Eden Lake Review

The Film

Recently I have been seeing a lot of Kelly Reilly. Not as much as Guy Ritchie I imagine, but with her recent roles in the latest Lynda La Plante nonsense and Eden Lake I have found the comely Ms Reilly in front of my eyes a rather pleasing amount. She is a competent actress and in both of the roles I mention she plays gorgeous innocents about to be sullied in some way by the worst the world can show her. I am confident that she will become a star as there is something very cinematic about beauty at risk, and Reilly's looks and the peril they face can allow many a ropey plot or content free story to pass unnoticed.
Throughout Eden Lake, the camera is bewitched by Reilly. Any lofty screen-writing intentions of social commentary are irrelevant as what the audience are really asked to do is to covet the prize that any right thinking bourgeois would want. Despite any claims to objectivity, Eden Lake is basically a film where we are asked to hope that the pretty lady won't get hurt. Reilly's primary schoolteacher loses her innocence as she learns to survive and, tellingly, the pretty lady's descent into animality corresponds with far from subtle metaphors where she hides in a rubbish bin and is smeared in shit and mud.

I have long hoped for a British version of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Eden Lake is definitely attempting to follow that blueprint. Unfortunately where Hooper's film showed real imagination in defining the threat within it, Eden Lake opts to make monsters out of the lippy kids that hang around off-licenses. There is perhaps a British horror film to be made out of the gulfs between generations, and most certainly there is one to be made about class, but Eden Lake, like last year's Straightheads, isn't it.

My basic problem with the film is that it uses the conflict between the yuppie couple and the chav kids in very bourgeois ways. For all of its attempts at distance and ambiguity, the characterisation is wantonly one-sided and the central engine of the film becomes the survival of the polite people and their four by four.
The opening half hour of exposition is some of the most awful tripe that I have had to sit through. From the saccharine introduction of Reilly, complete with golden glow, to the endless procession of nonsensical actions taken by our lovely couple in response to the working class menace, Eden Lake stutters to its eventual set-up of bestial competition. Sentimentality is bussed in to make up for dramatic development in our lovers' struggle, and stereotypes are exhausted as the chip eating, under-age boozing, rottweiler owning, unwatched offspring wreak havoc on civility.

The film improves greatly when the set-up is reached and the action starts to flow, but I had to have help from my friend Jack Daniels to suffer the prejudiced, bigoted, and mildly Fascist opening. Once events are free to flow and the carnage begins, the dodgy beginning can be left behind. Eden Lake remains an immensely facile and superficial film that boils down to Tobe Hooper does the respect agenda but Watkins previous life as an editor becomes obvious as the tension really cranks up and the momentum is let loose.
It is reasonably gory and there a few moments of genuine shock value which will make you think along its rather shallow lines as Eden Lake doesn't wimp out in the carnage it leaves behind. The dialogue is far from special as all the oiks talk like Ali G, and our yuppies talk in cliché and use words like "brewski". The uneven management of a supposed objective tone leaves the performances a little confused, and the obvious use of plot devices from TCM and photography eerily like Haneke's Funny Games points out this flick's own relative inferiority.

Decidedly populist and with a prurient moral tone, visually this is a film about the desecration of purity, and philosophically it is little more than elitist anxiety run wild. Eden Lake is a missed opportunity and above average for brithorror.


Transfer and Sound

The single audio track included here is a DTS HD MA 5.1 which downmixes into an admirable DTS 5.1 track. In my opinion the movie lacks atmospherics and has a dreadfully dull score so I did not notice particularly innovative use of the surround channels or any challenges with the elements of the music. The surround effect is very definitely front on with dialogue always in the center and very very occasional effects work in the sides and rear. This track is detailed but not particularly rich or complex and it is mastered cleanly.
The transfer for this film is presented at 2.35:1 and looks very clear, lacking obvious mastering faults. The look of the transfer is not overly processed and the edges are left natural as well, it isn't as sharp as some transfers and detail away from the centre of the frame is not exceptional. The opening sequence of the primary school is bathed in a yellow hue that I found excessive but perhaps this is the director's intention rather than the transfer's failing. Overall this AVC/MPEG 4 encode is very pleasant and film like with good contrast.

Discs and Special Features

The blu-ray comes on a BD25 and about 18GB are used in total, 14.8Gb are for the main transfer. The disc would not play on my region A player, so I believe it is region B only. There is a very simple menu which allows easy access to the extra features. The advertised interviews with key cast and crew are rather robotic because of repeated and very dumb questions - everyone is asked "what did Kelly Reilly bring to the film" and "Tell us the story of Eden Lake". Watkins gushes about his leading lady and talks with little conviction about the social commentary of the film. Reilly, rather snobbishly, disputes whether it is a horror film, and some posh child actor is simply pleased to be there. The interviews are perfunctory, junket like and mercifully short.

A short making of featurette is made up of shots of location filming and some byplay between cast and crew. Watkins is very serious on set and reveals that they used a real corpse in the burning scene. He is still serious in the Q+A piece where he goes into further detail about his film and its reception abroad, saying that some people think his film should be shown in schools!!! The extras are completed by 5 TV spots on a loop, and two trailers including an "Extreme" one - dear God. All of the extras are standard def and MPEG-2.


Summary

After I got over my disappointment, Eden Lake became much more entertaining. Don't believe the hype that it has a serious subtext, it doesn't, and if you take its characterisation seriously you will be offended. For a British horror film, it isn't bad.

Film
6 out of 10
Video
8 out of 10
Audio
8 out of 10
Extras
6 out of 10
Overall

6

out of 10

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