Director – David Keating
Cast – Aidan Gillen, Eva Birthistle, Timothy Spall, Ella Connolly, Ruth McCabe, Brian Gleeson, Amelia Crowley, Dan Gordon
Release Year – 2011
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I heard some good remarks about Wake Wood last year, but reviews from reviewers I trust made the film out to be a decent watch, which turned out to be exactly the way I felt about this one. The storyline is an original one that I very much appreciated in this convoluted genre, giving us good horror in a pagan package. Of course, the storyline also held the film back at times, compounded by bipolar execution that was sometimes great and sometimes far from it – keeping this low-budget Hammer Films effort from reaching the potential it could and should have attained.
Months after the death of their young daughter at the bites of a rabid dog, the still-grieving veterinarian Patrick and pharmacist Louise move to the small town of Wake Wood in an attempt to escape the sadness associated with their old lives. Soon after their arrival they learn of a pagan ritual that will allow them to spend three days with their deceased daughter – an offer that sickens them but at the same time is too tempting for them to turn down. Eager to be reunited with their resurrected daughter, the inevitable question looms: what will happen when they have to give her back, because nothing in life is free…
I really enjoy horror films that focus on grief, and Wake Wood employs that tactic wonderfully as we follow these still-grieving parents who defy all logic and reason and take the plunge into an unfamiliar realm just to see their deceased daughter for three more days. The conflict and drama involved in the decision-making process was great, and watching them reunited with their daughter continued to play on the high level of emotion provided by this piece. Of course, this is not a fairy tale but a horror film, so you know there has to be a heavy price for what the parents did, but in addition to that the heavy price they pay is overshadowed by the fact that their daughter came out a bit…different. Soon after the initial greetings the townsfolk of Wake Wood, all involved in the resurrection process, notice that there is something not right with the girl – that something went wrong during her resurrection – and it not only comes back to haunt the townsfolk but her parents as well, in addition to their sacrifice. I found these elements to be very engaging and was even more engaged during the resurrection process, a sequence that left me applauding writers David Keating and Brendan McCarthy for its originality and horrific nature. Their storyline does suffer at times, slowing down and never fully delivering on the chaos that I wanted the young resurrected daughter, Alice, to deliver, but overall their storyline was one that I enjoyed.
David Keating also serves as the film’s director, and it was here where the flick was kept at bay and away from a positive rating. The film’s budget is low and the quality of Keating’s cinematography shows it, giving us mediocre camerawork and a gritty, unpolished tone that did not seem purposeful but inevitable given the budget. I tried not to let this turn me off and was glad to see that Keating’s execution of the horror was great, especially that resurrection scene, and he got the most he could out of a cast that did a decent job selling their performances and the horror associated with them. I did wish we were given more gore than what was shown, which happened to come via some cheap CGI FX, but given the low-budget I assume that was just not possible.
Overall, Wake Wood is a borderline-positive effort from Hammer Films that despite some good potential thanks to a great and fairly original storyline still suffers from several faults that held it back in the end.