Eden Lake (2008)

OCTOBER 17, 2008


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?


  1. Just watched Eden Lake and absolutely loved it! I'm English and you can't open a newspaper over here these days without reading about another fatal stabbing involving teens. This film really captures the sense of intimidation and cockiness of today's chav/yoof/hoody culture that's absolutely rife in this country right now. What really hits home is the fact that things like this do actually happen in England (and probably everywhere else), perhaps not to the extreme extent of what we see in Eden Lake but certainly with fatal consequences.

  2. After reading several good reviews I rented this one. Unfortunately my beloved video store let me down (1 copy for sale, NO rental copies). Blockbuster was the only place in town with rental copies (I hate those guys!!!!) + I was really hoping it was worth me going against my long-standing boycott. Hell! was it ever!
    I must admit, I was glad my dog distracted me during the boyfriend stabbing scene and it was a little hard to stomach the scene where the Indian boy is burned via tire necklace, but overall one of the best [horror] movies from 2008. "Survival" has always been my favorite of the horror genres and I am loving some of the more set-in-reality (although maybe a little hyper-real) movies being released lately.
    Incidentally, I must admit that I rented this because my boyfriend was out of town and is tired of sitting though horror movies. He rents really bad comedies when I'm gone, like “Grandma's Boy.”

  3. I've been trying to watch any work of Fassbender's after coming across him in Inglourious Basterds and Centurion. I loved him in Jane Eyre (which in some ways could almost be considered a horror film), X-Men: First Class, and also in Fish Tank. Eden Lake was a movie I was interested in before finding his work and I finally watched it last night and it left me so wrecked… It's very good, but tragic and without a sense of hope. There was a recent murder of a teen by another group of teens where I live who was shot repeatedly, burnt alive, and finally beaten and shot again because he wouldn't die (the groups parents also assisted in trying to cover up the murder). Without spoiling the movie, that really hit home A LOT. Like you said, I feel like the movie earned it's grimness. Even the few moments where we want to cheer we can't because they're played very real.

  4. One of the best horrors in years. I loved this. Surely the best British horror...perhaps...ever.


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