Eden (2013)


USA; Megan Griffiths

Mature Audiences - Strong Bloody Violence; Language; Sexuality; Drug Content



Based on a true story, the film follows a young Korean-American girl, Hyun-Jae (Jamie Chang), abducted in a bar and forced into prostitution, sex slavery and pornography at the hands of domestic human traffickers. Renamed Eden and placed under the auspices of a manic, bug-eyed and brutal drug addict, Vaughn (Matt O’Leary), she joins forces with her captors in a desperate bid to find her way out of the horror. In no time she becomes Vaughn’s protégée, but Eden is only too aware that her fight for survival is far from coming to an end and gets tighter every day. 


Griffith’s movie is hardly going to revolutionize cinema, but Eden is a compassionate, forceful and gripping endeavor. Fraught with horror and driven by Jamie Chang’s thin-skinned, affecting performance, this drills under the skin and stays there.


As Eden’s ghastly story unfolds, Griffith sets out to spare us the details of her ordeal; but although much less graphic and disturbing than expected, the film has the potential to shock and chill you to the morrow. Eden builds a horrifying universe that feels real and believable to its core, and the girls’ routine, as well as Jae traumatizing first experiences, are capture in excruciating, grinding detail. But the first act never quite feels satisfying enough, crippled by stereotyped characters, a lingering sense of déjà-vu  and the filmmaking’s hesitant aesthetical choices. Only by the second act, Jae and her prime tormentor individualize and the film rides on their twisted, strained relationship; from their uncomfortable chemistry stems both bitter, quirky humor and lacerating drama. The vulnerable, scarred Jae never transmogrifies into a vengeful dame, and is driven by a mechanical instinct of survival. Vaughn the deranged sadist is so damaged and lost as to be almost pitiable, but O’Leary effort is amazingly, compulsively watchable, drifting with a frightening glibness from walking nightmare to miserable, lonesome kid. 


As a whole, Eden might not be as eloquent and universal as one would hope, but it has moments of pure, chilling brilliance and a gritty edge that won’t leave you unscathed. A monstrous story, not exactly boldly told, but ringing with all the dread and horror of Jae’s situation; and first of all, an upsetting, horrific and nerve-lacerating story of survival, playing out both as a dark human drama and a gripping thriller.




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