Eden Lake 2008 is a brutal, bloody and beastly horror film with a few disappointing plot holes, writes KATE INGLEBY-PARYLO
TITLE: Eden Lake
DIRECTOR: James Watkins
CAST: Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender, Tara Ellis, Jack O’Connell
Review of Eden Lake 2008
Exhausted by the hustle of the city, and searching for solitude, Jenny and Steve escape to a romantic weekend away at the charming area of Eden Lake. Not long after their arrival, the couple discover the picturesque lake is now a popular spot for local delinquent youths. Determined to enjoy their weekend, the couple confront the gang, but the delinquents don’t take too kindly to the outsiders’ lecture. However, their methods of humbling the couple far exceed expectations. What follows is a game of cat and mouse as the couple are forced to navigate the ominous woods of Eden Lake.
Released during the unforgiving year of 2008 which witnessed: a financial crisis; the disappearance and reappearance of Shannon Matthews; the Cameron leadership in the Conservative party; and the height of the hysteria generated by ‘dangerous’ hoodie-wearing, youths.
Eden Lake is often referred to as hoodie horror, falling into a subset of films that depict and often demonise the working and underclasses, portraying them as violent, animalistic criminals. These films were mostly released during the height of ‘Broken Britain’ (2007-2011) and have firmly rooted themselves within British horror.
The film opens with nursery teacher Jenny finishing her day as Steve arrives, admiring the engagement ring he’s bought for her. The couple are sickeningly sweet and in love to a nauseating extent. Once entering Eden Lake, the tone shifts as the couple quickly realise they are in over their heads in an unfamiliar environment and with unfriendly hosts. Whilst trying to park, the only empty spot is snatched by a ‘tarted-up’ car blasting loud music. When ordering a drink, they’re intimidated by the local misbehaving kids and their sleep is disturbed by the thugs fighting outside their window.
The beginning excellently establishes the divide between the middle-class couple and the underclasses of Eden Lake. It’s not just a case of wealthy vs poor, clean vs dirty, or the haves and have-nots, but is a depiction of us vs them. In this case, the civilised vs the uncivilised, the humans vs animals.
This is amplified by the presentation of the gang members wearing tracksuit bottoms and hoodies, smoking and blasting music, all common assets associated with chavs. The threat isn’t supernatural or paranormal, but a very real and human one. One that exists in every society. One in the form of lower-class troubled youths.
Similar to the moral panic regarding hoodie wearers, it appears the fear created in these films is rooted in the class of the audience members watching them. Jenny and Steve are portrayed as being painfully middle-class from Jenny’s occupation to their judgement of the residents of Eden Lake (even before the bloodshed), as well as their lack of concern towards the radio segment on the lower classes.
When the gang is terrorising a young boy, the couple decide not to intervene. Steve even says “as long as they’re leaving us alone”. However, once the gang threatens to ruin the couple’s perfect weekend, Steve will suddenly stop at nothing to get even with the group. The film plays on middle class anxieties regarding the irresponsible lower classes rising up and destroying society. After all, what’s scarier than the underclasses rising up?
On a technical level, the film succeeds in the production design and overall feel of the film. As soon as the couple enters Eden Lake something feels off. The costumes and appearance of each character are distinct and familiar. These are people we all know or have seen. The environment looks beautiful, however, the underlying feeling of tension contradicts this.
Unfortunately, the tension is often cut short by illogical plot holes. For a film that is rooted in its realism and grittiness, it’s underwhelming to see story flaws in the character’s actions. When Jenny is hiding by a metal shed, about to be caught, the scene suddenly cuts to her on top of the shed. No explanation is given for how she got there, or how the gang didn’t see or hear her. This occurs again when Jenny and Steve are hiding in the wooden shed.
Whilst the film sometimes tries to sabotage itself through cheap tricks, Eden Lake 2008 succeeds at crafting a tense and fresh take on the survival sub-genre and deserves its recognition as one of the better British hoodie horror films. Despite playing on class divisions, all audiences will be unified in the emotional gut punch the ending delivers.
Brutal, bloody and beastly; everything a day out in the British countryside should be.
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KATE INGLEBY-PARYLO is an avid fanatic of cinema and TV. She has an unhealthy obsession with horror and is located in West Yorkshire. Graduating from Westminster University in 2021, with a BA in film, she aspires to work in story development.