Eden Lake is a 2008 British horror thriller film written and directed by James Watkins (The Woman in Black). It stars Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender and Jack O’Connell.
Nursery school teacher, Jenny (Kelly Reilly), and her boyfriend, Steve (Michael Fassbender), escape their everyday life to an idyllic remote lake in the green English countryside. Attempting to relax by a lakeside, their trip is disrupted by the presence of delinquent teenagers and their dog, but Steve intends to stay and not be driven away from enjoying their vacation.
The following morning, as he is determined to report the unruly kids to their parents, Steve stops at a house hosting a group of bikes he thinks belongs to the kids. With zero response at the front door, he commits forcible entry, and he narrowly escapes out of a window before the homeowner, the father of one of the teenagers, returns.
The couple quickly head back to the lake. There, Steve goes scuba diving and Jenny sleeps on the beach shore. Unfortunately, Steve realises their beach bag containing his car keys, phone and wallet have gone missing. Instinctively, they check on the car, but it is gone. Returning to town on foot, they are nearly run over by their car that is being driven recklessly by the gang, only stopping for leader, Brett (Jack O’Connell), to smirk at them…
‘ …while one doesn’t subscribe to the tenets of political correctness in such films, more care was surely required before playing so thoroughly to what looks like a massive dose of prejudice. Even so, it is impossible not to admire the way Watkins ratchets up the tension in his debut as director (he wrote My Little Eye) and keeps his tale strictly to 90 minutes. Beware that there are several scenes which will make you want to look away, and all the more scary because they seem uncomfortably real.’ Derek Malcolm, London Evening Standard
‘Watkins serves up an intense experience that will not be to everyone’s taste – Eden Lake is certainly not an entertaining watch, more a form of mental and emotion torture. Its climax does not even provide the expected catharsis, rather the threat of worse horrors to come. In this regard, it surely qualifies as one of the most frightening films ever made.’ David Tappenden, Fright Films
‘It is as if Watkins has taken the famous news picture of the hoodie making the “gun” gesture behind David Cameron’s back – and photoshopped a real weapon into his hand. But it is believable in a way that does not depend on a neurotic attention to sensational newspaper stories: it has its own internal logic. And when Jenny finally gets some kind of violent revenge, and this goes horrendously wrong, it is, once again, all too believable.’ Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
‘Alas, all the cliché boxes have been marked too, with people doing the sort of stupid things they only do in horrors. There’s also a ham-fisted message here about how violence dehumanises us all, which might have been pertinent if Wes Craven hadn’t already made it his own about 40 years ago.’ Daily Mirror
‘Eden Lake benefits from superb cinematography by The Cottage‘s Christopher Ross, which perfectly contrasts the lush greens of nature with the bloody, muddy nightmare that unfolds, aided by David Julyan’s sympathetic, perfectly pitched score. The cast are uniformly good, including the kids, with simply amazing performances from Reilly and Fassbender.’ MJ Simpson, Urban Terrors
‘This is not, however, a Daily Mail rant about feral chavs. Instead, Watkins uses stomach-knotting tension and tongue-slicing horror to explore the complex dynamics of anti-social violence. We identify with the victims throughout, but Watkins also depicts the complex peer-group pressures within the gang and the pain and confusion behind its leader’s eyes. The film’s one major fault is that Reilly’s character repeatedly acts in ways that serve the plot, but which run contrary to rational human behaviour. By contrast, the shattering downbeat ending is well earned and genuinely shocking.’ Nigel Floyd, Time Out