January 23rd: Broken Britain?

33. Eden Lake (James Watkins, 2008)

Friday night is rapidly becoming a lads film night and so it was the case here. Unfortunately the first choice film was switched off after half an hour and I didn’t get to see any of it the next day. So my review of The Black Cobra will have to wait for a couple of days. So, after that false start we knuckled down to watching a bit of nasty – always good to start the weekend with the nasty.

Eden Lake is the cruelest film I have watched in some time. The slow build of tension and conflict is superbly handled by first-time director Watkins. Middle class lovelies Jenny and Steve are off to spend a weekend by the titular lake, a filled quarry, in what seems to be an idyllic forest. Their peace is shattered by the appearance of a group of obnoxious teens intent, it seems, on aggravating the couple. Things steadily go from bad to astoundingly shit before accelerating to batshit mental for the couple.

Heavily and positively influenced by Neil Marshall’s stunning The Descent (2005), Eden Lake is a tightly wound nightmare scenario. Eschewing the former films supernatural troglodytes for a very human threat gives Eden Lake a visceral sense of nihilistic cruelty. The ringleader for the gang, Brett (Jack O’Connell), is a convincingly brutish character whom O’Connell imbues with a kind of charismatic yet repellant ferocity. He leads the other young gang members down their path of increasingly depraved acts. This unflinching nastiness is set at odds with the seeming purity of Jenny and Steve’s relationship. Torture rears its ugly head once again as the couple are subjected to the latest installment of the current rash of captive maiming. It’s believable stuff though – not like Hostel’s gleeful gore, this is painfully gritty and disturbing. There is no respite either, Eden Lake has the courage of its convictions and it is powerful enough to remain with you after the credits roll. Forgive it the occasional character flaw and reason its class commentary as an explainable factor (violence begets violence rather than poverty begets violence – suggested by the early pre-lake encounter with the family), Eden Lake is gripping stuff.

Note: Director James Watkins is involved with The Descent: Part 2 which raises my otherwise low hopes for the unnecessary sequel.