Wake Wood Reviews
A better than most family based horror from the new hands of Hammer horror. The great Tim Spall in a fairly decent in terms of screen time support role elevates the film by some margin, and even though the main line up isn't quite up to his standard I still found this to be a stronger film than I was first expecting. What this also has over many films of this type is quite a high level of blood and gore, plus it's entertaining, not that badly made considering the all too clear lowish budget. Overall the gore is there, it's watchable, it's not over-long, there's plenty fun to be had, and of course there's Mr Spall making this a better film than first assumed.
WRITTEN BY: Brendan McCarthy
DIRECTED BY: David Keating
FEATURING: Aidan Gillen, Eva Birthistle, Timothy Spall, Ella Connolly, Ruth McCabe, Brian Gleeson, Amelia Crowley, Dan Gordon
RATING: 6 PINTS OF BLOOD
PLOT: The distraught parents of a dead girl bring her back to life in a gruesome Celtic ritual. What could possibly go wrong?
COMMENTS: Hammer is back. After presenting the 20 episode Beyond The Grave web series in 2008, the studio is making a gradual return to feature length motion pictures with the 2010 Let Me In, and in 2011, The Resident (formerly reviewed here.) Hammer's latest release is a reanimation tale called Wake Wood.
In Wake Wood, grieving parents Patrick and Louis (Aidan Gillen and Eva Birthistle), of a dead child (Ella Connolly), move to a spooky Irish backwater hamlet (really, since the 1973 movie The Wicker Man, with which every single movie set anywhere in the UK and featuring any smattering of paganism or witchcraft is compared, is there any other kind?) Of course the locals seem a bit odd. That's de riguer in a horror story about outsiders relocating to an off-the-charts remote village. But these locals really are a bit odd. Some of them are dead -and reanimated! Patrick and Louise don't know this yet, but they figure it out after observing some residents' strange behaviors and then spying on a gruesome pagan reanimation ritual. Despondent and morose beyond reason, the couple jumps for the brass coffin ring when their neighbors offer them an opportunity to bring back their deceased Alice.
And what more appropriate setting for such a thing? Wake Wood is a
loamy, rainy agrarian community, dotted with spinning wind turbines, awash with themes of rotating cycles and both the metaphorical and literal blood of birth and death. There is the sowing and scything of crops, livestock deliveries and slaughterings, the turning of the seasons which are the only markers for the passage of time for an insular population so tied to the land that they never leave the community for any reason. This foreboding, soaking countryside, saturated in perpetual overcast, gloomily roots itself in a two thousand year heritage of bloody Celtic sacrament. It's within this chilly ambiance that Patrick and Louise proceed in shocking style, robbing their daughter's grave to snatch bits of her decayed flesh required for the ceremony. They brace themselves for little Alice's rebirth following her reformative incubation inside the partially barbecued corpse of a freshly dead field hand.
There's just one hitch.
Little Alice isn't quite right.
Some small detail of the formula went awry, a miniscule snag in the threads of the veil between this world and the next has thrown Alice's resurrection askew. While the fault is not immediately apparent, it spreads its icy fingers asunder like a fracture on a frozen lake, and soon both Alice's parents and everybody in Wake Wood Finds themselves on thin ice.
Wake Wood doesn't break new ground. Eva Birthistle is already a veteran to the cinema of juvenile transgression, having starred in the 2008 movie, The Children (previously reviewed here) about kids gone homicidally insane. Wake Wood's central concept bears a strong resemblance to Pet Sematery (1989), in which the planned reanimation of a lost toddler goes horribly awry, to the 1973 Don't Look Now, about a troubled couple's contact with their young daughter on the other side of the grave, and to Grace (2009) about a failed pregnancy and a putrescent infant with a thirst for blood. Wake Wood brings its own Gothically visceral obliquity to the concept. It strength lies in not getting bogged down in how or why, focusing instead on consequence, and the conflicts arising when those involved try to overcome them. Wake Wood accomplishes this end with every bit of corpse-crunching sepulchral grisliness that you expect from a Hammer production, before topping itself with a delightfully perverse twist, as morbid as bloody icing on a funeral cake.
A fairly young couple moves to a small town call Wake Wood with their daughter. Their daughter is a happy go lucky girl and the family seems to be blending into the neighborhood well. Just as their hope rises for a successful family life, a dog appears and mauls the girl to death. The parents discover a dark secret within the town, they know how to bring the dead back to life, but it comes with a price. Will the parents pay that price and what will be the impact of resurrecting their little girl?
"She's just on loan."
David Keating, director of The Last of the High Kings, Where Do I Begin, and KM 64: Birth of a Skatepark, delivers Wake Wood. The storyline for this picture is very compelling due to the desperate nature of the parents; however, the premise is definitely stolen from the King masterpiece, Pet Cemetery. The kill scenes are well done but there isn't much horror here. The acting is better than average and the cast includes Aidan Gillen, Eva Birthistle, Timothy Spall, and Brian Gleeson.
"I tried to warn you there'd be consequences."
I watched this off Netflix recently with my girlfriend because we enjoy horror flix. This was fairly average with great characters and a solid script. The premise wasn't unique enough for me to score this higher, but I can tell you this film is pretty well done and is definitely worth a viewing. I recommend watching this if you're a fan of the genre.
"For this to work, we need a body."
David Keating has made just two feature films in his career to date, the 1996 dramedy Last of the High Kings and the 2010 supernatural thriller Wake Wood. You're already spanning a whole lot of genre there (and that's not counting the two documentaries he made between). He seems to handle everything with equal aplomb; while Wake Wood is not a little derivative of a couple of previous movies (more on that later), it's stylish and fun, not to mention put on by as crack a team of players as one is likely to find in one place.
Plot: Patrick (Game of Thrones' Aidan Gillen), a veterinarian, and his wife Louise (The Children's Eva Birthistle) are still mourning the death of their daughter Alice (Eliot and Me's Ella Connolly in her screen debut) at the jaws of a dog under Patrick's care when he shutters his existing practice and relocates to the isolated farm town of Wake Wood. Things are going along well, but the family remain unable to get around their grief. They discover that Wake Wood is hiding a secret?given the right set of circumstances, it is possible to bring back a dead person to be reunited with his or her loved ones for three days. Alice is ready to go ahead immediately, but Patrick has reservations?if losing the girl was bad the first time, how much worse might it be on Alice's fragile psyche a second time?
There is more to it than that, but you're getting well into spoiler territory at that point (reading the IMDB boards will easily turn up what happens if you're so inclined). The movie plays like a combination of Pet Sematary (the supernatural element) and Don't Look Now (the wife being constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown?and we note in passing that Eva Birthistle has really bad luck with kids, at least on celluloid). Because of that, well, most of the twists and turns in the script are going to seem somewhat familiar. Where Keating and screenwriter Brendan McCarthy shine is in giving these familiar paths some interesting new greenery for the wanderer to peruse. (You'll not soon forget the birth scene.) Sometimes that's enough, and while the plot elements of the film are easily traced to other relatively recent movies (though at this point, well, Pet Sematary is almost thirty years old and Don't Look Now turned forty last year), I don't think you could call the plot elements McCarthy borrowed from either cliché yet. For some people that's not enough, and if that's you, well, okay, give this one a miss. But I think you're missing out; this is an amazing cast (I didn't even get to mention one of my favorite actors, Timothy Spall, who plays the town elder, nor Briain Gleeson, Brendan's son, an apple who definitely didn't fall far from the tree, Philomena's Ruth McCabe is the village wise woman, and I could go on all day) with an interesting, and slick, tale to tell. ***