Horrordom loves a good “don’t go into the woods” thriller—some crazy cautionary tale about civilization encroaching on nature, or a just a simple reminder that tourists are annoying. EDEN LAKE is another in the lineage begat by STRAW DOGS and DELIVERANCE and reared by THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE HILLS HAVE EYES and WOLF CREEK. It’s a word of warning too happy loving couples everywhere to just stay at home! We don’t want your kind around here except for harassment, brutalization, sexual assault and in a few films…a nice snack.
Steve (Michael Fassbender) and Jenny (Kelly Reilly) are off for a nice weekend getaway to an abandoned quarry mine that has been flooded and turned into the gorgeous and tranquil hideaway Eden Lake. The pair spends their first night at a bed and breakfast full of loud locals and annoying children before heading off to the peaceful lakeside. Peaceful that is until a band of unruly youths and their intimidating Rottweiler show up, blasting music, drinking and generally annoying the crap out of the couple. After Steve has a few pointless words with the teens, they eventually pack up and go away…until tomorrow. When the teens return and steal the couple’s care, the pair track down the kids then, as Steve demands the return of his property, a fight breaks out and he accidently kills kids’ dog. What happens next is a terrifying rollercoaster of relentless violence as the teenagers exact their bloody revenge on the pair.
Stop me if you’ve seen this one before. Sure, it’s accurate to say that EDEN LAKE is hardly brimming with originality. It’s a paint-by-numbers plot set-up. But, when you step back from the canvas and take a look at what Writer/Director James Watkins (THE DESCENT 2) has fleshed out, it’s breathtaking in its brutality. The film has no fat too trim. Its every waking second is spent propelling the plot forward—probably the leanest 91-minute film I’ve seen in ages. It just flies by like a freaking freight train, leaving an exhausted viewer in its wake. That’s the kind of energy I was looking for when I saw THE STRANGERS last year.
In fact, this film shares a lot in common with ILS, THE STRANGERS and last year’s THE BACKWOODS. Like those films, the horror exists in seemingly mundane circumstances suddenly spiraling out of control. And, while the gore in those films was relatively tame, in EDEN LAKE it flows with the same crimson rivers of grue as what we saw in INSIDE or FRONTIER(S). Amazingly, the most shocking moment of the film hardly even happens on camera—it just exists in our minds and slightly out of focus near the top of the frame. I’m telling you…even with the stuff you don’t see…it just hurts to watch this flick!
I’m sure as well-versed horror fans; you’ll never run afoul of locals when you decide to take an impromptu vacation with your loved ones. But, hey…if people in movies acted the way they did in real life, most pictures would last about as long as the opening and closing credits. Thankfully though, we can expect that in the movies, men will not listen to women and just leave things alone, and thusly, we’ll have many more tragic travelogues to enjoy. Let’s just hope they’re all as refreshing as a dip in EDEN LAKE.