The Bender Wagon was quite cruel this weekend as it rolled up with Eden Lake. This film would have remained well and truly off my radar if not for Michael Fassbender purely for the fact that it had the potential to stray into full on gorno territory – a genre which is definitely not for me.
My commitment to my new Season meant that I had to watch what I bought even after reading Empire’s review before the film started which is a rule I rarely break.
PLOT: Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and Steve (Michael Fassbender) head up to the North of England for a romantic camping weekend when they clash with a noisy group of teenagers. After a spooky night of false scares (mostly created by Steve to wind up Jenny) they wake up to find their car keys gone and are thereafter stalked through the forest by the teens. After a further confrontation things turns violent. Jenny and Steve get lost in the forest and are hunted down by the local teens. There is blood. There is stress. There is peer pressure and bullying. There is more blood. I have decided that the off screen ending was a happy one. END PLOT
The plot of Eden Lake is made stronger by replacing familiar inbred hillbillies with teenagers. This puts a very different spin on, let’s face it, what is a very tired and over used idea.
The reactions of Steve and the teenagers, none of whom were over the age of 16, were real and in the end the crux of the movie boiled down to what people will do under pressure from others. The fact that the teens were all coerced into taking their turn at torturing Steve was an uneasy watch and this was paralleled with an angry father and the other parents at the end of the film.
The cast were all fine in what were hard roles to play although Reilly did get lumbered with a couple of awkwardly clichéd horror film moments. The most frustrating of these was whenever she had a free pass to leave the forest and get help but instead chose to inexplicably hide under a tree before walking straight into the teens.
It is always shocking to watch a man get repeatedly stabbed but there were no blood spurting moments. The tone of the violence was real which made it believable - it was kids with cheap blunt penknives not Michael Myers and a sharp shiny kitchen knife.
Eden Lake is not scary or unsettling because of the violence – it is terrifying because of who is committing the violence. In terms of the gore, it is there and there is no denying that but I think that judging Eden Lake as a straight out gorno is completely wrong. The film plays out more like a thriller; albeit a very gritty and worringly real one – it almost makes me wish it was inbred hillbillies.
Eden Lake was written and directed by James Watkins who has just finished directing The Woman in Black which is one of my most anticipated films for 2012. If Watkins can keep the tension and stress levels anywhere near what he was able to create in Eden Lake his next offering will be a bloody fantastic watch.
Looking at Fassbender’s résumé this type of film did look out of place but after watching Eden Lake it is clear that he picked a film cleverer than its appearance made it out to be.
I didn't write my review immediately after the film finished as I wanted to think about it overnight. I am glad as I would have written a very different review which in all likelihood would have missed the point of the film.
Eden Lake is a lot more than first meets the eye and it gets an 8.5/10 and in all probability would have scored higher if not for the fact that it did use a couple of clichés in a glaringly obvious manner. The film was a very good watch and was, as Empire said, more endured than enjoyed but at sometime down the line if one of those teens gets a Season of their own I will watch it again.