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  Publicity Stills of
"Eden Lake"
(Courtesy of Festive Films)

Director: James Watkins
Cast: Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender, Jack O’Connell, Thomas Turgoose,
Jumayn Hunter, Finn Atkins, Bronson Webb, Shaun Dooley, Lorraine Stanley
1 hr 30 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films & Festive Films
Rating: M18 (Violence & Coarse Language)
Official Website: http://www.festivefilms.com/edenlake

Opening Day: 15 January 2009


Primary school teacher Jenny (Kelly Reilly, “Pride & Prejudice”, “Mrs Henderson Presents”) and her boyfriend Steve (Michael Fassbender, “300”), head out of London for a weekend break at a beautiful secluded lake. Steve has chosen the romantic spot, and is waiting for the perfect moment to surprise Jenny with a marriage proposal.

They pitch a tent, go swimming, sunbathe, and enjoy the peace – until it is shattered by a group of rowdy, threatening teenagers. When Steve confronts the group about their behaviour, a fight breaks out, and Steve accidentally kills gang leader Brett’s dog.

Suddenly the couple’s idyllic getaway turns into a survival nightmare, as they are forced into the forest to escape the vengeance of their pursuers. Separated from Steve, Jenny has to draw on unknown reserves of strength– and mercilessness – to survive.

Finally breaking free from the forest and her young pursuers Jenny makes it to the apparent sanctuary of the town. And meets the parents.

Movie Review:

At first glance, "Eden Lake" appears to be another addition to the batch of no-brainer slasher/thriller flicks. After sitting through this British production for its entire running time of one and a half hours, I am glad to say that it is a cut, or rather, a slash above the rest for giving viewers a bit of something extra than just plain shocks and gore.

This directorial debut for writer-director James Watkins starts out traditionally as any other thriller feature. We get to see the unfortunate would-be victims as young couple Jenny (Kelly Reilly) the school teacher and Steve (Michael Fassbender) who are out for a weekend getaway at Eden Lake during the calm before the storm. The storm then comes in the form of a gang of sadistic teenagers who seek enjoyment out of others' misery. What begins as a noise disturbance towards Jenny and Steve soon develops into an all-out war of vengeance between the couple and the teenagers from the moment Steve accidentally kills the gang leader's dog. To quote Jack Nicholson from "Mars Attacks", why can't we all just get along?

For a thriller film to be effective, one must certainly be able to root for the main characters. In this aspect, Watkins deserves credit for investing Jenny and Steve with enough screen time during the buildup for us to know them better. Both are< fairly likable individuals, although Steve apparently has some anger management issues which do not do him any favours in the ordeal to come.

So what is that bit of something extra that separates "Eden Lake" from the other mindless thriller flicks? Humanity. Jenny and Steve are portrayed as believable human beings with normal intelligence, so there is no evidence of stupidity or cowardice here. See the teenagers approaching? Hide at the right but not necessarily comfortable place. Defenceless? Pick up the piece of broken glass.

Since humanity encompasses flaws as well as strengths, it is not entirely smooth sailing for the couple in dealing with the crisis. Throughout the film, Jenny and Steve undergo drastic transformations with the stronger Steve becoming the weaker while the initially delicate Jenny emerges as the stronger. Although this is encouraging for Jenny, she eventually finds herself caught in a horrific change of character which might make her as heartless as her adversaries, and this is where the film truly shines, especially with the compelling performance of Kelly Reilly. Her portrayal of Jenny exudes enough charm for us to be attracted to her in the beginning, yet she can be frighteningly vicious when fending off her attackers. As Steve, Michael Fassbender who is best known as Stelios the Spartan from "300" (he's the one saying 'then we will fight in the shade' in response to a Persian's 'our arrows will blot out the sun' remark), is no pushover to be messed
with either.

Comparisons to last year's "Funny Games" are unavoidable since both films share a similar premise of having villainous youngsters disturbing the protagonists. While "Funny Games" treads along the unconventional route, this film takes the straightforward approach with satisfying results. The usual staple of gore effects and occasional 'boo!' shocks are aptly applied, but thankfully there is also an attempt at character study that makes us ponder how much anguish a person can take before the brink of insanity is reached. As the story progresses, Jenny's appearance gradually becomes dirtier in the same manner her state of mind becomes more unstable, so by the time the film reaches its climax, we know for sure that Jenny is no longer the same person we see at the beginning.

My thanks go to James Watkins for restoring my faith that there are still good new horror movies to be seen, of which Hollywood filmmakers should learn some pointers from instead of constantly rehashing materials from Asia. As an added sparkle, Watkins has shown that true horror can come from normal people who do not need to wear masks or wield chainsaws and that sometimes evil can emerge from good.

Movie Rating:

(If it's humanly horrifying chills and spills you seek, a trip to Eden Lake is a trip worth taking)

Review by Tan Heng Hau


. The Strangers (2008)

. Funny Games (2008)

. The Ferryman (2007)

. Halloween (2007)

. The Hitcher (2007)

. Texas Chainsaw Massarce: The Beginning (2006)

. Hostel (2005)




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