Eden Lake brutally conveys a fragmented society through excessively harrowing ordeals. Sometimes, on the odd occasion, I question my own sanity. Having seen this thrilling horror once before, and its staying power never once escaping my fragile mind, I approached a second watch with much trepidation. I mean after all, it’s Eden frickin’ Lake! One of a handful of films that I would never recommend anyone watching due to its strenuous viewing experience.
But, as always, I am one to never turn down a film. And here we are again, an emotionally drained soul trying to claw back a slight inkling of happiness. Suffice to say, Eden Lake is daunting in every sense of the word. A couple journey to a romantic flooded quarry for the weekend where they are terrorised by a group of delinquent teenagers, to which certain actions escalate a relaxing weekend into a game of survival.
A contemporaneous yet effective thriller like this was always going to be divisive. You either sit on the bloody side of the fence, completely affected by the relentless nastiness that saps your energy. Or, you comfortably position yourself on the enraged side, angered by the depiction of a segregated society that needlessly targets the working class. After all, this looks to be every middle class couples’ worst nightmare. For me, I’m precariously balanced in the middle. Right on the edge, ready to teeter on either side.
There is no doubt in my mind that this truly is one of the most effective modern horrors of all time. Whether you like it or not, you cannot dispute the longevity of emotional turmoil that the savagery produces. From setting a peer-pressured kid on fire to multiply stabbing a helpless man strapped to a wooden pole by barbed wire. The eye-wincing gore, although excessive at the best of times, never diluted the brutal intentions of Watkins’ agenda.These young “thugs” if you like, are depicted with an ounce of humanity, often showing remorse or hesitation between their dastardly actions, allowing us to engage with them on an empathetic level. Particularly when the parents are involved and a brave exploration into parental upbringing takes place.
However, Eden Lake remains a dangerous film, providing exaggerated commentary that inadvertently creates fear of an entire class of people. Whether Watkins masqueraded the film to be an incitement on class prejudice or a straightforward horror thriller with no venomous poison in its talons, it still remains threatening. What doesn’t help alleviate the brutality of this couple’s weekend, played gloriously and earnestly by Reilly and Fassbender, is the film’s conclusion. There is absolutely no sense of hope. Everything is lost. The credits roll and you are left to sit there bathing in a pool of sweat and despair.
Harnessing the ability to silence all viewers in shock and horror, yet exhuming an aura of unnecessary mean-spirited helplessness. You’ll either love it or hate it, that’s for sure. And of course, a plethora of clichés originating from the stupidity of certain character actions, especially from the couple where, for example, they refuse to relocate their very moveable camp site for the sake of masculine-driven pride.
Still, despite the sheer brutality of Eden Lake, I cannot deny that it doesn’t engage. It’s incredibly captivating through tight pacing, excessive gore and the wavering of innocence. Just be sure to watch this by yourself and pack some sugary snacks, you’ll need the energy…