Review by Jack Foley
THE makers of “hoodie horror” Eden Lake are billing their film as one that’s “destined to be the most controversial and provocative British movie of the year”. It’s a shamefully misleading tactic as, if anything, it’s one of the most exploitative.
While the best controversial movies have something worthwhile to say, and do so in an intelligent fashion, the worst exist to censor bait and exploit current trends.
Eden Lake falls into the latter category by virtue of the fact that it tackles the current culture of knife violence among Britain’s youth and attempts to construct a nightmarish “what if?” thriller around it.
Primary school teacher Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and her boyfriend Steve (Michael Fassbender) head out of London for a weekend break at a secluded lake, during which Steve hopes to propose.
But their peaceful getaway is interrupted by the presence of confrontational local youths, whose antagonism towards Steve, in particular, leads to a flare-up that has violent consequences.
As the violence escalates, the love-struck couple face a desperate battle for survival as they attempt to get away from their young pursuers… only to realise that the kids are only part of the problem.
Admittedly, debut director James Watkins’ film does pose some interesting early questions concerning the stereotypes that exist between adults and children, the root causes of youth violence and whether confrontation is best avoided by turning the other cheek.
There’s also a nicely sustained air of menace as Jenny and Steve continually seem to make the wrong decisions, unaware of the extent of what lies in store for them.
But once the first physical blow has been struck, the film falls apart at the seams and quickly descends into a relentless chase movie marked out by its unpalatable violence.
Watkins’ lens seems to take a perverse pleasure in showing as much of the violence as possible (a prolonged multiple stabbing sequence, in particular, is gratuitous and exploitative of current knife culture), while he also seems to revel in covering Reilly in as much blood, mud and crap as is physically possible (in a nod to movie’s such as Switchblade Romance).
In doing so, he also relinquishes any of the movie’s credibility, with characters prone to stupid decision-making that inevitably prolongs their pain and suffering.
Reilly, in particular, feels very short-changed, while the youth cast – including This Is England’s Thomas Turgoose and Jack O’Connell’s ringleader Brett – are a thinly sketched bunch who are only offered token opportunities to hint at what may be driving them.
The ensuing film is a thoroughly nasty experience that aims to provoke and stoke controversy, but which really doesn’t deserve to be given the opportunity to do so by audiences. If anything, it actually ends up pandering to the culture it’s trying to highlight and shame.
Running time: 90mins
UK DVD Release: January 19, 2009