Eden Lake (UK - DVD R2)
Scott McKenzie has watched a good film but recommends that no one watches it
Young couple Jenny and Steve think they're going to have a nice romantic weekend together as they head off to the countryside for a camping holiday. Unfortunately for them, the idyllic part of England they have chosen is also home to some very undesirable people. When Steve confronts a group of kids, the intimidation escalates until the couple find themselves fighting for their lives. Stuck in a forest with no car, no phone and a rabble of hoodies on their tail, who (if anyone) will survive?
I'm not sure about the rest of the world, but in the UK the newspapers are regularly overflowing with stories about how evil and out of control our kids are. Eden Lake unashamedly draws on the Brits' fear of hoodies and the action on screen definitely delivers Daily Mail readers' worst nightmares. James Watkins has progressed from a writer of horror movies to director and here he delivers a well-structured genre movie that delivers Texas Chain Saw Massacre-style shocks. However, be warned—with the tone as bleak as it is here, Eden Lake is no first date movie.
The world of Eden Lake is one where Jenny and Steve are the only two good people. As the movie progresses, it's clear that everyone else is either pure evil or weak enough to allow the bad guys to stop them doing good. Suspension of disbelief is also required to allow the main characters make some key decisions. I watched this movie with my fiancée and we both agreed (while shouting at the TV) that Steve did some truly stupid things. One scene at the kids' house in particular does nothing for the story apart from adding a bit more edge-of-your-seat suspense at the expense of logic.
While I may have a problem with the actions of the central characters, the actors who play them both do a good job. However, it's Jake O'Connell as Brett, the ringleader of the bad guys, who steals the show. He embodies the fears of everyone who has ever crossed the street to avoid a hoodie. The intensity of his performance grows as the violence escalates and he's the main reason you'll be squirming in your seat and talking about Eden Lake long after it's finished. Thomas Turgoose also shows up in Brett's gang, but his role is smaller than his relatively high billing suggests.
So do I recommend Eden Lake? Part of me says yes, but part of me says no. The film scholar in me recommends the movie as a decent example of exploitation filmmaking because it contains everything you expect from that genre. If you're a fan of Texas Chain Saw Massacre, you'll know exactly what to expect and will probably get plenty of kicks out of Eden Lake. Unfortunately, the overriding feeling I was left with was that I never wanted to see the movie again. With the tone as bleak as it is here and an ending that does nothing to restore your faith in the human race, this is a movie that'll keep you talking but it was one of the least enjoyable movies I've watched in a long time.
Eden Lake is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1. From the first moments of the movie, you know something bad is about to happen to the nice happy couple, but the early scenes are bright and colourful. When the tone turns darker, so does the picture on screen and the colours didn't seem as bright, even in daytime scenes. There were patches of grain in the darker scenes but certainly nothing significant enough to detract from the viewing experience. I have no complaints about the detail of the picture either. Well, other than the fact that there's nothing to get in the way of you seeing all the horrible things that are going on in the movie.
This disc comes with two audio options: Stereo and Dolby 5.1 surround. Music is important to setting the tone in Eden Lake and this transfer does its job of making it loud enough to make an impact. As you might expect from a movie set in a forest, the surround channels contain some subtle effects from time to time but on the whole there's not a huge amount going on in the soundtrack. There's nothing here to get in the way of your 'enjoyment' but there's also nothing to write home about either.
The disc opens with skippable trailers for Donkey Punch, Somers Town and Elite Squad and a Snickers ad with Mr T. The extras are very interview-heavy and making up the lion's share of the menu is a set of junket interviews with the writer-director James Watkins, main stars Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender, producer Christian Colson and flavour-of-the-month Thomas Turgoose. Watkins talks in detail about his idea for the story, which supposedly came to him long before the British tabloids started filling up with stories of evil hoodie kids running amok. The actors talk about the difficult physical shoot and even touch on the odd decisions their characters make.
Colson gives us his opinion on Watkins' transition from writer to director and Thomas Turgoose discusses the fact that he auditioned for the role of the main bad guy, but found he was more suited to the role of Cooper. Jake O'Connell is a main topic of conversation throughout the interviews, but unfortunately he doesn't show up to give us his thoughts on the movie and his character. There is also a Q&A with the director, but it covers similar ground to his interview. The behind the scenes clips show us the cast and crew preparing for and filming key scenes. There is no narration or common thread to this featurette and be warned—here be spoilers. Finally we get a set of TV spots and trailers.
Eden Lake is a tough watch. It's a gripping movie but I thought it was ultimately hampered by bad decision-making by the central characters and I'd describe the resulting violence and gore as 'compellingly repulsive'. I've given the movie six out of ten, but that's not really my final score. If this type of movie is your cup of tea, you can add an extra point or two. If it's not, I'd take a couple of points off and steer well clear.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 19th January 2009
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Extras: Interviews, TV Spots, Trailers, Behind the Scenes
Easter Egg: No
Director: James Watkins
Cast: Kelly Reilly, Thomas Turgoose, Michael Fassbender
Genre: Drama, Horror and Thriller
Length: 88 minutes
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