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Eden Lake (2008)

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Once again I find that I am the inspiration for a fellow blogger, as today we are joined by Todd from Cinema Monolith. He is here to share his thoughts on a film he saw me review a while ago, a little British thriller named Eden Lake. It’s always a pleasure to get Todd involved on my site, and I know the feelings are more than mutual as these are words he actually said about me on his site:

Thank you, Tyson, and thank you for taking time out of your busy day to visit my humble blog. Oh, and Tyson…thank you for making me a better writer, an even better human being, and an overall wonderful guy.

Sure, it may be in a sarctastic manner, but that’s not the point. Anyway, after reading his review please be sure to stop by his site and abuse him a little.

Eden Lake (2008) – Reviewed by Todd from Cinema Monolith

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Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a fan of revenge films. I don’t know what might’ve prompted this—perhaps a moment of vengeance I was subjected to in a Disney cartoon—but I definitely get a kick out of watching them, mainly because it shows the bad guys getting beat, which doesn’t always happen in the real world. My friend Tyson here at Head in a Vice recommended a revenge-themed horror film to me a while back, and it sounded like it was right up my alley. The film was Eden Lake, a British thriller whose elements of horror stemmed not from the usual monsters, ghosts, or zombies, but from a handful of unruly, antagonistic teens.eden lake wide poster

[WARNING MILD SPOILERS THROUGHOUT]

From the very start, it was clear who the good guys and bad guys were: a fun young couple, Jenny and Steve (Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender), whom you bond with immediately, plan a getaway to the shores of a remote, woodsy lake, where they hope to spend a relaxing weekend together, and where Steve plans to ask Jenny to marry him. But their tranquility is soon disrupted by the arrival of a gang of boorish, irritating kids, who go out of their way to make trouble. Before long, these punks have gone off the deep end, resorting to theft, kidnapping, and torture before engaging Jenny in a cat-and-mouse chase through the woods, where she desperately fights for her life.

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I’ll admit, I was really looking forward to where this story was headed…or at least, where I thought it was headed. First-time director James Watkins, who also wrote the screenplay, went above and beyond to make the young couple likeable and the punks repellent, as well as the atmosphere heavy and the tension locked on high. The actors contributed, too, with their realistic portrayals; Reilly and Fassbender were both great, and had me so fully invested in their characters, I couldn’t help but be worried sick about them, while on the other side of the coin, the rage and hatred that Jack O’Connell had me feeling towards his gang leader Brett was completely off the charts.

And that was one of the two problems I had with the film: for me, it was just too true-to-life to be fully enjoyed as escapism, which is why I watch movies in the first place. The true horror of this horror film was that the mentality of these senseless, dehumanized jerks wasn’t entirely fiction, and these deplorable situations and confrontations play out every day in the society we now live in. The question is, do I want to see these situations and confrontations on my movie screen? Sure…as long as at some point in the story, our ‘good guys’ seek retribution on their tormentors, and deliver some sort of satisfactory payback by film’s end.

But what happens when our heroes, our innocent victims and the good characters we’re pulling for, have no chance in hell of overcoming their obstacles and defeating their enemies? As I watched this film, I kept waiting for Jenny and Steve to turn the tables on their attackers, but I finally realized it was never going to be. And that was my second problem with Eden Lake: the bad guys win, and unfortunately I’ve been seeing this trend in too many movies over the past few years. Who wants the psychotic idiots of the world to come out on top, without even a hint of eventual punishment for their actions?

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I kept waiting for Reilly’s heroine to tip the scales in her favor, and though her decisions weren’t always smart ones, she was at least taking them in the right direction. But at every damn turn, her efforts were crushed, and after a while I grew tired of the relentless hopelessness of it all, and eventually my heart and mind just gave up. Especially once the movie arrived at its conclusion, which I admit was a good one, cinematically speaking, and took me quite by surprise because of its reversal of expectations. And perhaps director Watkins deserves some kudos for taking the chance with it that he did…but again, was it the ending I wanted to see, here or anywhere else? No, not at all.

Eden Lake - photo 1

In fact, the wrap-up left me so depressed, you can actually hear it in my voice at the end of the notes I narrated into my digital recorder during my viewing. It left me freaking depressed, and I’m not sure that’s what I want out of a movie I watch, whether it’s the filmmaker’s intention or not. And so that’s my dilemma with Eden Lake: do I recommend a film that’s well-made, is tense and at times exciting, and delivers a punch, or do I warn people away because of its troubling storyline and its characters’ complete lack of humanity? I just don’t know, which is why I’ll go neutral with my rating, and leave it up to you whether to watch or not to watch.

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41 Comments

  1. Thanks again for doing this Todd. As you know, I liked this a little more than you, although I always enjoy a movie where the good guys maybe don’t quite get the hollywood ending we are so used to. Pretty dark in places this one, much more so than I anticipated on my first watch. Cheers buddy 🙂

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  2. Excellent underrated horror gem! Great write up 🙂

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  3. Hey Tyson, thanks for letting me take part in your little soiree, thanks for the recommendation, and thanks for making it clear to everyone that the comment I made above was indeed sarcastic (i.e. an outright lie)! Everything about this movie was great, except for that troublesome lack of full-on revenge….perhaps another one you recommended to me, ‘The Hamiltons’, will fill that void. Cheers back, and thanks again!

