I didn’t write this one up when I saw it because I just couldn’t decide how I felt about it. I’m a massive horror fan, and always like to think I’ve a strong stomach, but this completely threw me. Honestly, I couldn’t get it out of my head for days. Days, I tell you!
Eden Lake tells the story of a lovely young couple (they are, you’ll really like these guys) who go away for a romantic lakeside weekend, where Steve (Michael Fassbender) plans to propose to his girlfriend Jenny (Kelly Reilly). Their plans go awry when they cross paths with a group of teenage miscreants who systematically terrorize them.
The acting is great, the two leads are so likeable you’re desperate for them to, not only survive, but to get revenge. The bad guys are truly repellent, although I was conflicted because there were glimmers of hope that they might have some humanity buried deep. I’m thinking specifically about the excellent Jack O’Connell (Starred Up) as the ring-leader: his performance is utterly chilling. This is England’s child star, Thomas Turgoose, was another great casting choice.
The violence is brutal and terrifying; the terror coming from the sheer realism. I could completely imagine these events happening, I could almost imagine the newspaper headlines in my mind. And I could imagine being in a situation like this myself, and that isn’t something I usually say about horror films.
As the events unfolded, I was genuinely on the edge of my seat, all but shouting at the characters to ‘hide there!’ ‘whack him one!’ ‘RUN!!!’. I really can’t remember the last time a film of any genre affected me this much.
It’s well made, well acted, engaging, frightening, edge of your seat stuff, so why do I feel uncomfortable recommending it? Perhaps it’s because the characters are so sympathetic and the events that befall them are so gut-wrenchingly awful? Perhaps it’s because the violence that transpires is such a gross over-reaction? Perhaps because it feels like it could almost be true? Perhaps it’s because it’s so damn bleak and hopeless? I’m still not quite sure.
Eden Lake really is deeply disturbing and very hard to watch. For all that, I think it probably is a pretty good film, especially for the horror genre (I love ’em, but most of them are crap), and yet I can’t help but feel extremely conflicted.
Score: I just don’t know!