An ordinary middle-class couple, Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and Steve (Michael Fassbender) enjoy the sunshine on a camping trip by a remote lake, but their harmony is soon disrupted by a gang of delinquent teenagers. What begins as a relaxing holiday, drastically shifts into something far more horrifying than Jenny and Steve could have ever imagined. One act of violence leads to another and the end result is the couple literally fighting for their lives.
First and foremost, I would like to stress that James Watkins’ Eden Lake is absolutely brutal. In many ways, it is a modern exploitation movie that reflects current fears and topics. Due to its shocking nature, the film is certainly not for the faint-heart or anyone who despises gore and excessive violence. Eden Lake is a British horror-thriller that snatches you out of your comfort zone when you least expect it.
I was genuinely surprised at how gruesome this film is, but it’s not without purpose. The catalyst for Jenny and Steve’s nightmare is very realistic and recognisable. The film expresses the fear of youth and the fractured generational gap. Eden Lake is largely a narrative of escalation. Steve initially confronts the gang telling them to turn their music down, as he and Jenny are trying to relax by the lake, and this begins the cycle of violence and chaos.
The gang is led by the sadistic Brett (Jack O’Connell), who might just be one of the most horrible and terrifying villains I have ever seen. O’Connell’s career has reached new heights in recent times, having starred in Money Monster (2016), alongside Brad Pitt, and also playing the central character in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken (2014). Eden Lake is an early example of his immense talent.
O’Connell’s Brett sees violence as thrilling and even though the whole gang take part in terrorising Jenny and Steve, Brett is the only one who shows no remorse for his actions. Not only does the film play on the fear of youth, Eden Lake is also very much about bullying and peer pressure.
What is great about Eden Lake, is its British grit and edginess, which makes it feel so authentic and real. However, the film does have a few horror cliches and some questionable scenarios. But this a minor flaw in an otherwise very good and powerful film. Within all its shocking content, the film probes a lot of important questions and gets the audience to consider who is really to blame. Are the kids just a bunch of psychos? Or are the parents to blame, who are all but absent for the majority of the film. Nevertheless, you can’t help but loath the teenagers as their actions are completely unforgivable.
One of the best British horrors I’ve seen to date, Eden Lake is a film for today, even years after its release. James Watkins has constructed a very bleak, but though-provoking movie, whilst projecting a sense of entrapment. If you can stomach it, watch Eden Lake, but be prepared for its harrowing and exploitative nature. As dark and nightmarish this film is, it’s still very enjoyable. Although the gang is obviously not a representation of all teenagers, Eden Lake will still make you think about the youth of today.
Quoted: “Follow the blood!”
Directed and written by: James Watkins
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Kelly Reilly, Jack O’Conell
Distributors: Optimum Releasing (UK), The Weinstein Company (US)
Run Time: 91 min
Have you seen Eden Lake? What’s your favourite horror film? Let me know in the comment section!