Friday, September 12, 2008

EDEN LAKE - a middle-class nightmare

Don't touch the axeEDEN LAKE is a violent thriller movie comments on the British obsession with class. The plot is very simple: a middle-class couple is violently attacked by a gang of working class kids. The social commentary is more interesting. At first sight, the depiction of the working class characters looks dangerously like the worst sort of smug prejudice espoused by the British tabloid press. The parents are obese, selfish, crass and amoral. They don't actively parent their children, but leave them to roam, savage and near-feral. The kids have no respect, no courtesy, no sense of right and wrong and no boundaries. These are the kids that stab each other in clubs, happy-slap innocent bystanders and cause general mayhem.

If this was all the film was, it would be pretty simplistic and insulting. But it's not. Writer-directer Michael Watkins takes care to show that the kids aren't mindless thugs, but products of their environment, and that they are extremely nervous about crossing the lines into outright violence. Moreover, the middle-class couple betray the same capacity for savagery as the kids. Michael Fassbender accurately conveys the smug confidence of the middle-class male. He refuses to be drawn into a scene of racial bullying - "boys will be boys" - but as soon as he's on the sharp end he becomes riled and aggressive. Kelly Reilly, however, has a far more interesting role. She begins as almost a spoof of the milksop middle-class girl - a harmless primary-school teacher, pained by bullying, eager to avoid trouble. When the worst occurs, she proves resourceful and clever but also goes on the classic "heart of darkness" journey. In extremis, she has the same capacity for feral savage revenge as the chavs.

So, EDEN LAKE satisfies as a simple thriller, but it's also fairly nuanced in its social commentary - far more nuanced than some reviewers would have you believe.

EDEN LAKE played Frightfest 2008 and is on release in the UK.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Bina - nice review. I thought Eden Lake was a great Brit horror effort which worked on all levels - and man that ending was a killer!

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