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Little Hoods

October 10th, 2010 · 1 Comment

As days get shorter, nights get longer and All Hallow’s Eve beckons, I can say that I won’t be wandering the streets dressed as Chewbacca begging for candy. What I can’t say is whether or not at my age, horror movies still have any surprises left in them. In the search for originality, it’d be a good idea to start anywhere but Hollywood. For the month of October, I take a trip around the globe to see what’s scaring some of my favorite countries these days.

Eden Lake (2008)
Directed by James Watkins
Written by James Watkins
Produced by Christian Colson, Richard Holmes
91 minutes

Eden Lake leads up to a potent and brutally uncompromising ending with 80 minutes of willful disregard for even a dribble of intelligence. Screenwriter James Watkins was disheartened seeing his name on junk and renegotiated his contract with Working Title Flilms to include an opt-out. Titled Little Terrors, that script was an update on morally ambiguous thrillers of the ‘70s like Straw Dogs or Deliverance. Taking the project to Christian Colson, the producer was interested enough to finance two short films — one based on the idea, the second on 10 pages of a torture scene — for Watkins to show what he could do behind the camera. Retitled Eden Lake, Colson & Richard Holmes raised a budget of £2 million (roughly $4 million USD) and a six-week shooting schedule commenced at locations in Buckinghamshire County, as well as Pinewood Studios.

By the time Eden Lake was ready for release in late summer of 2008, recent teenage gang killings and violence against adults had become an obsession for the British media. Dimension Films had bought U.S. distribution rights, but gave the film a very limited stateside release in October 2008. Thanks to composer David Julyan and editor Jon Harris, Eden Lake is scored just like The Descent and paced like it too, making for a familiar yet highly watchable B-movie. Watkins has some good ideas on mood and style, but they can’t overcome a Yuppie couple put through the paces of a slasher movie, where one logical decision would have ended the whole ordeal. It’s hard to tell whether the film is entertaining because it’s good or entertaining because its idiocy provokes such a visceral response. Casting director Julie Harkin deserves credit for helping assemble a mean pack of kids.

Schoolteacher Jenny (Kelly Reilly) is picked up from work by boyfriend Steve (Michael Fassbender), who secretly plans on proposing to his girlfriend during a weekend camping trip. Their destination is a flooded quarry soon to be restricted by a new housing development called Eden Lake. Hiking through dense forest, the first soul the couple encounters is a skittish boy (James Gandhi) drawing a picture. Jenny & Steve settle on the lakeshore only to have their relaxation rudely interrupted by the appearance of six rowdy 12-year-olds and their Rottweiler. Steve attempts to parlay with the hooded hellions, whose ringleader Brett (Jack O’Connell) refuses to turn down their boom box or rein in his beloved dog. The busters eventually move on, but as night falls, Jenny gets the feeling someone is in the woods.

The next morning, Steve punctures a tire backing over a trap. Venturing into town with Jenny for breakfast, he spots bikes belonging to the mouse pack dumped outside a house. Snooping around, he has to slip out a window when Brett’s dad comes home in an even hotter rage than his son. Attempting to salvage the weekend back at the lake, Jenny & Steve have their car keys, phone and wallet nicked. Wandering the woods until they find the brats, Steve confronts them. In the scuffle that ensues, Brett’s dog is accidentally stabbed. Trying to make a getaway, Steve crashes the 4×4. Trapped inside, he tells Jenny to run for it. Steve is bound with barbed wire and cut up by each of the boys, most of them under pressure from Brett. When they discover Jenny still lurking around, the chase is on to remove all evidence of their rampage.

Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” average among 6,109 users: 65% for Eden Lake

Metacritic “Metascore” average among leading critics: Not available

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Tags: Ambiguous ending · Forensic evidence · Gangsters and hoodlums · Road trip · Small town · Woman in jeopardy

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