Low Budget. Horror. Rising stars. All three things seem to intersect quite often, especially at the start of big careers. Eden Lake, a low budget British horror film starring unknowns Michael Fassbender and Jack O'Connell, alongside Kelly Reilly, is no different.
In a way that feels very "Deliverance but in the English countryside", Jenny (Reilly) and Steve (Fassbender) are a city couple looking to spend a romantic weekend out in the countryside on the shores of the soon to be developed Lake of the title. Their waterside peace is quickly shattered by the appearance of some local teenagers lead by O'Connell's Brett. Things escalate after a Steve confronts the group about their unruly behaviour, and we suddenly find ourselves in a Daily Mail writer's worst nightmare about hoodies who certainly don't want to be hugged.
While Kelly is in the lead role it's Jack O'Connell's unhinged performance as the leader of this gang of what are basically children that makes Eden Lake stand out as low-budget horror done right. He's a manipulative, machismo obsessed man leading children. Halloween classics might centre around the supernatural, but we've all met real people like Brett who we fear could end up going down the same road if they run into someone who won't back down. And that's really scary.
Eden Lake, through its protagonists, takes a look at what it really means to be a man and how one gets there. Steve and Brett are two sides of the same coin, where one is a real man who knows when to back down or cut something short and the other is so scared of being seen as weak that things will get crazy in an instant. It's almost enough to feel sorry for the boy, but soon enough he'll savagely beat one of his "friends" or threaten them with death if they don't do as he says, and then you'll remember why he's Eden Lake's version of that hillbilly who likes to get a little too acquainted with the tourists.
Short, to the point, tense and not totally out there, Eden Lake should be a highlight of the early careers for many of those involved. One of the finer products to come out of the UK horror scene in years.