Monday, 7 January 2013

Eden Lake, dir/wr. James Watkins, st. Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender, Jack O'Connell, Finn Atkins

What to make of this low-budget yet moody and stylish British chamber horror piece? Author and left-wing commentator Owen Jones has resolutely denounced Eden Lake as a movie "arguing that the middle classes could no longer live alongside the quasi-bestial lower orders." Certainly protagonists Jenny (Reilly) and Steve (Fassbender) with their three-quarter length chinos, glamping kit and 4x4 are deliberately set out to provide a visually symbolic class counterpoint to Brett (O'Connell) and his coterie of hoodies. It certainly seems that Jones' argument doesn't quite hold water once the rest of the gang, uncouth as they may be depicted in earlier scenes, are seen to be going along with the more violent proceedings out of pure fear of their psychotic ringleader. Their reticence to fully engage in the barbarism comments more on classless peer-pressure than anything else. It's worth a mention too that O'Connell, who demonstrated the same kind of dangerous borderline lunacy as James Cook in Skins, is terrifyingly persuasive here as Brett - an unpredictable torrent of rage and murderous ferocity. Similarly, Fassbender predictably perfectly pitches Steve as just the kind of well-meaning white-collar hero we might think of ourselves as, and like many of those characters he shadows - Deliverance's Ed Gentry or Straw Dogs' David Sumner - finds himself out-environmented in unforgiving and foreign rurality. It's only in the film's final scenes does Eden Lake slip into the stereotyping one hoped it wouldn't. And this is a great shame as by and large, it's a well-crafted and well-performed chiller, slight but effective on the social commentary, commendable as shiver-inducing entertainment.