Friday, August 19, 2011

Eden Lake (2008)

HI KIDS! Wow, I feel like it was not so long ago that I was all "yeah, I'm gonna start updating again, ALL THE TIME. Really! I mean it!" And then I promptly did no such thing. Wow. I suck. Sorry about that.

I mean, I could sit here and make excuses to you about how being a perpetual university student eats my life and I've barely had time to watch a movie lately, let alone review one. But you deserve better then my whining, so we'll skip that bit. Especially since I know that most of my fellow horror bloggers have a real life that they manage to upkeep as well as their blogs. But, like I said before, I suck, so let's move on.

Eden Lake was the movie I watched to reward myself for making it through the summer semester without defenestrating anyone. I had this whole "If I just get through finals, then I can watch Eden Lake, and eat pizza, and all will be right with the world".

I'm not entirely sure why I decided this movie was going to be my reward, but I did.

No. Wait. Scratch that. I know exactly why I decided this movie would be my reward.

And his name is Michael Fassbender.

I could watch a movie that starred him as a shut in. And the entire film would just be him pointing to various flower pots he'd collected over the years and explaining why he liked them. And I would be happy.

I would come away from that film going "Ah yes, today was a good day indeed." The man is glorious, I'm just saying.

So I set out to watch Eden Lake, and when it was over it had fully solidified for me two facts with which I was already pretty certain of going into it.

1) Michael Fassbender is an exquisite creature who should always do movies that involve him getting shirtless, and preferably, wet.
2) There is no way in Hell that you will get me to go camping.
( seriously, if Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, AND Benedict Cumberatch showed up at my door and asked me to go camping with them ... well, okay, I would go if that happened. But it would give me pause.)

I went into this film convinced that camping is evil. I am a girl of my creature comforts. Don't get me wrong, I love nature, I do; but at the end of the day I like to come home to a hot shower and a clean bed that consists of a pillow-top mattress, with an extra layer of padding on top of that to make it all marshmallow-y. It was long ago established by one of my best friends that in some sort of a grimy hostage situation I would get us all out by the sheer fact that 24 hours without soap would make me go bat shit crazy, and punch a hole through the nearest wall through which me and my fellow captives could escape.

Long story short, me and camping are like oil and vinegar. But enough about me, let's move on to this movie about people who are crazy and actually enjoy camping and sleeping on the ground and other madness.

Meet Jenny (played by the always adorable, even when portraying a complete psychopath, Kelly Reilly) and Steve (played by Michael "sexy shark" Fassbender). Jenny is a school teacher, and I have no idea what the Hell Steve does for a living, maybe he's a swimsuit model or does toothpaste commercials or something, maybe he just gets paid to sit around and look pretty, who knows. They decide that they're going to escape to a remote lake for the weekend that Steve used to go to when he was younger or something.

Steve has the master plan of using the opportunity of this little get away to finally pop the question to Jenny. Because sleeping in the dirt is some people's idea of romantic. It's not mine, but we established that.

There are, at this point I should note, layers of foreshadowing and foreboding occurring now. In the night that they first arrive, apparently to spend the first night in a little B&B, because SLEEPING ON THE GROUND ISN'T FUN, the locals come off as ... prickly to say the least. The couple are either ignored or treated to clipped responses, and then get to enjoy the fine folks being generally awful and back handing their children. Now maybe this is the naive little California girl in me talking, but I thought that trailer trash was something that just happened here in the states. Apparently England has it too, well color me surprised.

The next bit of "this is your sign, just turn the Hell around and go back NOW" comes when they actually reach the titular lake, only to find the surrounding area fenced off to be redeveloped into a gated community. Jenny, in an unknowing voice of doom asks at this point "Who are they so afraid of?"

Oh Hunny. You don't even know. You don't EVEN know. Just let me hold you.

When they get to the lake is when we meet the band of merry miscreants who will be our antagonists for the evening. Hoodies. Yay hoodies!

What starts out as a minor confrontation between Steve and the leader of the pack of delinquents, Brett (played by Jack O'Connel, who I can't hate, because he will always be Cook from Skins for me, and I love Cook from Skins), which escalates to their car being stolen and demolished, which FURTHER escalates to the teenagers hunting Jenny and Steve through the woods.

Because camping is bad.

If you go camping you will be hunted down and tortured by psychotic hoodlums.

That being said, I hesitate to classify Eden lake under the umbrella of "torture porn". Because unlike many of the films that are classified as such, the torture isn't really the central focus of the film. It's more in the vein of a thriller in the sense that more of it is about the chasing and the game of cat and mouse and by today's standards, the violence is really quite tame.

The aim here, I believe, was not to make the violence itself be what is shocking to the viewers, but have the perpetrators of the violence and the victim/villain relationship be what makes you honestly uncomfortable. It's incredibly common for a movie to pit adults against one another, but less common to have a group of minors be the antagonists - which can make the viewers uncomfortable on two fronts: First, the idea of what many people consider to be children acting in such a fashion, and Second, the idea that adults would be forced to retaliate, and how far would you be willing to go against a group of, so called, children?

