out of Five
Running time: 90
A well acted, smartly directed horror flick that's gory, disturbing, terrifying and topical.
What's it all about?
Kelly Reilly plays primary school teacher Jenny, who heads out of London with her boyfriend Steve (Michael Fassbender) for a camping trip at a beautiful secluded lake. Unbeknownst to Jenny, Steve is planning to propose, but their romantic interlude is shattered by the arrival of some rowdy, obnoxious teenagers, including leader Brett (Jack O'Connell), youngster Cooper (Thomas Turgoose) and happy slapper Page (Finn Atkins).
When Steve confronts the youths about their noise levels, a violent fight breaks out and Steve accidentally kills their dog, forcing Jenny and Steve to flee for their lives.
Writer-director James Watkins (who wrote Gone) brilliantly taps into current concerns about out-of-control youth culture, while the film itself ranks alongside recent French shocker Them as an example of 'hoodie horror'. The gore levels are moderately high, but Watkins is careful to show the effect of their actions on at least some of his characters; this adds tension because you're constantly waiting for one of the youths to stand up to Brett and tell him he's going too far.
Kelly Reilly is extremely likeable as Jenny and you really root for her to survive, while Jack O'Connell is chillingly believable as Brett, conjuring up memories of schoolyard psychopaths. Similarly, Thomas Turgoose is excellent as Cooper, while Finn Atkins adds a disturbing level as Page, who doesn't necessarily join in with the violence but is quite happy to film it on her mobile phone.
Watkins maintains a suitably tense pace throughout, though he can't resist the occasional moment of typical horror movie logic, where characters do something that no one in their right mind would actually do. That said, he also orchestrates a wonderfully dark climax that contains a number of interesting twists and the film definitely marks him out as a talent to watch.
In short, Eden Lake is a superbly acted, genuinely scary horror flick that will have you crossing the streets to avoid gangs of teenagers on your way home. Recommended.