Directed By: James Watkins
Starring: Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender, Tara Ellis
Tag line: "A weekend by the lake, with views to die for"
Trivia: Won a 2009 Empire Award for Best Horror Film
On the surface, writer / director James Watkins’ Eden Lake may look like an ultra-violent tale of survival in the vein of Deliverance and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, with a middle-class couple fighting for their lives against a gang of ruthless young punks. But don’t let that fool you; this is a straight-up monster movie. Only in this case, the “monster” is a teenage kid.
Schoolteacher Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and her boyfriend Steve (Michael Fassbender) head to Eden Lake, a beautiful spot in the middle of nowhere, for what they hope will be a relaxing weekend. Shortly after they arrive, however, the two have a run-in with teenage hoodlum Brett (Jack O’Connell) and his friends, who do everything they can to make the couples stay an unpleasant one. Things escalate quickly when Brett and the others steal Steve’s car and take it for a joyride, leading to a confrontation that ends in bloodshed. Thus begins a game of cat and mouse, with Jenny and Steve on the run from Brett and his pals, who are ready to take this fight to the next level. But exactly how far are the teens willing to go?
Reilly and Fassbender are impressive as the two lead characters, who, despite a few horribly bad decisions (one in particular, where Steve walks into a house to confront the hoodlums, had me scratching my head, wondering what he was thinking), remain likable throughout the film. The standout performance, however, is delivered by Jack O’Connell, whose Brett is a rabid dog, a psychopath who fears nothing and treats violence as if it were a game. In what is arguably the movie’s most shocking scene, Steve is captured and tied him to a tree. Goaded on by Brett, the other kids take turns stabbing their prisoner while Paige (Finn Atkins), the only female of the group, records it with her phone. This senseless brutality clearly disturbs many of the teens (one vomits after stabbing Steve), but not Brett. In fact, he gets a charge out of it, and even taunts Steve by telling him they’ll do the same to Jenny once they catch her. An inherently violent kid with no redeeming qualities, Brett remains, at all times, the film’s most dangerous character, and O’Connell ensures by way of his bravado performance that there’s not a moment where we like the son of a bitch.
A tense, unsettling movie with an ending that’s guaranteed to stay with you for some time, Eden Lake is a truly horrifying motion picture, made doubly so by the fact that there are dozens of real-life Bretts in this world.
Here’s hoping I never meet a single one of them.