Eden Lake

by Evan ODell 3/7/09

(2008) Written and directed by James Watkins. Starring Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender, Tara Ellis, Jack O’Connell, Finn Atkins, Jumayn Hunter, James Burrows, and Thomas Gill.

Winner of the Special Jury Prize at Sitges Catalonian International Film Festival. Nominated for two awards at the British Independent Film Awards. Not quite a direct-to-video feature, Eden Lake did receive a limited release, earning far more overseas. I can’t help feeling bad over the short-shrift horror movies are given these days. With successful marketing, this film could have had a very decent US theatrical run.


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The woods have served well as ideal ground for staging horror movies. This isn’t the first, and it won’t be the last. Perhaps that makes the woods feel a bit cliché, but it has a way of working, especially in the hands of a competent director working from a decent script. This thriller has a way of feeling a bit like Them (Ils) or The Strangers meets Mean Creek with a touch of Last House on the Left turned on its ear. The setting, an idyllic rock quarry lake, all set to become a gated community for the wealthy, has a way of feeling similar to that of Deliverance.

For as long as there has been written language, the elder generation has been saying the younger generation lacks moral fiber and expressed their fear of them. How soon we forget what it was like growing up. Little has actually changed but our understanding, but that doesn’t make the sentiment any less popular. Perhaps that is the very reason stories like this are so effective.

Perhaps class is a factor. The couple at the center of the story are entirely middle class, successful, attractive, urban tourists. Instead of staying at a bed and breakfast, they’re encroaching upon the poor, rural yobs by camping free at the lake.

Not content to tell a supernatural horror story, so many horror movies these days are tackling the very depths of human cruelty. Films like the recent Jack Ketchum stories or films coming out of the New Wave of French Horror, as it's been dubbed.

An incident at the beginning, when they have a parking space stolen serves to suggest perhaps its not worth it to confront people on their selfish, obnoxious behavior. You never know how things might escalate once set in motion. This picture provides a thrilling worst-case scenario.

There are a number of great scenes staged in this movie. I particularly like the way the story handles the survivor girl’s short-lived metamorphosis into hardcore killer. The scene where she crawls out of the refuse bin and looks at the mirror next to the directory is great. See if you can catch the words on the mirror.

One minor complaint, Kelly Reilly has a wardrobe in the film that accentuates her awesome cleavage, but there is never a reveal. Not during the happy part of the movie when it would have been welcomed nor during the horror part where it may have been handled a little uncomfortably. Nudity has a way of adding production value, but don’t look for it here.


Steve (Michael Fassbender) has taken his girlfriend Jenny (Kelly Reilly) to a gorgeous lakeside beach for a beautiful weekend, which he hopes to use to propose. But once they’re comfortable on the beach, a group of teenage hoodlums arrives and proceed to make them uncomfortable. After Steve’s tire is punctured, he attempts to follow them through town in the hopes of confronting their parents. When that proves unsuccessful, they return to their romantic weekend. But when the youths steal their SUV for joyriding, Steve confronts them in an attack that mortally wounds their rottweiler and from there, the confrontation degenerates quickly.


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