eden lake | james watkins | kelly reilly | michael fassbender | tara ellis | thriller | torture | vacation | united kingdom | jack o'connell | finn atkins | jumayn hunter | thomas turgoose | james burrows | tom gill | lorraine bruce | shaun dooley | james gandhi | exploitation
Film: Eden Lake
Director: James Watkins
Writer: James Watkins
Starring: Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender and Tara Ellis
This was a film that I added to my Netflix list of DVDs back when I was in college. I kept moving things ahead of it, but it wasn’t until getting into podcasts and heard people talking about this film that I made sure to finally check it out. I’ve now given it a second viewing thanks to the Summer Challenge Series for the 2000s on The Podcast Under the Stairs as part of the People’s Council. I’m now rewatching it as a potential pick for the Summer Series.
Synopsis: refusing to let anything spoil their romantic weekend break, a young couple confront a gang of loutish youths with terrifying brutal consequences.
We start this seeing that Jenny (Kelly Reilly) is a teacher. She seems good at her job and works with young children. After school she meets with her boyfriend, Steve (Michael Fassbender) as they’re heading to a quarry that is flooded to spend the weekend. It is a place that he’s been before and excited to take her there. While they’re driving, the radio talks about how children growing up being unruly and there even seemed to be things put into place with the government to correct it. What I like is that the school staff blames the parents while they’re blaming the schools. No one really seems to be taking ownership in disciplining them/
They arrive at a motel that looks a bit rundown. We see the other guests are trashy people. Despite that, our couple tries to make the best of it and Steve keeps reassuring her that the quarry is beautiful. It will all be worth it once they finally get there.
It is troubling when they come to a fence that is locked. The area is being developed into luxury homes. Steve drives along it until he finds a gap and they go into the woods. It takes them time to get there. On their way, they pass Adam (James Gandhi). He is collecting insects and ignores them as he’s not supposed to talk to strangers. They do finally come to a beach. They start their idyllic weekend, but that is soon interrupted.
A group of teens show up. We quickly see that Brett (Jack O’Connell) is their leader. With him are his girlfriend Paige (Finn Atkins) and his dog Bonnie. They’re joined by Mark (Jumayn Hunter), Cooper (Thomas Turgoose), Harry (James Burrows) and Ricky (Tom Gill). They’re playing loud music and the dog barks at the couple. It also defecates nearby on the beach. The first real troubling thing is that Brett bullies Adam. Steve doesn’t want to get involved, but it bothers Jenny.
Steve does confront them when they continue being loud. It doesn’t change anything, except alerting this group of hoodlums that they’re getting under his skin. It seems that the couple is being spied on that night and it escalates when Steve goes to back up his vehicle and their tire is punctured with a bottle. He can’t let this go and chases after them when they get into town. They soon realize they’re outsiders and this town keeps its own.
Things then escalate when Steve realizes their bag is missing as well as their car. The couple confronts them once again, but this time something happens that sends Brett into a rage and he punishes them for what he thinks they did.
That’s where I’ll leave my recap and I’ll say that I’m glad that I finally saw this film. I’ll go further to say that I’m mad that I didn’t get it earlier. This is full of social commentary, nuance and goes quite brutal. I did know this last part coming in. I’m not going to lie though, there was a point where I was wondering if people were overhyping this. It isn’t as bad as I thought, especially after this subsequent viewing, but that’s not saying that it doesn’t go places.
The first thing I wanted to go over was this aspect of these kids being to be unruly. I like the idea being introduced over the radio before we ever meet this gang. The couple doesn’t even acknowledge it, which makes it even better. The dynamic is interesting with Jenny being a teacher. I feel there’s part of her that thinks they are just kids and that they’re misunderstood. She doesn’t even want Steve to mess with them except when Adam is bullied. Steve on the other hand won’t be intimidated by them and I like that Fassbender was cast into this role. He is a well-built guy who is physically bigger than all of them. It explores the ‘kids will be kids’, but we see the fallacy in that thinking. It is a difficult line to cross though, as they are just children. It is fitting that my second rewatch would come after watching Who Could Kill a Child? That decision isn’t an easy one and a line that you can’t come back from. It becomes even worse though when we get glimpses of their parents and how they’re brushing it off. The ending is bleak, which makes me feel bad. I also like it where it goes.
Another aspect here is the mob mentality. Brett is a monster and I think that it is nurture for him. We get a glimpse of his home life where his father is tough and mean. Brett in turns takes it out on those around him, hence why he bothers the couple. As I was saying though, he’s also a monster. He has his friends partake in hurting Steve on camera to manipulate them. He’s a psychopath for sure as the rest don’t want a part in it, for the most part. We do see that peer pressure is a scary thing. My heart sunk at the end as well and seeing why these children function as they do.
The last aspect I’m going to lump in with the pacing of this. I’ve established that Jenny is a nice woman who sees the good in these children. She doesn’t like how they’re acting, but as a teacher, she thinks she can help them. I like that with what these teens start doing is annoying and then becomes criminal before turning into straight up psychopathic. It moves in a way where you feel the dread growing and by the end, I’m completely invested. As things builds, we see the change in Jenny. She loses her humanity to survive and seeing the things she goes through I enjoyed, as much as you can. I also like that she gets dirtier and dirtier until she looks almost like a monster. That is when she crosses the line that you can’t come back from. The ending I thought was amazing for what this film sets up as well.
That will take me to the acting. Reilly was amazing. I love how they show her to start and to see where she ends up in the end. I felt horrible for her, but her performance was great. Fassbender was solid as well. He’s such a good actor and I like that he can take a secondary spot. He is the catalyst for things to go down the dark path they do. O’Connell is someone I despised, but I love the performance. He feels like a psychopath and manipulator. The rest of his group was good, especially since I love that they don’t want to do what they’re being told. With how strong of a leader Brett is, I believe the mob mentality takes over and by the time they push back, it is too late. That also goes the same for the parents that we meet in different spots as well. They help round out this film for what was needed for sure.
That will take me to the effects, which I’m not going to lie. I thought there would be a bit more of that from what I heard. That’s not to say what we get isn’t good. They look to have been done practical which I liked. They looked quite real along with the blood as well. I was glad to see something later in the film was done at a distance as it had to do with fire and that is something hard to do with CGI. The cinematography is well done in that aspect and it helps to make things tense.
In conclusion, this film has social commentary and relevance for sure. It is a brutal piece about being outsiders and getting mixed up in things with disastrous results. There’s a lot of psychological traumas that is also going on here, not only with the couple but with the gang at the hands of Brett. You could even include their parents. The pacing builds up which each action which was great as it coincides with loss of humanity of Jenny. The acting is great and the effects are solid. The soundtrack didn’t stand out to me, but it also doesn’t take me out either. They do solid things with sound design though as noises alert both groups. This is one that I wouldn’t recommend to everyone, just because it is a bit on the extreme side. It is not as intense as other things I’ve seen though and I would consider this a gateway if you want to get into more brutal films for sure.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10