For more than a year, Dimension Extreme has been a label delivering inconsistent content of the unrated and violent variety to horror film fans on DVD. Many of the best titles in their line-up that I've seen have been well-made (and extreme, of course) genre titles from other countries. The excellent creature-on-the-loose exercise Rogue starring Radha Mitchell and Jamie Blanks' Storm Warning (both from Australia) come immediately to mind. Unfortunately, the label has also been the dumping ground for vapid direct-to-video trash like the awful sequels Pulse 2 and Pulse 3, the latter of which I reviewed here.
Eden Lake, the latest entry in the Dimension Extreme catalog, falls firmly in the former of the two categories above. Not only is this grim production from the United Kingdom one of the best movies to come out of this label, it's also one of the best entries in the "torture porn" (I hate that name but use it anyway) genre I've seen in a long while. Eden Lake is definitely not for the timid moviegoer, but it has a lot going for it that extreme horror fans will enjoy.
Eden Lake feels like a marriage between Deliverance and Wolf Creek (the trailer of which, appropriately, appears at the start of the DVD, even though its home video release occurred nearly three years ago). The protagonist of Eden Lake is Jenny (Kelly Reilly), a schoolteacher who is ready to spend a lengthy holiday with the love of her life, Steve (Michael Fassbender). Steve has suggested they travel to Eden Lake - he wants to take her to this idyllic woodsy spot before a housing development is built over it. Unbeknownst to Jenny, Steve also plans to propose to her (shades of the new Texas Chainsaw Massacre on this plot point).
Things don't go quite so well for the well-to-do couple. The locals are rude, and the room they rent on their first night is situated next to an irate - and loud - tenant. Still, Jenny and Steve make it to Eden Lake and all is idyllic and peaceful until a gang of prepubescent teens ruin the mood with loud music, an aggressive dog, and belligerent behavior. Jenny wants to move on, but Steve insists on confronting the kids. Perhaps his stubbornness is being fed by pre-proposal jitters. In any case, a tit-for-tat exchange between the young thugs and the young couple quickly escalates into a life-or-death struggle. The gang is led by a homicidal psychopath named Brett (played ferociously by Jack O'Connell), and he has everyone around him jacked up to a murderous frenzy.
I'll leave the synopsis at that point - what follows is an hour of gripping and well-filmed cat-and-mouse sequences between Jenny and Steve, and Brett's gang that I don't want to spoil. There are a number of clever plot twists, and excruciatingly painful and bloody scenes. And boy, this film really works well on that prurient level.
Credit should be given to writer and director James Watkins for crafting a convincing survival horror film. If this film is any evidence, Watkins is definitely a talent to watch for (he's writing the sequel to The Descent). However, Eden Lake is helped out with some solid acting. Reilly is especially good as the heroine. Her role is physically demanding and definitely uncomfortable. Jenny goes through hell and back in this film. By the midway point, she's covered in blood and soil and filth and gas - and she looks both scared and scary, not an easy thing to pull off. Her creepy appearance hearkens back to Carrie and The Descent, and her performance is quite memorable.
I've mentioned The Descent a couple times in the last paragraph; Eden Lake shares a similar tone to that classic modern-day horror film. Not only do the two heroines get physically and emotionally thrown through the wringer, but the two movies are scored by the same composer, David Julyan. The scores to both films are well-done, conveying quiet malevolence and portent beautifully.
All in all, Eden Lake is a brutal but well-made entry in the Dimension Extreme catalog. I'd highly recommend it to the extreme horror crowd.
Dimension Extreme gives Eden Lake an anamorphic widescreen presentation. The image shows nice detail and solid colors, with little noticeable video noise or other imperfections.
The sole audio track is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 effort. It's an all around good track, with dialogue, sound effects, and the score nicely mixed together.
Subtitles are available in English for the Hearing Impaired and Spanish.
Trailers precede the main menu for Wolf Creek, Suburban Mayhem, Pulse 2, and Feast II: Sloppy Seconds. No link to these trailers appears in the menu system, but the theatrical trailer for Eden Lake is made available.
A little disappointingly, the only other extra on this disc is The Making of Eden Lake (4:07), a stereotypical featurette: rapidly-edited with soundbytes from the cast and crew spliced together with scenes from the film. At least it's in anamorphic widescreen.
An in-depth commentary track would have been very welcomed here.
Brutal and bloody, Eden Lake is not for the timid. However, this British production should please the extreme horror crowd. It's a violent and intense thriller that's clever, intelligent, and well-acted. This is one of the best releases from the Dimension Extreme label; it's a shame, however, that the extras were skimpy. Eden Lake, nonetheless, is highly recommended.