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    • HAHAHAHAHA! I was going to put something jokey like that complimentary about me anyway, then I remembered that sarcastic quip and had to use it 🙂

      Funnily enough Ive just watched ‘Starred Up’ which stars the main youth/psycho from Eden Lake. He’s a little more grown up but even more psychotic as a prisoner. Definitely recommend it, might even review it one day soon.

      The Hamiltons maybe isnt as brutal, but if you like it, the sequel The Thomsons is even better.

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    • Garry Armstrong

       /  September 8, 2014

      Todd, I love the sentiment of your review. Tyson knows I’m not a fan of the genre. But that’s not the point. Manipulative films can be both good and bad, depending on the emotions involved. I usually like to see the bad guys get their just rewards. I’ll avoid the film but not your reviews. Well done!

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      • Thanks Garry, I appreciate the comment and the thoughts! And yeah, it’s all about emotions, isn’t it? I’d love to remake this one and do it MY way…if I did, it might be one you’d like to see!

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  4. theipc

     /  September 2, 2014

    Nice write up, Todd! I actually really like this one, depressing ending and all…

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  5. One of the best horror films I’ve seen and I’ve seen a lot. Genuinely bleak and terrifying. Never really seen anything like it.

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  6. Really well-written post, Todd. The movie sounds terrifying. I understand where you’re coming from – I personally enjoy watching movies where bad is punished (or avenged), and good is rewarded (or wins) in the end. Definitely interested in checking this movie out after your intriguing review.

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    • Thanks, Kristin! I’d be curious to hear what you thought about the movie, if you watch it, knowing you feel the same about these scenarios as I do. The set-up and build-up to what you’d expect to be a vengeance-filled third act definitely had my attention, but man-oh-man did that ending screw up my hopes and expectations!

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  7. Nice work. What a fu*ked up movie this is, but it’s certainly memorable.

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    • HA! That’s the most spot-on description of this movie I’ve seen yet! And yes, it most certainly sticks with you afterwards. Thanks for reading the review!

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  8. Great write-up! This is such a terrifying film, and it’s probably to do with the realism you talk about. Really well made too, gritty and uncompromising. Not one to love per se, but definitely one to admire loads.

    Adam.

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    • Hi Adam! Yeah, its ‘true life’ atmosphere really hits the mark, doesn’t it? It was almost like a documentary or a re-enactment of an actual event (which I seriously hope it wasn’t). Now, all we need is a sequel, where a friend of the young couple goes after those little shits….awww, who am I kidding. It’ll never happen.

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  9. Tom

     /  September 3, 2014

    Very solid review Todd. I think these kinds of hopeless situations are the kinds that rile me up. I think Eden Lake might frustrate me but it does feature the great Fassbender. Might have to give it a look sometime. At least Im prepared for what faces me. Sort of. 🙂

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    • Thanks Tom! I have a feeling this one might frustrate you some, but maybe if you know that going in, it won’t so encompassing, like it was with me. I really liked Fassbender, and Reilly, too…they were cool, and gave you the feeling they could really handle the situation (if the story was written differently, of course). If you do watch this, I would suggest having a favorite comedy ready to play after, so you won’t go to bed depressed!

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  10. Great post Todd, I haven’t heard of this movie before and now that’s its on my radar I might give it a chance. Having an idea of how things turn out is a good heads up.

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    • I hope the heads up helps! Not sure how my feelings might’ve changed if I’D known the outcome ahead of time, but it reminds me of the time I first saw ‘The Bourne Supremacy’, and how one moment (a parallel with ‘Eden Lake’, to some extent) ruined the film for me. Later, seeing the movie again and already knowing this particular outcome, I loved it. Thanks for reading the review, and for the nice comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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  11. Abbi

     /  September 4, 2014

    This review has really made me watch this. I’m a big fan of a depressing ending. I think there’s something wrong with me.

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    • Don’t worry, Abbi, there’s nothing wrong with you. It’s just the ‘reverse psychology’ aspect of my review: I don’t want you to see the ending, therefore, you feel compelled to see it. Basically, I can get you to watch ANY disturbing movie of my choosing: Cannibal Holocaust, The Last House on the Left, The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again. My powers are limitless.

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  12. Wonderful review! This sounds like one that would really piss me off. :-/ That’s why I’ve avoided it. The bad guys shouldn’t win!!! 😦

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    • Thank you, Miss T9M! Your reason for avoiding this one is valid, and I believe it would indeed piss you off, if you look at such things as I do (and it sounds like you do). One suggestion: watch it, but turn it off about 3/4 of the way through. From that point you can then create your own, more satisfying final act!

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      • Lol. I might do that. I’ll just assume then that they “lived happily ever after”. ; )

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        • Your assumption is correct: a beautiful wedding, a dream honeymoon in Italy, and love and laughter together for the rest of their lives. Available on the ‘Proper Revenge Cut’ Special Edition DVD.

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  13. Your assumption is correct: a beautiful wedding, a dream honeymoon in Italy, and love and laughter together for the rest of their lives. Available on the ‘Proper Revenge Cut’ Special Edition DVD.

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  1. Eden Lake | filmnerdblog

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