Just when you thought British horror had lost its edge, along comes this English answer to "Wolf Creek". "Eden Lake" is not quite as good as "Them" or "Frontiers", but close. James Watkins' debut film packs enough punch to redeem Britain for a lot of the horror dreck that has been coming out of the country in the last couple of years. Watkins is probably the best horror director to come out of the UK since Neal Marshall. In fact, this is the best UK horror movie since "The Descent."
The film opens with our big city protagonist Jenny, played by gorgeous Kelly Reilly, teaching nursery school kids as ominous music lets us know something bad is about to happen. She and her yuppie boyfriend Steve (Michael Fassbenders) pack up the SUV and head out into the woods for a romantic weekend, annoyed by some of the rednecks they meet along the way.
They find a secluded lake in the woods and are enjoying themselves immensely, until a group of pre-pubescent-aged kids show up playing loud music and being an overall nuisance. "I'm not going to bullied by a bunch of 12 years old," the prideful boyfriend tells his girl before he confronts the kids. They aren't terribly sympathetic – especially not the leader of the gang, Brett (played menacingly by Jack O'Connell, a really amazing young actors).
Naturally, as the hours wear on, the confrontation gets worse, with the kids stealing the SUV for a joy ride. A knife fight over the car and some other stolen properties, leads to the death of the kids' Rottweiler. Then things start to get very nasty, with our two city slickers on the run for their lives. Crashing their car, they are left alone in the woods with the children, led by the homicidal and merciless Brett.
The film falls into standard "torture porn" territory in one scene, but picks up pace toward the end as a fight for survival turns into an all-out war between the schoolteacher and the punk kids. Watkins knows how to slowly ratchet up the intensity for a terrifying climax – and puts his schoolteacher protagonist in a real moral dilemma when her killer instincts are force to come to surface in order for her to survive.
If you've seen "Them," you know that "Eden Lake" shares a lot of resemblances with that film. It also borrows a bit from "Wolf Creek" (even the title is similar) and from "Hostel." All in all, though, if it's not entirely original, it is entirely effective and you won't forget it.
Well acted, well directed, and totally intense, "Eden Lake" is the best horror film to come out of the UK in years. I for one am looking forward to what Watkins will cook up next.