Like last year's similar home-invasion thriller The Strangers, the British horror film Eden Lake isn't interested in reinventing the genre so much as doing a simple, well-worn premise right. Both films strand an attractive couple in waterside isolation, with dodgy cell phone range, as they fight to survive the relentless onslaught of a pack of presumably bored local teenagers. And neither film is shy about getting its hands dirty, amping up the gore and visceral intensity as a means to connect viewers to the characters' pain, desperation, and improvised resilience. Though short on atmospherics, Eden Lake compensates with a sharp undercurrent of class loathing, as a rural community fends off yuppie encroachment on previously unspoiled land.
The sad irony is that Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender, the attractive couple in question, don't fit that yuppie label, at least in the sense that they have no interest in scooping up the high-priced properties being developed on Eden Lake. They're just looking for a quiet romantic getaway where they can sun themselves on the beach during the day and camp out in a pup tent at night. When a group of kids in their early teens start harassing them with loud music and an off-the-leash Doberman, Fassbender decides to confront them for being rude, but things go badly, and the stakes escalate precipitously.
Director James Watkins ably makes that escalation seem utterly plausible, as petty annoyances give way to all-out assault, and simmering class and generational tensions reach full boil. The film also demonstrates the power of groupthink: Individually, most of these kids would be incapable of the atrocities they commit, but when the hive-mind takes over, they don't have the will to stop it. The ironic ending coaxes that theme out even further: Sometimes the bonds and loyalties between people obscure their sense of justice and common decency, and yield a whole community to mob rule.
Key features: Special features don't get more half-assed than a four-minute making-of featurette.