British horror film, Broken Britain, critique youth of today, Eden Lake, Eden Lake film review, Eden Lake most violent scenes, Eden Lake spoilers, Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender, Most horrific horror film
Oh. My. God. This film is very effective: subjecting the viewer to feelings of frustration, anger, horror and ultimately hopelessness. I genuinely felt low and anxious for about a day after watching this film. I sincerely suggest that people who tend to over-invest when they watch films, or who are emotionally sensitive, think carefully before watching this. I’m not saying it’s going to traumatise anyone, but it might depress you a bit.
This film is a rare gem: a horror film that is truly horrific. Don’t be fooled by the trailer, this is not a slasher horror film, it’s much darker, cleverer and more disturbing than that. The trailer gives you the premise: a young professional couple go on a romantic break to the secluded Eden Lake, but their tranquillity is ruined by a gang of teenagers. The animosity grows and things quickly spiral out of control leading to a series of truly horrific events: each more distubring and challenging than the last.
Understand this: Eden Lake is a difficult film to watch. And what is more terrifying about it is how realistically it portrays the characters and the events. Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and Steve (Michael Fassbender) are genuinely engaging and likeable characters – you don’t want to see them suffer, to be humiliated or harmed. Their actions and decisions are reasonable and believable – but so too, sadly, are the things that happen to them.
Everyone who sees this film will take something different away from it. For me, it was like watching a modern day Lord of the Flies. The horror for me is not that ‘children’ can commit these terrible crimes (William Golding made us face this brutal fact almost 60 years ago), but that they are protected in doing so. These youngsters are raised in abusive and neglectful environments and taught only aggression and selfishness. These kids are protected by families who treat them like dirt yet ferociously attack the world if it attempts to interfere. We live in a society where children are revered and protected, where parents are beyond the law – fuelled by “paedophobia” in the media and the ever increasing social-taboo of criticising children or their parents.
What permeates this film is a feeling of powerlessness. The couple are hamstrung by their civilised behaviour – they are unable to react to the staggering brutality of the teens or their families. The youngsters are so beyond reasoning and empathy, so entrenched in their own sense of power and vindictiveness that they become totally unreachable. The ringleader Brett is the most psychotic: pushing his friends to greater acts of depravity and viciously checking any signs of compassion or dissent.
This film is not perfect however – some of the scenes feel staged and hard to believe, such as the scene when Brett’s dog is stabbed. At other times it felt as though the tension could have been built more effectively, as though Brett’s character should have antagonised and manipulated his friends more before engaging in their horrific behaviour. There are times when the youngsters’ actions seem a little hard to believe, despite being well characterised and acted. Brett is simply evil, the characters of Abi and Mark aren’t far behind him. Some exploration is made into why Brett is such a sick and twisted child but the rest of the youngster’s are simply characterised as misguided or weak and totally ill-equipped for dealing with a psychopath like Brett and his cronies. I think the film is trying to show us that even people who aren’t themselves monsters can be bullied or coerced into doing things they know are wrong. And that is what is really frightening about the situation.
Eden Lake reminds us that horror films can provide a social commentary and that they don’t need to contain a supernatural or grotesque element in order to qualify as horror. This is genuinely one of the most horrific films I have seen: it creates an intense emotional reaction and ultimately a feeling of despair. I don’t believe in ‘broken Britain’ and I don’t believe that ‘things are getting worse.’ I’m sure the Daily Mail regards this film as a documentary on the average benefits-class teenager but I don’t. What I do believe is that people, including children, are capable of horrific actions (or inactions) and that sometimes film provides us with a safe method of exploring both this uncomfortable fact and its consequences for us as individuals and society.
The line “they’re just kids” and all it’s implications will be resonating through your brain long after the credits have rolled.
I don’t want to spoil this film for anyone, which is why for once I tried to keep the spoilers out of the review! However, if you are still not sure whether you want to watch it or not, I’ve included a list of the most violent and disturbing events below. I want to stress though, that it is not the violence that makes this film so disturbing – it is the attitudes of the teenagers and their families. To really understand, you would have to watch it. But here’s the list, in order of event:
A man is tortured with knives while being filmed on a mobile phone. A boy with learning difficulties is forced to torture the man. A group of teenagers attempt to burn a woman alive. A group of teenagers set light to a younger child and burn him alive. A boy with learning difficulties is stabbed in the throat and killed by a woman. A girl is hit by a car. A screaming woman is dragged into a bathroom to be murdered by three men while a house full of adults listen to and approve of this act.