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  Eden Lake That Demon Youth
Year: 2008
Director: James Watkins
Stars: Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender, Jack O'Connell, Thomas Turgoose, Tara Ellis, Finn Atkins, Jumayn Hunter, James Burrows, Tom Gill, Lorraine Bruce, Shaun Dooley, James Ghandi, Bronson Webb, Lorraine Stanley, Rachel Gleeves, Mark Devenport, Alex Palmer
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Jenny (Kelly Reilly) is a primary schoolteacher who after her classes have ended is picked up by her boyfriend Steve (Michael Fassbender) to go off on their weekend camping trip to a secluded area in the countryside known as Eden Lake. Steve has a nice surprise for her, as while they are away he plans to propose marriage, but before they reach that point they must get to the lake, and as they stay over at a hotel the couple try to laugh off the loutish behaviour of modern Britain that they see. Surely once they're alone things will be quieter...

The very epitome of "laying it on a bit thick", Eden Lake was writer and director James Watkins' debut, having cut his teeth on a couple of other scripts including the not bad reality TV chiller My Little Eye. This, as with that film, had a view to taking on what was perceived as a social ill of the day, only here the main bone of contention Watkins found was not with the state of entertainment in the twenty-first century, but with plain and simple bad manners. Thus his hero and heroine were set up as a nice to a fault middle class couple, and then jolted out of their polite ways by what had become known in Britain as "chavs".

Once the idea of a shiftless underclass in that nation had taken hold at the turn of the millennuim, and more importantly once they had a nickname that spread like wildfire, the whole concept of society at war with itself was bound to bleed over out of the headlines in the tabloids and into popular entertaimment too. With comedy, the targets were large and inviting, but nothing new in lampooning an area of British society that had been going on for centuries, yet for thrillers and horrors they provoked a more conservative response and there were many observing at the time Eden Lake was released that it was playing into the hands of the reactionaries.

That was not quite true, as Watkins resisted portraying the teen gang Jenny and Steve meet as monstrous caricatures, but kept them just savage and brutish enough to fuel the resentment of their real life equivalent. If you'd ever been dismayed at some display of public bad behaviour, or even gone as far as crossed the street when you noticed a gang of youths approaching whether they were paying you any mind or not, then here was that unease taken to its extreme as first the gang, led by bully boy Brett (Jack O'Connell) initially get up to antisocial business near where the couple are trying to relax by the water, and then take that to the next level.

Really this was presenting a backwoods horror of the style most familiar from the United States for decades, and beginning to make its mark in Continental Europe too, applied it to Britain. It was not an entirely snug fit, as Watkins had to have his characters both good and evil behaving in increasingly outlandish ways to sustain his suspense, with the kids setting about victimising Steve and Jenny, as if the script was goading these two into throwing away their liberal values and relenting to the "string 'em up" brigade. This was tense as far as it went, but such was the film's exaggeration by necessity, complete with groaningly pat "I blame the parents" ending, that you could see it was adding nothing useful to a debate already prone to kneejerk reactions and merely doing something horror moves did not often give in to: you were not meant to feel fear watching this, you were meant to feel hatred. Music by David Julyan.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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