Tag Archives: horror

Eden Lake (James Watkins, 2008)

Eden Lake seems to have been made for the British Daily Mail set; its plot involves a group of young hoodlums who terrorize a young liberal couple (Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender) on vacation in the countryside. The kids embody every single stereotype of the lower-class-gone-wrong: they listen to rap music! they talk loudly and profanely! they have a dog who they don’t clean up after! After nearly ruining the couple’s day out at the beach, and completely blowing off Fassbender’s strong paternal advice, they disappear into the woods, hopefully never to be seen again. Not so, obviously.

Not only are the antagonists stereotypes of the highest degree, Reilly’s character is a young, bright-eyed teacher who really believes in the youth of England. On the drive to the small country town where they plan to spend the weekend, they listen to radio reports about youth crime and education in England, in case it wasn’t clear enough to the audience that the country has some bad apples.

There is an unfortunate incident with the couple and the youths’ dog, and that sets the bloody action off. For the rest of the movie, there’s a lot of running, bleeding, and crying. The suspense is well-done at points, even when it’s pretty transparent. The most interesting part of the film comes near the end, when Jenny (Reilly) emerges from a bin of shit (literally), where she has been hiding from her tormentors. She looks at herself in a pane of glass, covered in filth, and seems to have changed. She wipes off her face and has the stony, possessed look of Willard from Apocalypse Now. She then kills the most innocent kid from the group without even a second though; although right after she does it, she gains back her humanity as soon as she had lost it.

The movie does a great job of tapping into that relatable fear of youth without boundaries. Their parents don’t care about disciplining them, they don’t care about anything, and that makes them liable to do anything. And they do, in Eden Lake. There’s a bit of clumsy, underdeveloped dialogue about how the industrial site near the beach “used to be a park,” but I was unsure if that was a social commentary or just a scarier setting to have a chase scene. While you could do worse than watch this movie, I recommend David Moreau and Xavier Palaud’s Ils as a much better example of the terrifying child tormentors movie. In Ils, the children aren’t stereotypes, they’re spectres who can’t be pinned down, and that’s much scarier than lazy social commentary on those goddamn kids of today.

Frontier(s) (Xavier Gens, 2007)

I love the New French Extremity. For me, the relatively new wave of French horror films has really breathed some new life into my beloved genre; not only is the violence more extreme, the ways of telling scary stories, and the elements contained within said stories, are often more developed and thought-provoking than your average American horror movie. Frontier(s) had the potential to be the biggest breakthrough film of this breed of horror films. It was originally chosen to be a part of the 2007 After Dark Horrorfest, but after getting slapped with an NC-17 rating, was demoted to a very limited release and a life on DVD.

One one hand, that’s too bad. Frontier(s), despite the terribly parenthesis-ed title, could have been a small hit. It follows a familiar formula in American horror movies (actually, follows very closely the Texas Chainsaw Massacre formula): some kids get into trouble, run away into the country, find way worse trouble than they were running from. Only these characters’ trouble revolves around their participation in political riots after the election of a conservative president; they feel threatened as Muslims and one of the gang beats up a cop. Our pregnant protagonist Yasmine’s brother dies in the aftermath, and the gang splits up and meets at a bed and breakfast in the country. But, of course, the inn is run by Nazi cannibals looking to start a new master race. Of course. Yasmine is spared a bloody fate because her captives want her baby. There is a great, bitter irony in the fact that these Nazis want Yasmine’s baby while saluting “pure blood” over dinner.

The plot of Frontier(s) is promising, but the film never quite delivers what it should. Almost nothing of interest happens in the first half of the movie – in fact, things actually only get interesting in the last half hour or so, after most of the main characters have been killed. The most engaging parts of the movie are those between Yasmine and a girl living in the house who is also pregnant, but very supportive and caring, to a creepy extent, towards Yasmine. Gens seems to suggest, through the girl’s actions in the film’s climax, that there’s some sort of universal bond of sisterhood between pregnant women, one that transcends family and history. I can’t decide if I think this idea is empowering or just a little silly and lazy writing (although, interestingly enough, Yasmine doesn’t feel the same way towards the younger girl, as evidenced near the end of the film).

Like Martyrs, Frontier(s) can be interpreted as feminist; Yasmine spits at the family, “I’m not obedient! I never will be!” and I wanted to get up and cheer for her. When she secretly brandishes an axe to use against her male captor as he screams at her about how she will listen to him and start being obedient after all, it’s a perfect visual metaphor for the hidden female rage and violence that Yasmine has inside herself.

But that’s really where Frontier(s) stops being interesting. Xavier Gens takes the momentum out of a few key scenes with poor editing and music choices. Distracting music is played over a violent scene at dinner, undercutting the brutality where it could and should speak for itself. In the climactic scene, there is an onslaught of machine gun violence and explosions, which seem strangely out of place with the more “personal” violence of the rest of the film.

While watching the movie, a year or so after seeing it for the first time and having become more familiar with French horror since then, I was really struck by the similarities to other films of the genre. It has the pregnancy violence of Inside! It has a painful haircutting scene, just like Calvaire and Martyrs! It has freaky country folk, just like Sheitan, Calvaire, and Ils! I certainly don’t think Frontier(s) ripped any of those other films off, as some of them were made after this one, but all these elements just reminded me that I wasn’t watching any of those other films. And I wish I had been.

Bottom line: Not a complete waste of time, but it’s best undertaken after seeing other, stronger French horror first. 7/10

Date watched: 1 January – film 1 of 2010