, 15 Sep 2008
I hated Them, the much lauded French home invasion horror, of which I said that it ends where any horror movie worth its salt would begin. Well Eden Lake plays like what probably happened after the end of Them, and it turns out that I didnt miss much.
A full half hour of scene setting achieves very little by giving us getting to know you time with a middle class couple (Rielly and Fassbender) that ends up in us getting to know nothing at all about them beyond the simple fact that Rielly is a school teacher (which we find out in the very first scene) and that Fassbender is planning to propose to her (which we find out through the hackneyed device of him gazing at the ring hes bought her). Neither has anything established in their character that is put to use later, its all just padding in a desperate attempt to get a feature length film together. Like such a lot of bad horror this feels cobbled together from cast offs of other, better films. In this case there are definite echoes of Last House on the Left in both the films events (though the roles are reversed, with the kids the antagonists rather than the victims), and in the structure (which means if youve any knowledge of that movie all surprise is sucked out of the films ending).
None of writer/director James Watkins characters has anything approaching a personality. Jack OConnell, as the ringleader of the gang of hoodies that attacks Rielly and Fassbender is just a one-note psycho (well, until the final scene, in which Watkins offers very late, and rather ineffectually, some indirect reason for his behaviour) while all the other kids each go through the exact same beats, at very slightly different moments. This lack of personality and development makes for an extremely boring movie.
As director Watkins deserves perhaps a little more credit than as writer. Eden Lake may not be a good movie, but it is quite an intense one. Watkins doesnt actually show much violence, but he implies such wince inducing things that the film really seemed to get to my audience (though it didnt shake me for a second). He clearly gets that by implying violence an audiences minds will go to work and likely create something much more explicit than you could film. If this had been married to characters we cared about and a story that wasnt just a reheated version of a remake of The Virgin Spring then Watkins might have had something here.
You cant really blame the actors for their lacklustre performances when the screenplay gives them so little to grab on to, but still Kelly Riellys stilted woodenness, and her knack for delivering every line exactly the same way, makes for an unengaging heroine and Thomas Turgoose is especially disappointing, giving a blank performance as one of the kids.
What upset me most about Eden Lake, though, was how it flushed the potential for an interesting ending down the toilet. It seems like it will visit consequences upon our escaping heroine for what she has to do in escaping these children, but sadly it does so in the most ridiculously coincidental, and frankly impact free, way possible. Ending more quietly, and without ripping off Last House on the Left, would have offered the potential to end on a similarly disturbing note, but more realistically, and in a different tone to the preceding 60 minutes, but sadly this hackneyed genre exercise doesnt want to do anything too interesting.
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