Wednesday, November 12, 2008

just more about the movies

So I managed not to update this thing with all deliberate speed so I suppose I owe an apology to the one reader I have out there. So here's to you reader: My bad.

Eden Lake [**1/2]

First thing right off the bat I'm not entirely sure this three star rating is what I want to go with. Don't get me wrong it left me feeling nasty and every once in a while a horror film doing so as unrelentingly as this one (and as cynically) is just what the doctor ordered but I can't help but feel a little dissatisfied all the same. The pretty gorgeous Kelly Reilly plays Jenny, one half a couple looking for a quite weekend getaway at a quarry- that's about to become lake front property for an exclusive neighborhood- who gets harassed by a gaggle of youths to the degree where a misunderstanding results in her boyfriend Steve (Michael Fassbender) killing their dog in self-defense and the ringleader of the youths leading a murderous charge against them.

I know I gave "Red" a serious amount of grief for being about the consequences of a dog's murder, but the crucial difference is this: the kid with the dead dog is already a nutjob this just gave him a reason to kill and exert his evil influence on his peers. A sane person wouldn't be so aggrieved by their beloved dog's passing that this kind of rage would be justifiable, at least not in my factpinion. Anywho the kid/s want to kill the couple, they get away but a debilitating accident puts them right back in the hands of the evil little fuckers. The film is best viewed as a combination of "Them" (the French film that "The Strangers" bears a pretty close resemblance to) and the moment in any horror movie where you stumble into a gas station looking for help and you realize you would have been better off picking any gas station but the one you chose.

There is some first rate bastardliness going on in this film: the ringleader pressures his friends to help torture Steve while they have him bound in barb wire and he films them on his video phone so that no one can make an attempt to grow a conscience. He browbeats people until they puke and cry. He even sets a kid who just wants to be one of them on fire. I haven't really hated a British maniac this much since Stephen Wight played a still meaner variation on this character, who shanks people and pisses on them (sadly, not at the same time) in the equally aggressive but ultimately more satisfying "Wilderness."

Steve, to be honest, is kind of a pushover. He's a pretty cut guy who looks like he could take care of himself but he is too much of a buttow down yuppie type who would rather scoff than get righteously medieval on someone. Truthfully, it sucks to be in this situation because neither of the characters get to embrace their inner animal appropriately and it's the means to a very cynical end. An end that is in the moment more satisfying than it is upon reflection.

If it sounds like I'm dancing around spoilers it's because I am. It's hard to get to the heart of the dissatisfaction without spelling it out pretty blatantly but if the words "proper comeuppance" will do enough for you in this context then there you go.

The work of make-up effects guru Paul Hyett ("The Descent," "The Cottage," "The Killing Gene") is pretty great if in short supply. A spike through the foot is dealt with in a painful and memorable way. Nothing else in the film has the wince-ability of that moment, but it's always a treat seeing the man's work in any way.

"Eden Lake" is certifiably cynical and doesn't cheat to get there. It seems like it plays out honestly in terms of how average joes might fare in a horrific situation such as this, but it doesn't sate the bloodlust properly and for that it's hard to call "Eden Lake" a paradise.