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Eden Lake

Posted on December 16, 2015

Eden Lake (2008): Folk Horror For A Disenchanted World


Eden Lake, released in 2008 and directed by James Watkins, has been generally classified as “hoodie horror”—a British sub-genre that exploits middle-class fear of hoodie-wearing, underclass youth.[i]  Mark Featherstone aptly describes the way in which “feral youth” become stand-ins for the “poor or underclass,” forming the central “evil other” of “hoodie horror.”[ii] While there is no doubt that Eden Lake is indeed hoodie horror, the film also borrows liberally from folk horror.[iii]

1. Eden Lake, kids

The film follows Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and Steve (Michael Fassbender) as they travel to Eden Lake, a beautiful natural space that Steve frequented as a child but which is about to be converted, as the billboard tells us, to “a secure gated community of fifty superior New England homes.” Jenny and Steve have a couple of encounters with young hooligans on bikes, who then appear almost uncannily right beside them on Eden Lake’s beach. One thing leads to another and soon Jenny and Steve, trapped in the woods, are being hunted by the increasingly menacing children.

Adam Scovell has laid out the principal elements of folk horror on his website, Celluloid Wicker Man—and Eden Lake unambiguously exemplifies three of the four characteristics he identifies. It is set in a lush natural landscape; Jenny and Steve become isolated, removed from their familiar urban environment; and they soon realize with horror that they are beset by characters whose moral beliefs are at best bewilderingly skewed, at worst entirely absent.

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