On Halloween 2008, James Watkins’ horror characteristic Eden Lake was launched to little fanfare. A British tackle the “backwoods” horror movie (suppose Deliverance or Mistaken Flip), it was simply one among a swathe of low-budget horrors being produced at the moment.
Critic MJ Simpson recognized Eden Lake as exemplary of the British horror revival, which started within the late Nineties after a interval of relative quiet. Following the demise of horror behemoth Hammer Studios within the Nineteen Seventies and sustained assaults from censors and the federal government on excessive cinema all through the late twentieth century (reaching their peak in the course of the “video nasties” panic), British horror had struggled to get well its footing.
Nonetheless, the brand new millennium, together with high-profile releases like Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002) and Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Lifeless (2004), galvanised British horror. Consequently, productions giant and small proliferated all through the 2000s.
Eden Lake turned the primary of a collection of “hoodie horrors”, which carefully examined Britain’s relationship to, and reliance upon, a deeply entrenched class system. This was the time of Tony Blair’s Labour authorities and its powerful insurance policies on delinquent behaviour that focused the younger and the poor.
Different “hoodie horrors” adopted, together with Assault the Block (2011) and Citadel (2012). Nonetheless, whereas these movies focus particularly on the city panorama, discovering horror inside Britain’s oft-vilified council estates, Eden Lake is extra all for revisiting (and maybe compounding) the horror style’s widespread, and deeply derogatory, illustration of the agricultural poor.
In 2021, the Labour occasion are as soon as once more turning in the direction of insurance policies that present that they’re powerful on crime and hard on delinquent behaviour, whereas the federal government lately unveiled a “Beating Crime” technique as a part of its coverage to “stage up” the nation. As such, this Halloween is an apt time to revisit Eden Lake and its “hoodie horror” friends, to analyze how the style at giant mines the British class system to frighten audiences.
Tony Blair’s Asbos
Tony Blair supported the anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) in 1998 as a part of his “respect” agenda. The Asbo supposedly labored as a pre-emptive measure, figuring out and punishing delinquent behaviour earlier than it graduated to criminality. However the variety of Asbos issued rose yearly, and dramatically, in the course of the early 2000s, they usually quickly turned synonymous with younger, working-class males specifically.
Within the decade main as much as Eden Lake’s 2008 launch, the hope and optimism that had accompanied the election of New Labour in 1997 had dramatically dissipated. The Asbos and the “respect agenda” had been a part of this, sowing new seeds of division throughout folks from totally different lessons. Individuals who might need come collectively below the Blairite messages of group and unity had been now turning towards one another.
As sociologist Imogen Tyler suggests, many sides of the Blairite “respect” agenda bolstered the concept Britain’s poor existed exterior of the accepted social order. The picture of the delinquent, hood-clad teenager captured the general public creativeness and labored its method into horror cinema by way of movies like Eden Lake.
Watkins portrays such working-class exclusion fairly actually within the movie. The younger, working-class antagonists occupy the outer edges of a rural backwater, remoted from the prosperous metropolis inside which the movie’s entitled protagonists reside.
Distinction this with different “hoodie horror” movies, corresponding to The Disappeared (2008), Tower Block (2011) and Neighborhood (2012), which characterize the working-class house as a sort of city “border-zone”. It’s a location that exists inside an in any other case prosperous, middle-class cityscape; but it’s aggressively maligned and separated from the broader locale by way of each bodily and imagined boundaries. It’s also dogged by perceptions of menace and hazard.
But whereas Eden Lake is ready in a unique context, the illustration of working-classness usually are not too dissimilar. Right here, the countryside backwater additionally displays and amplifies the “real-world” criminalisation of the younger working-class. The youths reside right here in an untamed house the place the order of the town is seemingly nowhere to be discovered.
Straight from the headlines
By 2008, the Asbo had turn into shorthand for the poorly behaved, criminally inclined working lessons within the British press. Together with the liberal use of phrases corresponding to “chav” and “hoodie”, the media brazenly stoked the fires of sophistication contempt in post-millenium Britain. And as “hoodies” started showing with alarming regularity inside the British horror canon, these figures had been typically unambiguously coded as evil – at finest as delinquent youngsters and, at worst, as actually inhuman, as in Heartless (2009).
Watkins mines the identical tabloid rhetoric in characterising his monsters – a gaggle of working-class youngsters (all however one among them boys) whose supposedly inherent delinquency escalates to horrific, wicked violence because the movie progresses. In pitting an aspirational middle-class couple, Steve and Jenny, towards this group of aggressively delinquent youths, Eden Lake’s antagonists seem to have leapt immediately from a tabloid headline onto the display screen.
Watkins does try, albeit weakly, to problem such a simplistic understanding of the movie’s illustration of sophistication. As tensions rise between Steve, Jenny and the younger folks, we see gentrification and disenfranchisement in motion.
Steve and Jenny, of their flashy automotive and their designer sun shades, don’t unwittingly trespass upon working-class house. Quite, they occupy this house with the arrogance of people that’ve by no means needed to justify their presence wherever. Certainly, they really feel fully entitled to demand that the youngsters vacate the house, in order that they could get pleasure from it with out interruption.
Such a request betrays ignorance or denial of the working class’s proper to house – to assert it or to belong in it. Their makes an attempt to observe and proper the behaviour of the youngsters present the catalyst for a collection of more and more violent and ugly acts of vengeance from each events. This ends in a movie whose stance on class and violence is barely extra ambiguous than it first appears as Jenny and Steve additionally act violently in the direction of the youngsters, and are not easy victims.
That’s to not say the movie tries too laborious to elicit any sort of sympathy for its younger working-class antagonists. The group exhibit all of the stereotyped behaviours of “hoodies” from the outset – from blaring loud music to theft and property harm. Watkins has nonetheless borrowed closely from the Blairite definition of “delinquent”.
Regardless of its more and more unlikeable protagonists, Watkins finally trades too enthusiastically on the stereotypes of “hoodies” to meaningfully critique unfair perceptions of them – as do many different “hoodie horrors”. No matter ambiguity Watkins goals to domesticate fails. In the long run, Eden Lake doesn’t provide an exploration of Britain’s entrenched classism, however somewhat turns into an opportunistic exploitation of it.
Lauren Stephenson doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that will profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.