Posted January 12, 2011 by David Watson in DVD/Blu-ray
 
 

Wake Wood


How
many times have you watched the good guys defeat Freddy, Jason, Chuckie
or Michael Myers only for them to come back to life in the final act?
And how many times did Christopher Lee’s Dracula or Peter Cushing’s
Victor Frankstein meet grisly ends only to rise from the grave in the
next film, seeking blood and vengeance?

Well, like the best movie monsters, British horror institution (But who
wants to live in an institution? Wocka wocka wocka…) Hammer Films is
back from the dead. Last year they gave us their actually pretty damn
good remake of Let The Right One In (Let Me In) which
transposed the original’s chilly take on the vampire myth to a wintry
New Mexico. This year, so far, they’ve given us the tedious Hilary
Swank-starring, hermaphrodite-in-peril flick The Resident, a typically redundant exercise in American twaddle, and they’re currently shooting Susan Hill’s pant-wetter The Woman in Black with Daniel Radcliffe. Sandwiched between the two is their first homegrown (well Irish at least) scary movie.

Devastated by the brutal death of their young daughter Alice (Ella Connolly) at the jaws of a dangerous dog, vet Patrick (Aidan Gillen) and wife Louise (Eva Birthistle)
move to the isolated country town of Wake Wood. For Patrick, it’s a
chance for a fresh start; a new job, new town, the chance to save his
dying marriage. Louise however, is still consumed by grief, a hollow
shell of the woman she used to be. But as they settle into village life
they start to notice there’s something weird about Wake Wood. The locals
have strange traditions, practice pagan rituals, the reanimated
recently dead are trying on sunglasses in Louise’s chemist shop and it
isn’t long before village elder Arthur (Timothy Spall! Yup, you
read that right, Timothy Spall) makes Louise and Patrick an offer that
seems too good to be true: he can give Alice back to them, raise her
from the dead, give them the chance to say goodbye. But, like all good
horror stories, there are conditions: Alice has to have been dead less
than a year, she can’t leave the boundaries of Wake Wood and after three
days she has to go back into the ground. Naturally, they jump at the
chance to have their daughter back but when her three days are up Alice
isn’t keen on dying again…

Yet another variation on W.W. Jacobs’ The Monkey’s Paw, Wake Wood is entirely predictable (it almost exactly replicates every beat of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary) but enjoyable fun. It’s an oft-told tale but in Wake Wood
it’s told extremely well. The bleak, rural setting gives the story a
real sense of place, creating a cloying atmosphere of building dread and
there are obvious nods to The Wicker Man in the films pagan
scenes (no nudie dancing) though some of that film’s black humour would
have been welcome. Keating’s direction is tight and assured and the
performances are uniformly good though Timothy Spall’s ‘Oirish’ accent
is right up there with the worst ever committed to celluloid (think Sean
Connery in Darby O’Gill and the Little People or, gasp, the horror of Tommy Lee Jones in Blown Away),
he’s obviously having great fun as the benevolent pagan elder, his
performance staying just the right side of camp. Ella Connolly is
creepily effective as the film’s creepy kid, metrosexual Aidan Gillen,
while never quite exorcising the ghost of Stuart in Queer as Folk
is good in the slightly thankless role of Patrick and Eva Birthistle’s
Louise is a subtle portrait of a woman consumed by grief and longing.

Gruesome and low-key, Wake Wood is a refreshingly enjoyable little chiller with a killer final twist.


David Watson

 
David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com