James Watkins’ Eden Lake winner of Empire’s Best Horror Award 2009, was also nominated for their Best British Film Award. The film has some fine, young, British actors displaying excellent performances as the threatening teenagers, most notably Jack O’Connell [ring leader Brett], Finn Atkins [Paige] and Thomas Turgoose [whom the London Critics’ Circle awarded their Young British Performer of the Year award to, for his excellent portrayal of young Cooper].
Children’s nursery worker Jenny [Kelly Reilly] and her boyfriend Steve [Michael Fassbender] are heading to an idyllic and secluded lake to spend a blissful weekend together. His plan is to propose to her in these perfect, romantic surroundings.
Just a few minutes into the movie their satellite navigation system advises them ‘at your first opportunity, turn around’. If only they’d listened to this advice! Of course, they ignore it, instead driving off-road to Steve’s favourite spot by the lake. Before long their peace is shattered by a group of obnoxious teenagers, hell bent on making their weekend miserable.
The sensible thing to do upon encountering these obdurate youths would be to leave…..quickly. But Steve, using the mature argument of ‘we were here first’ is having none of it. Why anyone would stay within spitting distance of such unsavoury characters as a matter of principle, is beyond me, but it is a move that both Steve and Jenny will later regret.
When the gang steal their belongings and car, the couple confront them and they get into a violent altercation. Steve accidently kills ringleader Brett’s dog. So begins the most horrifying story of violence, torture, and savagery I have ever witnessed.
The problem with Eden Lake, is that unlike most horror movies, this one is believable. In fact in the U.K. teenagers like this [known as ‘chavs’, or ‘hoodies’] are not uncommon, and crimes not dissimilar to those in Eden Lake have actually been committed. No doubt a result of bad parenting, which was a result of bad parenting, these teenagers simply don’t know when the line has been crossed, when things have gone, way, way too far. They’re out of control.
Because of the realistic nature of this film, it is extremely uncomfortable to watch. The nightmare ordeal this couple are subjected to at the hands of this gang of teenagers is disturbing and barbaric and leaves a nasty after-taste. Because of the unimaginable terror this couple endure, this is not a film you will forget watching in a hurry.
Eden Lake clearly shows how things can escalate out of control, how other people will join the violence to save their own skin, and how parents will do absolutely anything to defend their children, no matter how revolting those children are.
It holds a huge mirror up to the worst society has to offer, and the reflection is a blinding and horrifying image.
If you like your horror movies truly horrifying, Eden Lake is as good as it gets.