Screenwriter: James Watkins
Starring: Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender, Jack O'Connell, Thomas Turgoose
Running time: 90 mins
A battle to the death between a middle class couple and a bunch of sadistic chavs set in a forest promises a great deal. It's a shame then, that the attempts to generate prolonged primal fear and provide social insight are regularly undermined by a willingness to conform to the dumber conventions of the horror genre.
Placing a mob of disillusioned, neglected teenagers as the antagonists initially works well, conjuring up a grim depiction of the current social malaise in England. Jack O'Connell is suitably menacing as their leader Brett, while his cohorts (including an underused Thomas Turgoose from This Is England) wield Rottweilers and capture graphic videos on their mobiles. Interesting stuff, but ultimately futile once the narrative turns into a standard cat and mouse thriller lacking in invention.
Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender acquit themselves reasonably well as the pair in peril, subjected to a torrent of verbal and physical abuse after unwittingly stumbling upon chav territory during a romantic break to the idyllic Eden Lake. Yet they are sold short by a script that frequently has their characters, Jenny and Steve, doing ridiculously stupid and implausible things to land themselves in more danger.
It's very much the kind of behaviour that only seems to take place in horror movies, and serves to eradicate any sympathy for their fight for survival. At times, it's impossible to suppress howls of derision, particularly when Jenny opts to Bluetooth one of her terrorisers instead of running and seeking help.
The final act desperately tries to instil a sense of dramatic poignancy and social commentary akin to the superior Funny Games, but instead highlights the garbled mess and wasted potential of the premise and talented cast.
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