That dynamic is considerably more rare. Though it has been called up in such films as The Children and Who Can Kill A Child, or even such instances at The Bad Seed and The Omen. A plot line in which adults know they must fight back against the younger generation has a way of making an audience a little squirrely.

There is, I feel worth noting, a very interesting psychology within the group of teenagers. The leader of the gang has rather obvious psychosis - in a crazier then a shit house rat kind of a way. But he is not, cut and dried, the worst of the bunch. A fair number of his comrades are equally happy to hunt down and potentially murder Jenny and Steve. And then there is the lone female of the pack, who records the acts of atrocity on her cell phone without so much as a blink.

If Horror Movies are the forum through which movie makers air their fears and dissatisfaction with the world, then Eden Lake can be seen as following in the footsteps of George Romero's trend of social commentary. The message at the core of Eden Lake is not just the fear of what today's youth is becoming; but also a horror at the generation that not only raised them to be such monsters, and then washes their hands of them when they begin to act in the manner they were taught.

And honestly, Jack O'Connell's performance is damn good. You really believe that he will go twenty kinds of ape shit on you if you cross him. And yeah, I was a little biased, like I said before. And sure, in multiple parts I was like "nooooo, he doesn't mean it, not my Jack." Damn my love of skins.

And really, characterization is the strong point of Eden Lake. Even though I have read a fair deal of reviews that contradict this statement. No. You guys are wrong. I can't hear you. Lalalalalalalalalalalalala.

The characters are developed just FINE thank you so much. You really really like Jenny and Steve. You're rooting for them. Goddamit, you WANT them to make it out okay and get married, and go live somewhere very very industrialized and NEVER GO CAMPING AGAIN. I was definitely pulling for them, and no, not just because Michael Fassbender is much too pretty die somewhere that dirty.

And really, if you want to get into characterization and psychology. Let's look at Jenny for a minute.

Kelly Reilly is really a very underrated actress. Who I really should gave a grudge against for the simple fact that she has the ability to keep getting cast in rolls where she gets to make out with Spooky's favorite boys. Seriously - Dead Bodies with Andrew Scott, Sherlock Holmes with Jude Law, and now Michael Fassbender. You bitch. No, I'm kidding, I love you.

Jenny begins the movie as this fragile, non confrontational character. While Steve is ready to tell people off and huff and puff when things irritate him, Jenny is just as happy to let them blow over so no one needs to raise their voice. But as she is pushed she grows from mousey damsel to the sort of heroine you hope for in these kinds of movies. And did I mention she does this all in some of the cutest dresses I've ever seen? Sure, I don't think most people of the camping-oriented persuasion would find her clothing choices good for the great outdoors, but meh. If anything I think the choice to have her run through the movie in demure, feminine clothing, was kind of a brilliant choice.

It's like they said "look at her, she's supposed to be this delicate thing who has small animals do her hair in the morning as she sings. But look what she can become." In this aspect Jenny is much like a heroine in a fairy tale like the Brother's Grimm. But not by Disney. Not by a long shot.

And much like a Grimm's fairtytale you do not just walk away from Eden Lake feeling good about the world. You feel like you need to take a long shower and then watch kitten videos on Youtube for the next three hours. You feel disoriented and more then just a little uncomfortable.

And for that I really do have to applaud them.

Okay, Okay, so strictly speaking, Eden Lake is NOT what I would consider "my kind of a horror film". If you know me, you know I like my horror movies a bit more in the supernatural and psychological department, and less in the "BLOOD BLOOD EVERYWHERE" fashion. Especially since I feel like these days you can't throw a rock without hitting a movie that is just about blood.

I've got news for you Horror Movie Industry, blood all over the place doesn't scare this girl. Hell, that's just a typical Friday night in the Pie household. I think you sincerely underestimate the sheer volume of bandages this girl goes through on a weekly basis. When you're as accident prone as me, blood is about as shocking and uncommon as a roll of toilet paper.

That being said, Eden Lake is not a bad little film. It has a message and it gets it out there. And from a cine-phile point of view it is shot BEAUTIFULLY. I know you can't tell from my grainy screen caps, but there are points when the camera pulls back to show wide angles of the all the nature and is AMAZING. The framing of shots and the subtle score of the film are really just lovely. It's odd to think of a horror movie as pretty - especially when people are getting brutalized and hobbling through a forest caked in their own blood, but seriously, it is PRETTY.

While I don't see myself running out to buy Eden Lake, I don't consider the evening I spent watching it to have been a waste either. And let's not forget the valuable message it has brought to us all:


I know this girl won't be any time soon.

Well, until next time kiddies.
Stay out of trouble AND the woods.

Hugs and Kisses

Spooky Pie