OCTOBER 17, 2008
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (SCREAMFEST)
Like last year’s Storm Warning, sometimes a traditional “Vacationers run afoul of evil locals” movie can do the trick, despite not doing anything really different than the ones that have come before it. So while it may sound hypocritical to say that I enjoyed Eden Lake after trashing on Train or Keepsake, something about this “torture porn” movie clicked, and I ended up enjoying it.
One thing it got right that those other two didn’t is a sense of pace. It’s not wall to wall gore and violence; in fact nothing “bad” happens until 45 minutes in or so. That means we get some goddamn character development (remember that stuff?) for our two heroes, and our villains are actually set up, as is the conflict (which IS somewhat original, actually) that ultimately elevates their antagonism to full blown terror. Also, as there are only two “good guys”, we are spared excessive violence, unlike Keepsake, which kept on rolling in additional victims to provide “horror” while keeping our heroine safe. No nosy cops, random folks in the woods, etc... the focus is kept on our two protagonists throughout the film.
And without spoiling much, I liked the rather grim tone, because it was EARNED. Some of these downer endings come from films that were otherwise kind of fun, but writer/director James Watkins' script stays true to itself throughout; it’s a dark film, and it ends that way. It may not be very crowd-pleasing (though there are a couple moments where you’ll want to cheer, like when our heroine gets a bit of sudden revenge on one of the attackers), but it’s much better than suddenly switching gears in the final five minutes. The end of the film (which is spoiled on the IMDb – don’t read it!) is a twist on the ending of a very famous film of this subgenre, something I also dug, especially since I don’t think it’s been done before, which is kind of surprising as it seems obvious.
There are a couple moments that I found a bit silly though. At one point our heroine hides in what appears to be a dumpster full with shit. It doesn’t seem to be connected to a sewer or anything, nor does it seem to be very comfortable for any life form to sit on, so how it became loaded with its particular “cargo” is baffling; it seems like it’s just a wince-inducing way to put the poor lass in another horrible situation instead of having her hide in some trees again.
Also, there’s a cheesy moment involving an engagement ring. I understand the point, and it’s nice and all, but it’s still cheesy. Plus, it comes at a “make it or break it” point in the film, and I think some folks will be on the side of the latter as a result. I wish Watkins had gone through a bit of rewriting for this particular plot point, as it ultimately only serves to make you feel bad for the victims, something you already SHOULD be feeling.
As the Dimension EXTREME! ad (the one that played before every single goddamn movie at Screamfest this week) tells us, Eden Lake will be hitting DVD relatively soon, so if you can stomach one more survival horror film before the end of the year, I think you should make it this one (unless you still haven’t seen Inside).
What say you?