Recently we’ve been exposed to remakes of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes and Last House on the Left. (Just wait one more month for that – well, “wait” is a big word, “hide” may be better.) Those movies had two things in common: one was already mentioned by me (they’re remakes), the other similarity is that they all sucked. Yes, those were horribly nasty pictures, but they were also social commentaries. And oops, didn’t the remake people forget to include this vital element?
Whether you like the film or not, Eden Lake is much more akin to those originals than any of the remakes. Occasionally quite close to the torture porn movies like Saw and Hostel, Eden Lake doesn’t waste any time getting to the point. On the way to their idyllic location, young couple Jenny and Steve listen to the car radio, which informs them about young criminals. Not much later, a bunch of kids on bikes drive right in front of the car. Those chavs – and mind you, I had to endure watching the movie with a bunch of them myself, if you remember my pre-review -, aren’t they horrible?
As the couple arrives in their not so idyllic hotel, a wonderful scene unfolds, which rubs our noses in our double moral standard. A young kid is behaving quite badly and Steve wishes the mother would silence the boy. However, when the boy is punished with a slap in the face, Steve and Jenny look at them in disgust.
Flash forward to the real plot of Eden Lake: when Jenny (a superb Kelly Reilly) and Steve go to an idyllic spot near a lake (conveniently ignoring the 700 “Keep out” signs on their way to the spot), they soon find they’re not the only ones around. Yes, the young chavs are back and keen on disturbing the couple’s inner peace and quiet. Steve walks up to them to tell them it isn’t nice to be so loud and to let their fierce dog scare this girlfriend. As they pretend to ignore him, Steve turns down their radio. What follows can only be described as X being worse than Y for Y’s being bad to X. The situation escalates and a painful accident becomes the catalyst for extreme nastiness and I mean really extreme nastiness. Apart from dealing with uncontrollable kids and parental ignorance (“No sir, my kid doesn’t do that.”), Eden Lake also dips its toe in peer pressure and its 21st century variant (the camera on the mobile phone).
Which brings us to what I think is one of the bigger flaws of the film: sometimes it wallows in its own filth. At one point Jenny and Steve split up and after a while she finds out the kids have grabbed Steve and are on the verge of torturing him. That Jenny watches this scene in disgust can be explained psychologically (some people just freeze when freaking out), that she remains unnoticed for so long is just a plot mistake that’s painfully obvious.
Another example – even more literal – is Jenny’s weird choice for hiding in the trash rather than in the bushes surrounding her. Of course, this can be explained too: it’s about the last place they’ll go and look for her (and it’s a great excuse for getting Kelly Reilly dirty as hell), but it’s just another example of Eden Lake just liking its own filth a bit too much.
Never mind that bit of objective criticism though… Eden Lake‘s glory lies not in whether everything can be explained logically or not, Eden Lake doesn’t mind asking you the question: what would you do in an extreme situation? Surely Jenny and Steve’s choices aren’t always the correct ones, but noone is perfect (though I would’ve expected a bit more chivalry from Steve, who needlessly endangers his girlfriend – then again, he wanted to take Jenny to this beautiful lake because he wanted to propose to her and he’s not letting his grand moment being spoilt by a bunch of loose teenagers). As Eden Lake tries to explain, in an extreme situation where the law isn’t around to protect you, can you defend yourself and to which length are you willing to go?
Eden Lake is the directorial debut of James Watkins, but it’s not the first movie he worked on. In 2002 he wrote another lovely horror movie, My Little Eye (which was a mix of horror and Big Brother). If some parts of Eden Lake make you think of The Descent, you’re not the only one. Apparently Watkins liked that other great slice of British horror so much he was willing to pen the sequel. The Descent: Part 2 should open later this year. Well, in the UK anyway. Eden Lake didn’t hurry itself to cinemas worldwide, I must say: while the movie opened in Belgium, the DVD was released in the UK. (Which gives the Dutch audience the choice between importing the dvd or waiting another three months before the film is released in cinemas over there.)
Anyway, back to the movie… you can’t say the film is a pleasant experience. You’ll have a tough time rating Eden Lake because the film is so disturbing. As I pointed out before, the movie isn’t perfect. As I also tried to point out, you’re willing to forgive some of those mistakes because the film has a point to make and needs to get there. Plus, some of the choices made by Jenny and Steve are irritatingly stupid, but can we blame the film for that or the characters (or does this just add to the realism of the film)? And let’s not forget the absolute horror in some of the scenes. You’ll feel like a twisted psychopath for claiming you liked this movie.
Some of my friends also watched the movie and while our rating of the movie differs (between 3 to 4.5 stars out of 5), there are a couple of things we could all agree on: the film is thought-provoking and quite disturbing. So let’s skip the score and rate the movie with words…
Score: disturbing and thought-provoking / 10