Eden Lake
dir-scr James Watkins
with Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender, Jack O'Connell, Thomas Turgoose, Finn Atkins, Jumayn Hunter, James Burrows, Thomas Gill, James Gandhi, Lorraine Stanley, Shaun Dooley, Bronson Webb
release UK 12.Sep.08
08/UK Pathe 1h31
Eden Lake
Leave us alone: Reilly and Fassbender

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R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Eden Lake Slick and involving, this British thriller is a rare horror movie that's actually scary. It also has some seriously haunting themes torn right from the headlines, giving us something thoughtful to chew on. Besides our fingernails.

Since his favourite park, a lake created by an old quarry, is being developed into a housing estate, Steve (Fassbender) takes his girlfriend Jenny (Reilly) out there for a camping weekend. But on the first evening, their idyll is ruined by a group of loud teens who brazenly refuse to play nice, egged on by their leader (O'Connell) and his girlfriend (Atkins). The next day, Steve tries to confront them and their parents, but only antagonises them, leading to a full-scale attack that turns into a life-or-death struggle.

What makes this far more involving than most of these movies is the way writer-director Watkins gets into the heads of his characters while playing on recognisable situations. Yes, this is a terrifyingly violent movie that leaves us shaking in our seats, but it's also a sharp comment on the element of British society that defiantly refuses to play by even the most basic rules of human interaction. Even though Steve is completely in the right--he just wants to help fix what's wrong in his culture--we just want him to leave well enough alone.

Watkins skilfully puts this together with gorgeous photography (by Christopher Ross) and a wonderfully moody score (by David Julyan), sprinkling in subtly jarring touches: the impersonal voice on the GPS ("At your first opportunity, turn around"), a stolen parking space, bad service in a pub, noisy children and obnoxious adults. Plus of course freak-out camera angles, disturbing noises and outrageous plotting that constantly shifts the balance of power with nasty surprises and lucky escapes.

There's also a relentless sense of menace that's beautifully played by the cast. Reilly and Fassbender give performances that are fully emotional and physical, as they are forced to find virtually superhuman reserves of tenacity. And each teen deepens his or her character as well, with moments of self-doubt, bravado and the worst kind of cowardice. It's so vicious and emotional that we really have no idea how it will end, and this continues right to a series of unnerving final scenes. This is subtle, tight filmmaking with a powerful point.

cert 18 themes, language, strong violence and gore 30.Aug.08

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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall