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Horror thriller from Britain

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4 ½ Stars: A Calculating and Provocative Horror Thriller

  • Jan 30, 2009

There have been many attempts at a genre film that emulates a very real feeling of horror that may happen in real life. I've seen quite a good number of them, some are decent, some are great but most failed to impress. Writer and director James Watkins' "Eden Lake" may have the usual clichés of horror suspense thrillers, the main premise offers nothing new, but what makes it very different is the fact that it carries a lot of effective humanity in its proceedings, that whatever it may lack in originality, the journey itself is rewarding--proves once again that true terror may just be out there.

Steve and Jenny (Michael Fassbender and Kelly Reilly respectively) is a couple very much in love. They decide to spend the weekend in the wilderness to have some quality time, and unknown to Jenny, Steve plans on proposing. Their time together is broken up when they ran across a group of aggressive of local kids. Rowdiness turns to rage as the teenagers terrorize the couple in unimaginable ways and the weekend outing becomes a fight for survival.

I wasn't kidding when I said that the film's set up is full of cliché. At first impression, I was ready to tell myself that the film was just another thriller until I saw just how the direction slowly unfolded. Sure, there were some cheap scares and some dumb behavior in the part of the protagonists that I didn't exactly buy into in the beginning, but thankfully the script abandons the flaws. What really got me into the film is the fact that even though there is very minor character development in the beginning, you get to know Steve and Jenny through their horrific experiences. Other films such as "Them" and "The Strangers" tried but failed to make the audience "feel" for the characters' predicaments, to put them behind the eyes of the leads--this film does so very effectively because it carried a lot of emotional content.

The characters have their own feelings. Even the teenagers, despite their horrific deeds, aren't one-dimensional. These kids have emotions and their characteristics are displayed when they disagree, argue and have second thoughts. Brett (Jack O'Connell) is the group's leader and one may wonder as to how a young man such as this would be so without conscience. There is a subtle hint at abuse when Steve stumbled on their home and especially during the final act. The other members of the group offer some guilt and reluctance, but they were just so caught up in the moment or they were scared of Brett or for themselves.

I suppose the situation itself had driven the characters into such actions. I loved the way the director set everything up, it seemed as if unintentional reactions, dark coincidence and bad decisions enforced with rage were all the cause of the terrifying experience for Steve and Jenny. These teenagers are very angry, well, maybe two of them served as some light at the end of the tunnel, but the situation may have scared both the victims and the hunters. The film is definitely an emotional affair that I wouldn't really call this a 100% horror film, but more of a horrifying drama. There is some blood and very little gore, and it doesn't depend on those elements, but focuses more on the situation itself--which makes it more an emotional horror film, with a lot of visceral punch.

The performances are quite good, although Kelly Reilly may have stolen the show. Reilly is so convincing on the anger, fear and her reactions that I was genuinely touched by her plight. Steve's "proposal" adds some feeling of sympathy, but it doesn't end there. The teenagers were also very meshed together and managed to show a lot of humanity despite their unbecoming behavior, when I say humanity, I didn't mean the pleasant side--I meant the dark side.

The film's cinematography is very good and while all these things happen in a huge wooden area, it gives a feeling of claustrophobia and helplessness. The way the camera worked was quite impressive; making simple perspective views become a feeling of helplessness, close-ups to achieve emotion and pain. I was quite happy with the direction, but the film isn't perfect. The hunt seemed to have taken place in two days and there are some elements that I did find unconvincing such as when Jenny stayed put in the woods the first night instead of going for help and some scenes were a little heavy-handed.

Despite some flaws, "Eden Lake" does a LOT more things right than wrong. The plot while simple was an emotional roller-coaster, and I was very happy that the antagonists weren't "cardboard" genre characters and that they acted very human, however, brutal their actions were. The film's main strength is its humanity and the realistic approach to human terror. It also has a surprising element in the final act that is very bleak and sad (Reminded me of the South Korean thriller "The Chaser") and I applaud the writer in avoiding a perfunctory ending. It wasn't so much as surprising, but it just leaves a very sad and disturbing feeling behind. The film's ending is an expression of irony and pure wicked coincidental chance. Full of humanity and bleakness, "Eden Lake" delivers.

Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Stars]

scene Jenny fleeing Dvd cover

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July 21, 2010
I really enjoyed this one, excellent review WP.
November 10, 2009
I was going back & forth on this one for a long time but had always told myself that I should atleast rent the sucker. A very special friend sent me this for my birthday after downplaying it's greatness in some text messages. I still haven't had the pleasure of viewing it yet of course but I do look forward to it. Fantastic review! I will try to put up one in the near future also!
January 30, 2009
Another good one, Woop. I like your reviews becAUse frequently they are better than actually seeing the movie. In this case that's a very good thing because this is definitely not my type of flick. But then I though WIND CHILL wasn't going to be something I'd like either until I read two wildly differing reviews on it and figured I'd have to see it for myself.
More Eden Lake reviews
review by . September 10, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****     "Eden Lake", like "Saw", "Deliverance", and many others before it; is marketed and consistently labeled as a horror film, but feels more like a thriller than a film of that one genre. While it does deal with things genuinely horrific, and the presence of bloodshed, it thrills appropriately and dishes out the brutality that you've come to expect. Horror sites reviewed it, praised it, and eventually lead this movie-goer to see it; and it's about time that I …
review by . February 03, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
No Garden of Eden Here
   Eden Lake is pretty much your standard survival-against-the-odds fare. The only difference is that instead of the usual monster/alien/chainsaw wielding cannibal or hillbilly redneck this time our hapless victims are fleeing from a gang of bicycle mounted pubescent Brits lead by a kid who'd give the Malcolm McDowell character in CLOCKWORK ORANGE a run for his money. Tedious for me but if you're a fan of slasher flicks this film is going to send you into the throes of …
Quick Tip by . September 22, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Those who are into the over-done subgenre of female-surviving-against-the-odds will be orgasmic, but I found it tedious.
Quick Tip by . June 10, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I'll have to check this one out -- sounds pretty good and thank you for the review!
review by . December 02, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Forget All Your Troubles
   Somebody must have seen. Somebody must have heard. Evidently, someone was crafty enough to actually do their homework & make a horror film which sets out to do exactly what a horror film should do. British director James Watkins get it's right. Hoo boy! Eden Lake gets my vote for being one of the most brutal depictions of a vacation gone wrong that I've seen in many years. In the brutal tradition of Wolf Creek or High Tension, Eden Lake carries a big stick & reminds it's …
Quick Tip by . May 01, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Pretty standard survival against the odds flick, and I hate those.
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About this movie


Eden Lake is a 2008 British horror and thriller film written and directed by James Watkins and starring Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender and Jack O'Connell.

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Genre: Horror
Release Date: September 12, 2008 UK October 31, 2008
DVD Release Date: January 6, 2009
Runtime: 91 minutes
Studio: Dimension Films
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