Whenever i think of this film, I get a chill. I feel pretty damn horrible at its harshness, but I just can’t help but be amazed at first time director James Watkins’ realistic vision of broken Britain. There are no supernatural forces at work here, no cannibals or great big hairy beasts. No, this is a film about a young, engaged couple who have good jobs and a happy life, and how that is all taken away from them by simply asking a bunch of teenage thugs to “turn the music down please”. The results of daring to challenge this gang of young thugs is extreme, brutal, but it’s frighteningly too close to home. We read about incidents like this (although not quite to these extremes) all the time in the newspapers. So, what we have is an intelligent horror, a survivalist film, tackling real issues head on, and making a daring, but honest statement about the problem with youths and their parents in todays pretty much accepted gang culture. It’s a sad and shocking state of affairs, and fair play to the director for having the guts to be honest.
I can sense some of you thinking, “come on DJ things aren’t that bad!”. However, there are points in this film that really ring true. The couple have gone to Eden Lake for a weekend where the husband is going to propose. On the way, they stop off at a motel. Here is where the working class couple realise how far from the comfort of their safe little life they really are. Louts sit around drinking, kids are running rampant at all hours with what seems like no parental control (how many times have you been somewhere and said to yourself”why won’t she tell that fuckin kid to shut up!”). We all do it, so the woman asks the very question to her would-be husband. Suddenly, a big fat Kerry Katona type blob steps up and whacks the kid across the face for all to see. No remorse, not even embarrassed, and we wonder why kids are so angry these days. Anyway, noticing the young woman staring at her actions, the fat mother then shouts threateningly at her. Round one to the louts and their whole evening is ruined as they head to bed to escape this awful aggression. While trying to ly quiet, we hear arguments. Nice, lovely peaceful motel this, full of such nice people! The statement the director is making is we all feel this sense of being careful how we look at people and feeling uncomfortable. It’s a feeling that shouldn’t exist, but it does, and more and more these days. Anyone who has worked with the public, I’m sure you’ll agree, they are sometimes not nice, and use aggression to try and threaten something out of you.
Eventually they get to Eden Lake, and their quiet weekend is shattered as a gang of teenage thugs descend on the same beach, playing loud music, drinking, letting their Rottweiler (a typical chav dog) run all over the beach shitting everywhere. The gang perve on the young woman and eventually the husband-to-be has had enough. All he asks is they turn the music down. Oh dear oh dear, you can’t interfere with their fun, or tell them what to do. For this is a gang and they don’t take shit from anyone. One of the most uncomfortable feelings is asking something of someone, and them totally ignoring you. You then have to make a decision, walk away and feel like a bit of an idiot, or respond. It’s like being in the cinema. A bunch of irritating kids come in and talks through the whole fucking film! You ask them to be quiet, people see you ask them. But what if they don’t, then what do you do?? That’s what’s brilliantly realised here, and the poor guy, come the end wishes he said nothing.
What follows in an onslaught of aggression. But first, we find out briefly what the typical parents are like. Mentioning the fact they have done something to his 4×4 in a cafe, the friendly woman serving them suddenly becomes very hostile when it seems the guy is pointing the finger at her son. Claiming it’s not her son. her son is a good boy, is very very true to life. These people always blame someone else. Anyway, eventually tensions run high as the guy tries to get his 4×4 back. Oh, forgot to mention the incredibly nail biting scene where he stupidly goes into one of the lads house. What a bloody stupid thing to do! So anyway, eventually there’s a confrontation and the gang leaders peer pressure pushes all his gang to torture the man in a horrific scene as they all take swipes at him with a Stanley knife. It’s very very hard to watch, and has that French realistic look about it. The final stab by a young lad who really doesn’t want to do it is the worst, as he plunges the blade into the man’s mouth! Not many horrors can make you cringe like that. We then have a game of cat and mouse as the gang hunt the woman, who turns survivalist in her desperation to get her boyfriend help.
There are some really touching moments between the woman and man, and a few times i almost shed a tear because you find yourself thinking, “what if that was me and the misses”. It takes a more vicious turn as things hot up, and the woman does manage to get the upper hand whilst running through the woods. We are delivered yet another sickening scene though, where the gang set fire to a little black kid who tried to help the couple. It’s the screams he lets out that really haunt you.
Now, after so much violence, so much bullying, so much aggression and anger, and some truly shocking scenes (another involves the gang leader literally battering his friend to death, this sudden burst of extreme violence is very unsettling indeed) we have deal with one final blow. One last gut wrenching punch to really hit home how these fuckers get away with it: and how these sorts of people “look after their own”. I won’t spoil the ending for those who maybe haven’t seen it, but all i can say is NO other film this decade has left me feeling so upset, so disturbed, so shaken up. Irreversible at least ended on a bit of a high note. Eden Lake doesn’t, and it takes no prisoners. Again, my wife cried, and i could not get that final image out of my head for weeks and weeks. This is a brutal, scary horror that doesn’t let up, ever! It will leave you shaken and chilled to your very core. It is, in a sense, a masterpiece, but not one that demands repeated viewings. If you can survive it, you are a strong person indeed, but I can guarantee you will not forget it