxious presence very, very known.

Now, this in and of itself is certainly annoying and rude behaviour to more civilised folk, shall we say. However, it doesn't just stop at one of the group taunting the couple and flashing his knob. Unfortunately for them - and fortunately for those who like their horror grim and realistic - it gets so much worse than that.

Eden Lake transforms from haven into battleground. The leader of the group, Brett (Jack O'Connell) has no moral barometer. At all. With threats and taunting he forces his friends to join him in committing appalling acts, demanding they be filmed on a mobile phone so that on every level everyone is implicated. Once they have all taken the first steps together, it's hard for any of them to break away from the spiraling violence. This is a tough watch (especially so with the wonderful Thomas Turgoose in one of the roles).

Making Jenny a teacher is a nice touch. We only see her teaching young children, they look about six or seven years old, but she's shown as a kind and caring person. When the couple visit a local pub and witness a mother disciplining her child, Jenny winces and looks entirely uncomfortable. Not preachy or disapproving even, just hurt by the child's hurt.

This woman deals with children as a career, a vocation. She, next to the parent, is meant to represent the ultimate in trustworthiness when it comes to youngsters.

But what about when pushed?

So, what a transformation she undertakes. By the end of the film, this woman has killed or seriously injured at least two young adults. In the film's most harrowing moment, she is responsible for a sweet and wholly innocent child being fucking set alight. His pleas turning to screams as she makes the terrible decision to save her own skin, rather than his.

Her character is pushed, pushed pushed. The increments are extremely important because if the leap is too large, the thread that keeps the viewer believing in this story, snaps. Yet here it's taken up one small notch, one awful incident at a time. Enough of these accumulate to eventually turn this woman feral.

No decision she was forced to make seemed wrong at the time, but under the cumulative weight of them she becomes, in the eyes of the parents of the youths involved and perhaps of the law too, the more guilty. Should she have known better, or acted differently, because "They're just kids"? Are there shades of grey where monstrous acts are involved?

The "civilised turning wild" theme is a path well trodden and yet Eden Lake doesn't suffer at all for this fact. It takes the idea cross country, forges a new path and feels terrible all over again.

Yes, of course including the death of the dog.

Stab a man's Rotty and live to regret it.

I don't know if it's because this is a British film, that it hit so hard. It deals with what are essentially "hoodies" (what the mother fuck that cartoon is there, I do not know) a special brand of disenfranchised British youth. Living as I do in South East London, I cross paths with kids who appear similar to the ones here, every single day. Angry, volatile and relishing how intimidating they are. It's never a pleasant experience.

Eden Lake isn't a nice film, but it is a very good one. Brutal without being over the top and not afraid to end on a massive fucking downer, you'll be left feeling hollow but mighty impressed with writer/director James Watkins' debut.


  1. I just saw this movie last night because of your review. I loved it except for the downer at the end. I felt that it had a decent feel to it with the music and some of the filming. All in all thank you for reviewing these movies without some of your recommendations I would not know what to watch next!

  2. That is ever so kind of you to say! It makes me want to wake up this blog from its slumber. I have a few films to watch; hopefully I can recommend you some more soon. Thanks again!