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 actually 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 I got into podcasts and heard people talking about this film that I really 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. The synopsis is 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 actually seeing that Jenny (Kelly Reilly) is a teacher. She seems pretty good at her job and works with really 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 he’s excited to take her there. While they’re driving, the radio talks about how children growing up are 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 is blaming the parents while they’re blaming the schools. No one really seems to be taking ownership.
They arrive at a bed and breakfast that looks a bit rundown. We see there are a lot of trashy people there and they’re just not nice overall. The 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 and they go into the woods. It takes them time to get there and 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 try to 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 keep on being loud. It doesn’t change anything, except making this group of hoodlums knows 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 that this town keeps its own.
The things continue to 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.
I’m glad that I finally saw this film and actually mad that I didn’t get it earlier. This film really is full of social commentary, nuance and then just gets quite brutal. I did know this last part coming in, but I’m not going to lie. There was a point where I was wondering if people actually overhyped this. It isn’t as bad as I thought, especially after this second viewing, but that’s not saying it isn’t brutal.
The first thing I wanted to go over was this aspect of these kids getting to be unruly. I like the idea being introduced over the radio. The couple doesn’t even acknowledge it, which makes it even better. The dynamic is interesting though in that Jenny is a school 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 aside 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, as he is well built guy who is actually physically bigger than all of them. It brings up 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 quite bleak, which makes me feel bad, but I also really like it.
Another aspect here is the mob mentality. Brett is a monster and I think a lot of that is nurture for him. We get a glimpse of his home life where his father is really tough and mean. Brett in turns takes it out on those around him, hence why he bothers the couple here. As I was saying though, he’s also a monster. He has his friends partake in hurting Steve on camera as a way to manipulate them. He’s a psychopath for sure as the rest don’t really want to partake, for the most part. We do see that peer pressure though is a scary thing. My heart sunk at the end as well and seeing why these children act as they do.
The last aspect I’m actually 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 what the teens do starts off as 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 and it becomes so bleak. As these builds though, we see the change in Jenny. She has to lose her humanity to try to survive and seeing the things she goes through I really 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 establishes as well.
That will take me to the acting. Reilly I thought was absolutely amazing. I love how they establish 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 actually like that he can take a secondary spot in this film. He is really kind of a catalyst for things to go down the dark path they do. O’Connell is someone I despised, but I love the performance. He really feels like a psychopath and manipulator. The rest of his group was good, especially since I love that they don’t really want to do what they’re being told, but with how strong of a leader Brett is, I believe the mob mentality would take over like we see. 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 really 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.
Now with that said, this film really has a lot of social commentary and relevance for sure. It is a brutal film about being outsiders and getting mixed up in things with disastrous results. There’s a lot of psychological trauma that is also going on here, not only with the couple but with the gang at the hands of Brett. I thought the pacing and build up of this was great as it coincides with loss of humanity of Jenny. The acting is great and the effects are solid. The soundtrack didn’t really stand out to me, but it also doesn’t take me out of the film. This film I wouldn’t recommend to everyone, just because it is a bit on the extreme side. It is definitely not as intense though and I would actually consider this a gateway if you want to get into more brutal films for sure.
My Rating: 8.5 out of 10