Sunday, September 13, 2009

Scary Movie: EDEN LAKE

MILD SPOILERS AHOY

A few weeks ago I talked about IMPRINT, a short movie by Takashi Miike that tested the limits of my viewing abilities. This didn’t mean that IMPRINT was a bad movie. God, not by any means. It’s just that it was truly a “horror” movie that plunges you into a real dark place, unlike a “fun” slasher flick. It’s not the typical “legend tripping” sort of experience, where you get together with friends for a FRIDAY THE 13th installment or a trip to the nearby graveyard. It’s not a manufactured attempt to conjure fear and squeals while everyone proves how cool and brave they are by making jokes about the scary movie victims or drinking booze while brazenly sitting against a headstone and daring the dead to come get you. True horror goes beyond legend tripping—instead of us invading the graveyard, the graveyard invades us.

Accordingly, there are movies that are hard to watch because you genuinely dread what’s happening. The original LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was on of those movies that left me feeling like I needed a shower…and not just so I could get my skin clean. IRREVERSIBLE was another. IMPRINT came real close, too, but IMPRINT didn’t grab me by the emotional collar and choke me. It didn’t make me so damned angry that I wanted to scream or rage.

Well, I can add another movie to LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and IRREVERSIBLE now. It’s a little UK flick called EDEN LAKE, and by the end of it, I was so upset that I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. Even now, days later, I’m pissed off in a profound way because the story felt so real.

The action starts off nicely enough when we’re introduced to Jenny and Steve, who happily drive off to a weekend getaway at a lake where Steve spent his childhood. It’s a location that’s about to be overcome by a flood of corporate housing, so their trip is sure to be a bittersweet one. When they arrive at this idyllic spot, a bunch of kids start hanging out just down the beach, blaring their music and letting their dickwad dog off its leash so it intimidates the protagonists. To be blunt, the kids are total assholes, and right away, your blood starts to boil. Haven’t you run into people like this at one time or another? I think so. Steve, being a manly man who feels it’s his responsibility to confront this boorish behavior, mildly asks the group to cool it. They just laugh at him, throwing in a few douchy insults for good measure. But you can see Steve bristling because his ego has been smacked. Even so, Jenny is like, “Be cool, hon. They’re jerks, but they’ll leave soon and we’ll splash around in the water.” The kids do leave, but as I said, they’re assholes, so they passively aggressively leave a bottle beneath the tire of the couple’s car. Guess what that does to the tire. You know that Steve’s not gonna let this pass if he finds those kids again.

At this point, I wanted to stop the movie, because I knew it would lead to no good. I won’t tell you exactly what happens, but even as I wanted to stop watching, I couldn’t. This is one movie where, for better or worse, you’re really hoping for a reckoning. You need to see it. After all, Steve and Jenny didn’t start this crap. (Yes, they could've ended it by just leaving, but how much do you take from someone before you can't stand to see the injustice any more? At least, that's the bigger picture, here.) The scary thing about this premise is that you could find yourself in a situation where you get fed up with assholes, just like Steve and Jenny do, and when you stand up for yourself...

Well, you might just want to leave with your tail between your legs instead.

I was so furious at the end of this movie that I actually directed my ire at a couple of plot twists that I thought were a real stretch, and I found myself thinking, “Nu-uh. That never could’ve happened, so I’m going to pretend like it didn’t.” And fooling myself made me feel better except…not really.

Seriously, don’t watch this if you’re not willing to be highly unsettled.

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