Eden Lake


Eden Lake

Kelly Reilly gets a different kind of facial.

(2008) Horror (Third Rail) Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender, Tara Ellis, Jack O’Connell, Finn Atkins, Jumayne Hunter, Thomas Turgoose, James Burrows, Thomas Gill, Lorraine Bruce, Shaun Dooley, James Ghandhi, Bronson Webb. Directed by James Watkins

We are trained from birth to jump at things that go bump in the night. We give form to our fears in all sorts of monsters from Godzilla to Dracula. The true horror however lies in the human heart.

Jenny (Reilly) and Steve (Fassbender) are a couple who are taking a weekend trip to an idyllic lake in rural England, a place Steve has happy memories of from his childhood. However when they get there, they discover that an impending development has closed off the lake. Disregarding the “Keep Out” signs, Steve drives into the park-like setting.

The lake doesn’t disappoint – it’s beautiful and placid. However, the couple’s peace and quiet is shattered by a group of teen hoodlums. Led by Brett (O’Connell), they’re mostly obnoxious and a bit intimidating. Rather than moving elsewhere, Steve decides to stay because “they were there first.” Not very mature and not very smart.

Things begin to escalate. The kids steal their car and their things. There are confrontations. They get physical. Brett’s beloved dog is accidentally killed. Things are about to get seriously ugly, and it will be up to Jenny to save them after Steve is seriously injured. Between her is a pack of rabid dogs in kid’s bodies that are baying for her blood.

Watkins makes a film that is a worthy successor to Straw Dogs and other 70s survival movies. Once things get rolling, you will be cringing in your seat and almost begging for the couple to make it. Steve and Jenny are extremely likable and the kids so utterly horrid that there is an easy rooting interest.

Fassbender has come on in recent years to be poised on the edge of stardom, but this movie was made before his higher profile roles of late. His role here is much more of a supporting part; for most of the second half of the movie he is essentially immobile and has few lines. Still, he has an innate likability and it shows onscreen here.

Reilly is really the star of the movie. Jenny is really put through the wringer here – dragged through the mud, burned, stabbed, beaten and betrayed – she is pushed to the limit and beyond. Reilly plays her as a fragile woman who has an inner strength that comes roaring out when cornered. She’s a likable heroine who can also be fierce, pushed to do things that are she must in order to survive.

O’Connell makes for a vicious and brutal gang leader, one of the nastiest to ever be seen on screen. When things get violent, he gets out of control, savaging his own gang members when he doesn’t get his way. O’Connell doesn’t make him sympathetic but he does make him human and not just a cartoon character. The brutality may be extreme but it comes from a realistic place.

This may be an extreme case but there have been reports of incidents of people being set upon by youth gangs in Britain. As things escalate to their conclusion, we can view this as a morality tale that leaves us with a few lessons. First, never underestimate the danger that comes from a pack of people; no matter how young they are. Second, it is a bad idea to stay somewhere when there are clearly dangerous people around, no matter how much it wounds your macho pride. Finally, never come between a boy and his dog. It can only end badly.

WHY RENT THIS: An excellent thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. The leads are attractive.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The brutality can be off-putting.

FAMILY VALUES: There is a great deal of brutal violence, some nudity and sexuality, a whole lot of foul language and a brief bit of drug use.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Turgoose first gained critical notice for the movie This is England.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $4M on an unreported production budget; I’m thinking this probably made a little bit of money.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: The Other Man

Sorority Row


Sorority Row

Most sorority sisters will tell you that a sorority house is just a series of excuses to dress up in lingerie.

(2009) Slasher Horror (Summit) Briana Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis, Jamie Chung, Audrina Partridge, Carrie Fisher, Julian Morris, Margo Harshman, Matt O’Leary. Directed by Stewart Hendler

The slasher movie is a time-honored tradition that usually involves a mysterious, hooded or masked maniac, lots of women in lingerie, bikinis, miniskirts or nothing at all and a series of grisly but imaginative murders. The 1983 opus The House on Sorority Row combined all of these elements and while not a classic of the genre, was certainly one of its better moments.

