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Eden Lake (2008)

Director: James Watkins
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kelly Reilly, Jack O'Connell, Thomas Turgoose
Rated R, 91 minutes

The time-worn trope of sophisticated city slickers clashing with lower-class country dwellers gets the survival horror treatment in James Watkins's EDEN LAKE. Here the urban folk are represented by Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and Steve (Michael Fassbender; PROMETHEUS), a couple of lovebirds who seek to escape the grind of city life with a romantic weekend in the English countryside. They cross paths with a gang of trashy kids, led by an especially nasty little prick named Brett (Jack O'Connell; STARRED UP), and what begins as minor annoyance is exacerbated by a few bad decisions and ends up leading horrific violence. 

It's a story that has been told in many ways and in many genres. EDEN LAKE manages to set itself apart by being meaner and nastier than its peers, as well as by featuring terrific performances by the film's leads. Despite the fact that they do some tremendously stupid things, which only serve to make their situation worse, you genuinely care about Steve and Jenny's plight. The come off as decent people who are thrust into a world whose rules and customs they cannot possibly comprehend. And on the other side, Brett is a monstrous character, perfectly depicted by O'Connell, that will have you gritting your teeth and yelling at the screen. This is a case where actors elevate the material, and director James Watkins keeps things lean and mean, slowly ramping up the tension until the film's pitch black and haunting conclusion. Highly recommended.
4 out of 5

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