If you’ve seen Hunger, you can understand why I feel such allegience to Michael Fassbender. He’s outrageously talented and I look forward to all of his films. His upcoming project with Neil Marshall is particularly exciting. I haven’t gone through his back catalog yet however. And I should. So when my friend Miss Topanga from Breathing Movies reviewed the film Eden Lake, and recommended it, I rented it post haste.
Eden Lake is a remake of a French film called Them. I haven’t seen Them, and now I probably will not. Fassbender plays a man named Steve, whos’ taking his girlfriend Jenny (Kelly Reilly) to a secluded lake for a weekend to propose. A particularly cruel group of teens and preteens create tension between Steve, Jenny and the gang. It escalates quickly to violence, and the children, not seeing a way out, decide to kill the two and cover it up. The rest of the film is a ‘will they escape or won’t they’ cat and mouse game.
This theme in film has become prevalent recently. Films like Them, of course, and The Strangers come to mind. Michael Haneke seems to have started it all with his film Funny Games. But where Haneke’s talent comes in building tension while keeping the majority of the violence off screen, director James Watkins decided that in Eden Lake it’d be best to show it all. In a particularly disturbing scene, a nine year old shoves a box cutter in Steve’s mouth and wiggles it around for a while. This comes off a lack of confidence in Watkins’ ability to create and sustain tension. Of which, there wasn’t much. Sure, I cringed, and made sounds of disgust during the torture and violence, but I didn’t particularly care what happened to Jenny and Steve as their characters were not developed. The outcome of the entire situation seemed completely clear a third of the movie in. Which also took away from any sense of intrigue concerning the plot.
Fassbender’s performance was quite good, as was Reilly’s. But without a sound story and direction behind these performances, the film logs and uninteresting entry in the torture porn genre, and actually would have benefited from some sort of political subtext or moral finger wagging.