Posted by: Peter Hall
Written and Directed by James Watkins, 2008
More and more I find myself musing, “Now normally I don’t like movies about a couple being tortured in the woods, but…” It has gotten to the point where I wonder if I do harbor some undeclared love for pieces of garbage. Then along comes a film like EDEN LAKE to remind me why I fall back on that qualifier. Most films can be simmered with ease to a few ingredients, ingredients that we the familiar can extrapolate a larger agenda from. From time to time, a film takes those ingredients and gives rise to a comfortable, but unexpected recipe.
Not that James Watkins’ film is difficult to explain. It boils down readily to a couple in the wrong isolated place at the wrong time. Watkins’ is not an inventor of new premises, new characters, new villains or new ultra-violence. He is, however, a cultivator of proper timing and magnitude. Thus EDEN LAKE may remain a wrong place, wrong time flick, but a damn good one nonetheless. No reliance on hill people, torture porn or quick-cut jolts as a crutch. Nope, Watkins’ offers up a solid return to a bygone land of terror where the emphasis is on empathy with the damsel in distress, with her awful luck and her unerring drive to survive at all costs.
I like EDEN LAKE not because it beats the brutal hell out of its heroine, but because the heroine is capable of absorbing such a brutal beating. A subtle distinction, but a fundamental one. The HOSTELs and CAPTIVITYs of the world are bullfighting. The EDEN LAKEs of the world are boxing matches. The ugly beauty of it lays not in seeing one person pulverize another, rather in the gathering of storms, the steeling of spirits.