Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Like Ils, Vacancy, and The Strangers, Eden Lake follows the travails of a couple who run afoul of violent and murderous rascals, who terrorize and stalk their hapless prey to a bloody end.
Unlike Vacancy though, this one doesn’t wuss out at its climax.
And of all the films mentioned above, though Eden Lake is closest to Ils, writer/director James Watkins has made it a point to provide his work with a thematic backbone which serves as a subtle commentary on today’s youth and their relationship to violence.

Kelly Reilly and Hunger’s Michael Fassbender are Jenny and Steve, the unlucky couple this time out, who plan to spend the weekend at Slapton Quarry, before it is shortly to fall prey to real estate development, and become part of the gated community, Eden Lake Executive Homes.
It’s a simple and familiar set-up, which soon takes a turbulent turn, as Steve and Jenny realize that they must fight for their lives if they intend to make it back home.

What makes Eden Lake stand out from its ilk is our view of the couple’s stalkers, allowing us glimpses into the possible roots of the violence we see unfold onscreen.
And while the inexplicability of the events in Ils and The Strangers may heighten the thrills and tension, Watkins’ script takes the time to illustrate how the young really are sculpted by their environment and upbringing, infusing Eden Lake with an additional layer of relevance absent from its cinematic brethren. (The fact that this was released in England in 2008, where there was a rash of murders involving young perpetrators, is also a gruesome footnote to its chilling narrative.)

If I haven’t quite made it clear, allow me: Eden Lake doesn’t pull its punches.
While it may not reach the bizarro heights of certain examples of French extreme horror (at the moment, no one’s doing it quite like the French are), Eden Lake is still a particularly brutal bit of horror, which takes place in a world where justice—worldly or cosmic—does not seem to exist, and where the comeuppances happen to those who, arguably, deserve it the least.

Parting shot: Reviews of Ils, The Strangers, and Vacancy can be found in the Archive.

(Eden Lake UK quad and images courtesy of shocktillyoudrop.com.)

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