Flash forward to 2009 and an all-new rendition of it, mostly starring ladies from television shows (Audrina Partridge from “The Hills,” Leah Pipes from “Terminator: The Sarah Connors Chronicles”) or low-rent movies (Briana Evigan from Step Up 2, Jamie Chung from Dragonball: Evolution) with daughters of the famous (Rumer Willis – daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Evigan – daughter of “BJ and the Bear’s” Greg Evigan). It would seem to be a winning mix.

The sisters of the Theta Pi sorority at Rosman College (the original party school) decide to pull a stunt on the cheating boyfriend of Megan (Partridge) by convincing him that the date rape drug they supplied him with had caused an overdose, after which they would have to dispose of the body. This takes place at a sorority house party in which ingénues in lingerie stage beer chugging contests, pillow fights in a scenario that could only take place in the fevered imagination of an adolescent male who yearns for the opportunity to see a bare breast up close and personal – or the mind of a cynical Hollywood screenwriter who is catering to him.

The prank goes horribly wrong when the panicky frat boy, wanting to make sure the “dead” Megan is truly dead, shoves a tire iron into her chest with lethal force. The shocked sisters are bullied by Jessica (Pipes), the queen bee of the crew, to toss the body down the mine shaft (which was what they had convinced the frat boy they were going to do in the first place) and Never Speak of This Again to Anybody. Yeah, right – as if. Cassidy (Evigan), the brainy one who has the closest thing to a moral center at first refuses but is peer pressured into reluctantly agreeing to it.

Months later as the group prepares for their graduation party, they begin to get text messages from the victims’ cell phone. Could it be Megan – back from the dead and seeing revenge? Or maybe her creepy sister, who has turned up unexpectedly?  In any case, sisters start turning up sliced and diced by a mysterious hooded figure wielding a tire iron. Now that’s what I call a party.

The clichés are abounding here, and director Hendler doesn’t seem much disposed to straying beyond them. Mostly, the girls have little to do but wear clothes that say less college sorority girl and more slut and scream periodically. While I admit it’s nice to see Carrie Fisher onscreen (as the feisty house mother whose best line is “Do you think you scare me? I run a house with fifty bitches in it!”), the part is so very beneath her. You’d think that Princess Leia would be able to get better parts.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Carlos – this is a slasher movie. Nobody goes to see it for the acting – their target audience just wants boobs and really clever murders, the more gruesome the better. While there are plenty of boobs, where the movie fails to deliver is on the murders. The payoffs are rarely there and even the build-ups are pretty lame. Yes, a couple of the murders are nicely done but the bulk of them are rather anticlimactic. That’s not a word you want to use when describing a slasher flick.

The fact that the movie was profitable is owed more to its low production cost rather than its quality. A word to prospective producers of slasher movies; think how much more profitable your movies would be if you threw a well-scripted, well-executed movie with exciting murder scenes on top of the breasts and lingerie? This movie demonstrates that the market is there for it. Now we just need some filmmakers to deliver on it; unfortunately, these didn’t.

WHY RENT THIS: Some nice scares and a couple of really well-done murders. It’s nice to see Fisher onscreen, even though it’s in a role that’s clearly beneath her.  

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: The concept has been done to death and the movie doesn’t particularly bring anything new to the table. While there are a few good scares, mostly it’s just gruesome.

FAMILY VALUES: Lots of violence, plenty of gore, sexuality and nudity, foul language, teen drinking – pretty much the whole gamut.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Rosman College, the setting for the movie, is named for Mark Rosman, who wrote and directed the 1983 original and is an executive producer on this film.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $27.2M on a $12.5M production budget; the movie was profitable.

FINAL RATING: 4/10

TOMORROW: The Mechanic (2011)