A young couple from the city embark on a weekend trip involving camping on the banks of the beautiful, secluded Eden Lake. But their romantic getaway is interrupted by a nasty group of unruly teens who also happen to be hanging out on the same shore. Jenny (Kelly Reilly), a young, pretty school teacher attempts to ignore them at first but their antics become increasingly hostile. Her boyfriend, Steve (Michael Fassbender), attempts to resolve the issue by simply reasoning with the group. This does not go too well and a minor altercation escalates to deadly proportions, with the couple finding themselves fighting for their lives as they are hunted down in the dense forest surrounding Eden Lake.

James Watkins, best known as the writer of My Little Eye and the upcoming sequel to The Descent, makes his directorial debut with Eden Lake, and delivers one of the most horrifying films of 2008. While the main synopsis can be best described as a couple trying to get out of some remote woods while being pursued by a group of young hoodlums, there is a bit more to it than that. Eden Lake deals with kid specific subject matter that scares the shit out of adults, whether or not they have children. We are all aware of the fact that most kids, once out of the range of adults, probably say or do things that would not make their parents proud. Mostly because we have all been there ourselves. Peer pressure is a powerful force that influences kids into making some mighty stupid decisions.

As parents, you hope that when your kids are placed in a situation in which they have to make a decision that involves peer pressure, that you have raised them good enough to make the right one. But there are times, depending on the key players of a kid’s social circle, in which making the right choice just isn’t that simple. We report on similar stories here in which kids do things with other kids they never would have done on their own – especially when the leader of the pack is a sociopathic bully.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usEden Lake touches on a lot of social issues and by using less-than-obvious scenes and visual cues is able to question exactly who is to blame for violent kids, without using any ham-fisted method. Why some children behave violently goes further than a bad parent, or class ranking, or any one specific thing and Eden Lake seems to stay within that viewpoint as well. Watkins lets the viewer come to their own conclusions on exactly who is to blame for the events that transpire during the film and never really points a single finger at any one specific thing as the cause, even if the film does end with a main culprit identified.

All of this helped along with an absolutely superb cast of adults and kids alike. Reilly and Fassbender are completely believable as the couple in love and they make it easy for the audience to root for them as it is so easy to hate the main protagonist of the film, performed exceptionally by Jack O’Connell. You literally want to crawl into the screen and kick this kid’s ass. It has been a while since I disliked a kid as much as I did his character, reminding me of how I felt about the Telly character in the film Kids.

No time is wasted in Eden Lake, and Watkins makes sure that you stay on your toes. For every up, there is always a down and just when you think things cannot get worse for our poor couple, they do. The film is graphic with scenes of realistic torture made more effective by John Rafique’s superb SFX work and scenes punctuated by David Julyan’s score. The majority of Eden Lake takes place in the outdoors deep within the woods, making for some tense chase scenes as the isolation of all involved is apparent and accented by aerial shots above the treetops. I may rank this film a bit higher than others, partly because I am a big fan of all that it offers; woods, killer kids and an overall brutal atmosphere. This is Wrong Turn meets Ils and one of those films that does not pull punches, but rather follows through and in an unrelenting fashion, gives you a second one to the gut for good measure.

[rating:4/5]

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