Eden Lake
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Eden Lake

The British movie, ‘Eden Lake’ takes the audience back in time to when horror flicks were scary. I’m not referring to this film as being set in the past, the location and characters are definitively contemporary. It is more of the mood it creates and the skillful way the filmmaker illicit an ever present and growing sense of terror in the audience. although there are a number of brutally realistic moments of torture the mindless infliction of pain is a contributing factor employed to get the audience to divide the list of characters into two distinct groups; those you cheer on to survive and those you can’t wait to see them receive what they have coming to them. Replacing the endless gush of red blood and guts is a moral landscape of black and white devoid of any ambiguous grey regions. It is one of the best psychologically driven horror films to come around in at least a decade.

Filmmaker James Watkins doesn’t have a particularly lengthily list of credits making this opus one of the first major works in his nascent oeuvre. This is the farthest thing from a comment with any negative connotations; based on the expert craftsmanship Mr. Watkins exhibits as both screenwriter and director his career is certain to be brilliant. He starts off in the film slowly permitting the audience to first become emotionally vested with the young couple soon to be at the epicenter of a world of hurt. This is critical in order to anchor the requisite polarization of archetypes at core of the story. Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and her boyfriend Steve (Michael Fassbender) are a couple preparing for a holiday camping at scenic Eden Lake. While Jenny exhibits some reservations with roughing it she accedes to Steven’s plan and goes along. Once there they set up for a relaxing afternoon in the sun. That is until a group of young teens arrive. They are still young enough that their mode of transportation is BMX bicycles. Stubbornly and against the wishes of Jenny he is determined not to allow these delinquent kids to ruin their holiday. After a relatively quiet night in their tent the next morning their food is infested with insects and the tire of their car shredded by a bottle carelessly left behind. After fixing the tire they head off to breakfast but Steven remained determined to report the kids to the proper authorities. After a failed attempt they return to the Lake front. While scuba divining the car keys go missing and the leader of the gang, Brett (Jack O'Connell), has stolen it. An altercation breaks out and one of the ruffians pulls out a knife. While defending himself Steven accidently kills the gang’s dog.

The next morning Steve is missing. When Jenny tracks him down he is being held prisoner by the gang. Steven has been secured to a pole by barbwire as Brett coerces the young, submissive boys to torture Steven insisting they cut him deeper and slice pieces of flesh off his brutalized body. As he screams Jenny is hiding in the brushes trying not to cry out as the man she loves is being tortured to death in front of her. All this time Brett has the girl in the group, Paige (Finn Atkins) record the brutality on her mobile. At this point the story does take the predicable albeit necessary turn of the deadly game of cat and mouse as Jenny initially tries to rescue Steven and then finds herself in a desperate fight for survival. The advantage ebb and flows with Jenny barely escaping several times. At one point Jenny winds up killing Cooper (Thomas Turgoose) and later purposely running over another gang member. The ending might be telegraphed to some extent but it differs significantly from the stock horror film conclusion to be a novel experience.

James Watkins has an exceptionally tight grasp on what it takes to create a tightly constructed thriller with the ideal amount of sheer terror woven in. the foundation he builds upon is a psychological horror film where the mind is the target of the fear rather than viscerally through the eyes. As noted many times before this a far more effective method than merely spills copious quantities of blood, gore and the ever popular gratuitous sex. Unlike most currently popular horror flicks this one is not targeted towards a juvenile demographic. Watkins has presented us with a thriller suitable for an audience possessing adult sensibilities. the first evidence of this is in the selection of the protagonist as a couple in their early thirties instead of the more commonly employed horny teens looking for a remote place to get high and have sex. This is a well-established, stable couple on the cusp of engagement.

Jenny is undeniably forced into the role of the popular horror film trope, the survivor girl. This is the one girl in the group of usually swindling victims with sufficient common sense to outwit the serial killer at large. Jenny is resourceful but as an adult her dire predicament leads us into a potentially far more intense, deeply seated thematic core. This is one of my favorite themes, the reasonable person pushed beyond all semblance of rational behavior. Films such as ‘Straw Dogs’ and ‘Going Down’ are excellent examples of this demonstrating just how firm a grasp on how to execute this genre properly. At the point when Jenny is pushed to taking a life, not matter how solid the justification has been laid out she crosses over into a psychological state devoid of human reason frequently referred to as ‘Blood Simple’. When this condition consumes the mind a well-balanced woman like Jenny has her focus collapse into a dark red tunnel conducive to taking life.

The juxtaposition between Jack O'Connell as the gang leader and Kelly Reilly as the innocent permits this movie to transcend the mundane pack. Brett is a burgeoning psychopath just in his teen but already broken beyond repair. He is not the type that will become the lone serial killer racking up one kill after another. He has a predisposition to become a cult leader of a Manson like murderous family populated by followers easily subjugated to Brett’s sadistic will. This is plainly seen by the way he gets off more forcing others to torture and kill than he experiences by performing the actions himself. The contrast is infused in the story as we witness the steady erosion of Jenny’s moral center as she inexorably is overwhelmed by the blood simple mind set. There is ample justification for this and no one watching would ever think of holding Jenny legally or morally accountable for her actions; they were pure animalistic survival. The reasonable person was reduced below irrational behavior to instinctual survival. The end is not what you expect and demonstrates a boldness of Mr. Watkins as a screen writer perfectly complimenting his visually powerful directorial style. Not only watch this film, keep a close eye on this filmmaker’s career.

Posted 07/03/2013

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