Hoodie horror hasn’t made it onto the film genre list just yet, but Eden Lake does a good job of suggesting loutish teens knifing unsuspecting victims could become a recurring image. Taking inspiration from Deliverance (John Boorman, 1972), a couple make their way to a small backwater town en route to a former national park that has been fenced off for new a new development in the hope of having a romantic getaway. Their peaceful break is soon shattered though as a group of youths do their utmost to make their lives a painfully miserable.
Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and her boyfriend Steve (Michael Fassbender) are a happy couple just looking for a break and Steve wants to hatch his plan to propose to Jenny in an idyllic setting. Eden Lake seems perfect, a place he has been to before when it was a national park. However, stopping off in a nearby town they find the locals at the pub to be obnoxious towards them and slap their children for misbehaving. Hoping to escape the families and their quarrels, they discover Eden Lake has been fenced off for development, but find a gap to drive their 4×4 through, park up and relax lakeside. Then the youths arrive just a short distance away to disturb their peace.
As an R-rated horror, Eden Lake serves up grizzly moments of torture.
Starting with a wayward dog slobbering on them and then teenage boys staring at Jenny with binoculars, it’s not long before Steve attempts to tell the kids to get lost. Met with abuse, he retreats, and they leave soon after. The next day, they aren’t so lucky as a second confrontation leads to Steve accidentally killing the dog in self defence and the leader of the youths vows to murder them both. Armed with knives they hound, stab and victimise Jenny and Steve in a game of cat and mouse in the woods.
As an R-rated horror, Eden Lake serves up grizzly moments of torture which will have gore fans grinning with glee. After an initial chase, Steve is captured and systematically stabbed by each of the boys who are bullied into doing so by their leader-by-force Brett (Jack O’Connell) and recorded on a mobile phone, “happy slapper” style. Seeing a helpless man stabbed in the arm, chest and mouth by boys too scared to back down to a ruthless youth is unsettling in today’s violent knife crime climate and there is a suggestion Eden Lake blames the parents for it all. There’s not much depth to the argument, but it is there anyway in the usual flimsy “this is why they are doing what they are doing” horror way. Far more effective is the use of Jenny as a woman pushed to the edge as she flees the youths, helps Steve, gets captured and tries to get payback from them in the most extreme ways possible. What is so clever here is her brute force feels right at the moment it happens, but the consequences make the actions regreatable, especially at the nasty conclusion.
Amusingly, some of the more tense moments are undermined by Reilly’s constant running in a dress with a plunging neckline and very little support (sure to be a winner with a younger audience if they get to see this 18-rated movie) and there are a couple of illogical plot points, but Eden Lake will satisfy fans of fellow Brit writer/director Neil Marshall together with anyone who likes to see blood on their moviescreens.