Written by: James Watkins
Starring: Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender, Jack O’Connell, Finn Atkins
Beware of the actions of troubled youths proves to be the moral of the story in Eden Lake, as what should be a lovely vacation turns into a hellscape. Merciless in its filmmaking and all too real with the horrors of this situation, this film provides an ample amount of thrills along with the frustrations it evokes.
Out for a weekend getaway, Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and Steven (Michael Fassbender) stay in the English countryside where their vacation gets interrupted by a group of teenagers. Starting out as a nuisance with their music, things get more serious after an incident ramps things up to the physical and violent.
If anything, Eden Lake gives credence to the fist-shaking older individuals decrying the presence of teens causing a raucous. The film certainly puts us in the perspective of a couple trying to enjoy their time and must escape from the youths as things get serious in this fairly secluded area. Starting out by showing how lovely these two are together, the narrative builds a couple with so much to look forward to together. This only makes what transpires in the film more difficult to take in.
The common Christian saying “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop” truly suits the attitudes of the teens in this feature, as not much seemingly occurs in their small town, and the pleasure in torturing this couple appears to be an entertaining endeavor for them. Pestering turns into criminal behavior and then it turns into all-out survival mode for Jenny and Steve as things continue to escalate. It becomes a bit strange to watch as the story continues because these are children meant to cause the audience fear and it works so well as it oddly feels pretty believable. It flips the script on the idea of a group of youths getting hunted down by sadistic older adults, which typically encompasses many horror stories. It makes it refreshing and a premise not used often.
Terrain plays a huge part of this story with most of it occurring in the woods; seeking help will be difficult to attain. Jenny and Steve are only here on vacation and do not know how to operate in this form of wilderness. Conversely, it appears these teens hang out here all of the time, which gives them an advantage in how to find the couple and where the avenues of relief lie. The secluded nature of this story makes it difficult for Jenny and Steve to find refuge but also the lack of shelter leaves them out in the open for a good amount of time.
On many occasions, the film asks the question of how far these teens are willing to go in order to torture this couple and while the initial motivation seems a bit trite, what occurs following it makes for a far more interesting driving force. One specific member, the leader, causes this initial push, but for some members, peer pressure compels them to play along. When it gets supremely violent indicates just how far some of these teenagers are willing to go in order to appease their friends. The answers this film provides are frightening and unfortunately not too surprising.
Eden Lake provides one of Michael Fassbender’s first roles and with this performance, he does not receive as much to do. The final girl role falls onto Kelly Reilly, who does very well in conveying the horror of the situation. Steve becomes this protector for her, but once that all falls apart she needs to fend for herself. Kelly carries the scenes of intense dread and the truly gruesome bloody moments displayed in this feature. Covered in mud and dirt for the majority of the second half and exhibits the humanity of this story, especially when the teenagers seemingly refuse to exhibit any signs of it with their intense violence.
Very entertaining and a real stinger at the end, Eden Lake provides the thrills one would want with this kind of story and some fairly disturbing messaging. As awful as these kids are, they are a by-product of their environment. If they find pleasure in torturing this couple, God only knows what lies beneath the surface in the rest of the town. This film fulfills its role in telling a competent thriller story and it certainly gets the job done.