For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that creeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.
Sometimes, because this genre can be so shocking, there’ll be a film that comes along that finds a new way to unsettle you. This one, does just that- even as I rewatch it now. Even when I know where it is going.
Eden Lake is one of the movies that terrifies, disgusts, and also… infuriates. It has a meanness ingrained within the core, and once our main characters get introduced to it, it overtakes everything else. This is not everybody’s film. Even for the horror-lovers.
The group of local youngsters feel resistant to the yuppy tourists that come their way, and once lines are drawn, things grow even dire.
Paige (Finn Atkins) and Steve (Michael Fassbender) are headed to the countryside and lake for a weekend getaway. The couple seem happy, glowing even, and when they make it to the beach it looks like its going to be a lovely time.
When they run into some local, antagonistic kids who seem to relish provoking them, there’s a beckoning dread that sits in your stomach. When an accident happens, things spiral into a dangerous, vengeful place. Once the youth are in “it”, they feel they have to finish what they have started, becoming a cat and mouse of hunting the couple in the forest.
How the situation is handled, on many fronts, is poor, and it ensures the dominoes just keep clanging over, bringing about destruction and pain.
Eden Lake toils with the idea of pride and revenge, and dangles elements of social commentary throughout. It feels a bit like Straw Dogs, in the way that it’s developed to be a survival, realistic (to an extent) horror. For most horrors, even the ones based on true events or enveloped in realism, there are going to be a element of things that you have to suspend, in order to enjoy. Or, in this film’s case, survive.
Our tenacious duo do a lot to fight back, and what they endure is guaranteed to check your gag reflex more than once.
Something that always works throughout the film is the tension and fear, even when some of the character’s decisions don’t seem particularly wise (or for other moments where you wonder- wait, why didn’t they do this? Like most horrors). Despite the antagonists of the film being younger, there’s still a level of belief in their intent. It often reminded me of Mean Creek or Bully or even Alpha Dog in that way, because despite the age there is still a feeling of trepidation, especially once you see what they are capable of.
Jack O’Connell as their leader, reacts often with extreme anger and ill intent, with a performance that is shocking at times. As we meet some other townfolk in the film, its clear that he’s been influenced by his surroundings.
Writer/director James Watkins writes some interesting looks at social interactions and skillfully uses his talented cast, as well as an excellently moody score by David Julyan to keep the fear alive. Filled with some near escapes, and lots of surprises, Eden Lake keeps you on your toes.
The movie occasionally teeters on ridiculous, but it is always enthralling. For good or for worse, for shock or recoil, you’re there, dissecting what’s happening with a keen curiosity. It’s haunting and lurid, but the performances make this British-horror quite effective. Despite how I feel about aspects of the movie, or how it makes me- in response- feel, there’s a boldness to it that I can’t ignore.
A survival thriller with no shortage of cringe inducing moments, Eden Lake hurts – no really- to watch at times. In many ways, this film will frustrate most to nauseam.
The way that Watkins creates such sustaining tension, is impressive. I think even when the film begins to rub you the wrong way, you’re still being pulled along on a string, wanting to see what’s waiting on the other side. And it isn’t pretty.