Eden Lake

Film: Eden Lake
Director: James Watkins
Starring: Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender
Runtime: 91 Mins
Rating: ****

Knife crime; gangs; drugs; under-age drinking; immigrants; the European Union dragging their feet; handing out abortions left, right and centre… Well, maybe not that last one. But even then, and in a genre noted for neither subtlety nor liberalism, Eden Lake is a film recognised more for right-wing politics than as one of the finest Brit-horrors of the last ten years. Which, frankly, is a damn shame.

Its plot is simple – hoodies go a-hunting – and its violence extreme (more than one person is doused in petrol and set alight), but the film is an education in suspense that many modern directors would do well to ponder. Prodigious amounts of tension are eked from the same hoary slash-and-run routines that can so easily make for a Wrong Turn or House of Wax.

Just as importantly, the film offers a surprisingly affecting emotional premise for its characters’ actions and a roster of startling performances, further elevating Eden Lake above simply pornography. It’s only serious, but unavoidable defects are the genre clichés and the almost self-parodic finale – abandoning the sensitive approach of earlier scenes for an over-simplified, reactionary sound-bite.

Yet for the majority of its economical running time, Eden Lake frames as claustrophobic a nightmare as any of its horror forebears. Its unflinching gaze lends its politics an authenticity and urgency more disturbing than the violence itself. It is brilliantly crafted, explicit and ruthless; so much so that some may find themselves unable to watch to the end – not necessarily a bad thing. Disturbing, topical and terrifying in equal measures.

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