With plans of a romantic weekend Steve (Michael Fassbender) takes his girlfriend Jenny (Kelly Reilly) to the beautiful Slapton Quarry before developers turn it into the Eden Lake housing complex. But their mini romantic getaway is disrupted by a small group of teens who delight in harassing them. Unwilling to be terrorized by these young hooligans Steve stands up to them but starts a battle as their leader Brett (Jack O'Connell) first steals their jeep and then leads the gang on a violent rampage turning this quiet weekend into a game of life and death.
For some reason modern British horror movies fail to inspire me, I don't know why as there is no reason why British Horror can't be as good as American horror, but usually they leave me bored. But "Eden Lake" is very different and whilst its roots maybe in the likes of "Straw Dogs" it is one of the best modern British horror movies I have had the perverse pleasure to watch. And the reason why I like "Eden Lake" so much is that whilst we have elements of trouble in the woods, torture and outrageous survival, stock elements from the horror genre, it also plays on social fears as we have the horror stemming from a group of teenage thugs who terrorize an innocent couple. So ferocious is the level of these attacks and fear generated by writer and director James Watkins that it is enough to make you cross the road to avoid a gang of young people.
Now I am not going to say that the storyline to "Eden Lake" is the most original of ideas, there are similarities to other horror movies and we all know that horror which takes place in the woods often boils down to a battle of survival. As such there are certain aspects of the movie which are little more than standard horror cliches as we end up watching Jenny running for her life through a wood being chased down by these teenage thugs. And as such you know at some point she is going to end up taking the battle to them in order to survive.
But get beyond the obvious horror elements and Watkins has created a socially aware horror which plays on the general fears over groups of teenagers. And in doing so there is almost an exploratory feel to "Eden Lake" as the question of whether it is teaching or parenting that is to blame for teenagers who are wild and dangerous. But at the same time we also see how one teenager can lead others, pressuring them to do stuff they wouldn't do. And Watkins does a good job of including all of this in the story from the initial confrontation with the disrespectful teenagers, to them causing minor trouble before evolving into a bunch of depraved thugs capable of killing to cover their tracks.
But this semi exploration of the social element doesn't detract from the horror and quite simply "Eden Lake" has some of the most scary torture scenes you will witness. Now I am not talking the contrived torture of the "Saw" movies but brutal attacks with knives, frenzied and hard hitting as we watch these thugs go to work on their victim. And they are not just violent with knives; these are a physical bunch capable of anything including burning people.
Of course, and as already mentioned "Eden Lake" does also conform to normality and we have that element of Jenny forced to run for her life which to be honest is pretty much the main element of the movie. And again Watkins keeps this very real and raw with her falling, bleeding, getting dirty and resorting to hiding in the most hideous of locations to survive. It does at times get a little far fetched, almost coming across a bit "Predator" like, but some of the movie's more far fetched moments are the most shocking, leaving you reeling from what you have witnessed.
Because most of "Eden Lake" is about Jenny it is the performance from Kelly Reilly which helps make this a chilling experience because it is so real. From that initial fear when they first meet the thugs to her battle for survival you can really sense how Jenny is feeling and how close she is at times to just giving up. As such whilst Michael Fassbender is more than solid as her partner Steve he is for the most out shone with the exception of some of the movies more gruesome scenes. But you have to say the collective of young actors who play these evil teenagers, especially Jack O'Connell who plays Brett, are bang on the money and it is because they are so convincing be it up for murder or not that helps make "Eden Lake" a very uncomfortable movie.
What this all boils down to is that "Eden Lake" was a pleasant surprise because not only does it deliver what you expect from a horror movie which takes place in the woods but also ties in to social fears about groups of teenagers. And because writer and director James Watkins balances this we get horror which is at time intelligent whilst at others uncomfortably torturous.