FEATURE: Shocktober '15 - Eden Lake

Over the course of October, I shall be watching one horror movie a day and reviewing it right here for your reading pleasure. I haven't seen any of the films I'll be watching before and you can find the full list here.

Nice, middle class primary school teacher Jenny (the should-be-in-more-things Kelly Reilly) is off on a romantic weekend away to an abandoned quarry with handsome boyfriend, Steve (Michael Fassbender). He's planning to propose on the trip, but a tussle with some local youths, led by Brett (Jack O'Connell) threatens to derail the whole affair. As things spiral wildly out of control, Steve finds himself on the wrong end of a knife and Jenny is forced to fight for her life against the gang of kids that have her in their sights.

Writer-director James Watkins mounts the tension well and it's a tautly constructed piece of cinema, operating very simply throughout on simple cause-and-effect plotting. It's punctuated with aerial shots of Steve or Jenny making their way through the woods around the lake that manage to convey the enormity of their situation simply without resorting to anything more showy. There are a few moments when it falls into cliché, but it whips on at such a pace that you're never left thinking about them for too long.

It's hard not to find the aggressive class commentary in the film unsettling, so thoroughly British tabloid fearmongering that it may as well have been sponsored by them. It's basically a Daily Mail anxiety attack writ large, transforming Cameron's oft-mocked hug a hoody campaign into run away from one as fast as you can (unsurprisingly, they gave the film 5/5). It's a curious slice of the Britain of five years ago, before the refugee crisis was even a glint in Europe's collective eye and it manages to date the film more than any special effects ever will. 

Eden Lake functions a microcosm of that particular British social anxiety that revolved around chavs, happy slapping and the violent crime associated with it. There was a dehumanisation at work there (much like you see with said refugee crisis now) that rendered hoodies and chavs into monstrous masses coming to take your nice, middle class suburbia. The film doesn't quite go that far, shading in Brett's gang with moments of doubt and fear, but that's the undercurrent running through it.

It's a deeply unnerving film, both on that thematic level and the acts themselves and it's hard to leave it behind without anything other than a bitter taste in the mouth. I'm not sure whether that's because of the events depicted or how completely Daily Mail it all feels. Eden Lake certainly not a film that I can like. - Becky

You can find my other Shocktober '15 reviews here.

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