Tuesday, February 16, 2010
EDEN LAKE (2008) - James Watkins
Occasionally, two of my friends and I seek out the darkest, most disturbing films we can find and spend a night putting ourselves through these finds. Grim Night, we call it. Two nights ago, I had a Grim Night on my own. I got hold of James Watkins’ Eden Lake and sat down to watch it on Valentine’s night. Christ. It was dark. The British horror film manages to take common fears and magnify them with horrific results.
Jenny and Steve are a young couple, looking for a quiet weekend away at a picturesque flooded quarry which will be soon turned into a holiday resort. They pack up their four by four, bring a tent and head off. Unfortunately, the quiet seclusion is disturbed by a group of young teenagers, bent on mayhem. At first, the teens are a nuisance. But Steve’s pride leads him to confront the teenagers. This serves no purpose but to enrage the teens, who embark on a vicious vendetta on the couple.
The major success of Eden Lake is that director James Watkins creates an air of tension that is palpably uncomfortable. From the moment the first teenagers appear, you instantly feel uncomfortable, aware that these teens can turn nasty very quickly. They’re fiercely territorial, and Steve and Jenny’s intrusion on their turf will only lead to confrontation. Watkins never lets the tension drop, indeed it escalates steadily throughout the film.
The violence in the film is sporadic, but incredibly disturbing. We’re not talking ridiculous Saw-levels of blood spilling, but violence which, taken in context is quite realistic. Michael Fassbender’s performance as Steve just adds to the nastiness of the events as he (once again) delivers a brilliant piece of acting. Kelly Reilly also does very well, however, her character reacts to situations that at times feel rather contrived. But Jack O’Connell’s performance as the lead teen in the gang is by far the shining light of the film. Brett is a vicious, angry, nasty piece of work. However, there are reasons behind who he is. And O’Connell manages to convey these reasons without ever being obvious. It’s his performance with Watkins’ writing that is the success of the role.
Eden Lake is one of those nasty little films that you hear little about, but leaves quite the impression on you. It’s relentlessly grim, and the tension builds to an incredibly nasty climax. It does play on the fears of Daily Mail ASBO hysteria, but that’s necessary for the purpose of the film. It’s a great little British horror film, and shows the big-budget American films how it’s done properly. Great performances and incredibly nasty. Just the type of film to be watched on Valentine’s Day!