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Eden Lake (2008)

Dimension Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 1/6/2009

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/10/2009

What was the first film where a normal, peaceful couple was harassed by group of violent hooligans? In the modern era, I would guess that it would have to be Sam Peckinpah's 1971 classic Straw Dogs. This film featured Dustin Hoffman and Susan George as a young couple who visit rural England and are terrorized by the locals. The genre differentiates itself from movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes because the assailants aren't portrayed as monsters or ghouls, but as real people who simply have a penchant for violence. Since that time, there have been many entries in this genre, a good number of which take place in England. The recent movie Closure was reviewed on this site, and now we're checking out Eden Lake. Will this movie bring anything new to the genre?

Eden Lake introduces us to Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and Steve (Michael Fassbender), a young couple who are off for a weekend in the country. Steve, who is planning to propose to Jenny while on the trip, has planned for them to visit a quarry turned lake (he'd been scuba diving there before). He claims that it's a quiet and beautiful place. When they arrive, they find that the area is being turned into a housing development. They slip through the fence and venture to the beach. Once there, their peaceful day is disturbed by a group of teenagers, who are listening to music and goofing off. The kids eventually leave and Jenny and Steve camp out that night. The next day they venture into town for breakfast and then return to the lake. They once again encounter the teens and a stand-off escalates into a full-blown confrontation. Soon, Jenny and Steve find themselves running for theirs lives from these out-of-control youths.

Allow me to go ahead and answer my primary question; Does Eden Lake break any new ground in the "terrorized couple" genre? The answer there is no. The movie sticks very closely to the standard formula -- couple from the city venture into a rural area, meet local toughs, run afoul of said locals for little or no reason, violence ensues. The couple, who have been portrayed as the epitome of civility and level-headedness, must suddenly unleash their savage sides and rise to the level of brutality presented by their assailants. Ostensibly, the "unique" aspect of Eden Lake is that the adult couple is going up against teenagers. However, this has been seen before as well, most recently in the 2006 French film, Them. The only part of Eden Lake which took me by surprise was the very ending, which plays like the reverse of The Last House on the Left.

Like other films of this kind, Eden Lake's main goal is to play on the audience's emotions. We watch Jenny, and especially Steve, make their choices, and we want to (and perhaps do) yell at the screen, "Why are you doing that?!" However, this movie takes that notion one step further. Typically, the characters in these movies go to where ever it is that they are going, and then find themselves cornered by the locals, unable to escape. This eventually happens to this couple, but after their first encounter with the teens, they go into town, have breakfast, look around -- essentially, they could have simply gone home at this time. Even worse, while they are out and about, Steve does something incredibly stupid, which I won't reveal here. The result is a distinct reduction of our sympathy for the duo, especially Steve. The movie also challenges our sensibility by making the teens incredibly violent, brutal, and remorseless. Yes, based on the recent rash of YouTube videos, there are very violent teenagers out there, but it's hard to swallow the fact that this group would go as far as they do.

As odd as this may sound, Eden Lake's brutality is the only thing which makes it worth recommending. While the movie is unoriginal, it is well-made. Several of the producers were involved with the superior horror film The Descent and Director James Watkins will be helming The Descent 2. The movie doesn't pull any punches with the violence and instead of relying on quick, shocking carnage, the movie features long scenes of torture. These are admittedly difficult to watch and no matter how much we question the intelligence of the protagonists, we feel for them during these moments. However, it takes quite some time to get to this point, and Eden Lake's 90-minute running time feels stretched at times. If you are a fan of this genre, then you'll find something to like in Eden Lake, but most of you will feel that you've seen it before.

Eden Lake gets threatening on DVD courtesy of Dimension Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source material. The colors are good, and even the scenes in the deep woods aren't too dark. However, the image is a bit hazy at times, and while the production never looks cheap, the video has an unmistakably low-budget look to it. The DVD contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good, most notably those in the forest. The same goes for the surround sound effects, which emit effective musical cues and nice sounds during the car chase scene. The subwoofer is a bit too subtle though.

The Eden Lake DVD contains only two extras. "The Making of Eden Lake" (4 minutes) contains comments from Director James Watkins, as well as the cast. For a brief, electronic-press-kit-like featurette, it does contain a nice amount of interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. The only other extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long