Eden Lake

Director: James Watkins (2008)
Stars: Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender, Tara Ellis, Jack O' Connell, Chavs
Find it: Amazon UK, Amazon US

If the tabloids were to review this, the debut piece by James Watkins, they’d probably wheel out the hyperbole. They’d talk about holding mirrors up to things, and mention Broken Britain a lot. And normally, it’d be like listening to a slightly racist grandparent whinge about “the youth of today” and make with the populist ill-informed garbage. But in the case of Eden Lake, they’d be mostly right.

The plot (cribbed from the similarly themed French chiller They) follows a pretty young couple as they holiday to the rural, titular lake. A heartstrings-tugging marriage proposal is in the air, and they’re so gosh-darn lovely that the forthcoming nastiness is practically signposted. Their romantic weekend is rudely interrupted by a gaggle of noisy, recognizably horrible yobs. Soon enough, petty arguments escalate into brutal violence, and it’s adult VS yoof – to the death!

The past few paragraphs fail to convey just how horrible Eden Lake is. This isn’t a film you watch – this is something you experience. It’s all humourlessly done, with a sadistic streak so wide you could park a landrover on it. Forget the creepy blonde kids of Village of the Damned – these pre-pubescent psychopaths are achingly plausible and terrifyingly realised by the script and the child actors themselves. Kudos must go out to Jack O’ Connell, who plays Brett, the gang leader. He’s far scarier than any Freddy Krueger or Jason Voorhees. And worst of all, you can half expect to see him loitering outside your local chippy.

That’s not to say it’s perfect. Too much of the tension relies on horror clich├ęs, and the final twist – whilst deliciously vicious – is perhaps a bit too predictable. The movie’s particular brand of terror won’t be for everyone, that’s for sure. Its deliberate humourlessness and cruelty will put off the squeamish, whilst it’s probably a little too dismal to make for a good date movie.

All in all however, Eden Lake is an assured debut from a director who has already proven himself as a face to watch in the future of Brit-horror. This is a white-knuckle rollercoaster ride from start to finish - provocative, relevant, scary and gruesome in equal measures. Eden Lake will make you fear children… Hug these hoodies, Cameron.

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