Wake Wood: Cinemas & DVD

Friday, 25 March 2011 10:56

Hammer Films, once a household name synonymous with great horror movies, are back! “Wake Wood” is their second release of 2011 (after “The Resident”), and it bears many of the hallmarks of classic Hammer features of the 1960s and 1970s. The film is a cross between “The Wicker Man” and “Pet Sematary”, steeped in Pagan rituals, sinister villagers and grief-stricken parents who dabble in dark arts, with dire consequences.

Patrick (Aidan Gillen – The Wire, Queer as Folk) and Louise (Eva Birthistle – Waking the Dead) lose their vivacious daughter Alice following a horrific dog attack. After relocating to the tranquil Irish village of Wake Wood, they stumble on a shocking, secret ritual being carried out by the villagers. It turns out to be a ceremony of rebirth and in spite of misgivings, the couple agrees to take part in the resurrection of their daughter.

Wake Wood on DVD - just after the Cinema releaseThere are several very serious rules that those taking part in the ritual must abide by. Firstly, the subject of the ceremony must have died within the last year. Secondly, they will only survive for three days. Thirdly, they must stay within the boundary of Wake Wood, which is helpfully demarcated by massive, whirring blade-like wind turbines.

Lastly, the remaining ‘life force’ and carcass of a recently deceased person must be used to breathe life back into the reborn person. Providing all parties adhere to these caveats, the resurrected person will come back with many of their old memories and provide a short window of opportunity for everyone involved to get some proper closure.

As this is a horror film, things go wrong. Very wrong.

“Wake Wood” does a remarkable job of honouring the Hammer name, somehow managing to resemble some of those tremendous gothic movies from decades ago, and yet introducing a more modern sensibility to proceedings to avoid appearing quaint and stale. This is in no small part thanks to the very grounded, believable pairing of Gillen and Birthistle. They look and feel like a real couple, and their actions and emotions generally remain realistic despite the fantastic premise of the film. Gillen has none of his standard cheesy smarm, and leaps into his role of a country vet with clear commitment.

The resurrection ritual itself is mercifully devoid of over the top whizzes and bangs that could have tested our suspension of disbelief. Rather, it is an organic, grizzly affair that troubles the mind as much as it inspires wonder.

Timothy Spall’s Arthur, ringmaster if you will, ensures that the whole process takes place with an air of solemnity and respect for both the victim and the resurrected, as well as for the unknowable supernatural forces involved. It is refreshing to see Spall (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, “The King’s Speech”) take on such an understated, subtly menacing role and it would have been so easy for him to ham it up.

Unfortunately for screenplay writer and director David Keating (“The Last of the High Kings”), things do go off the rails a bit in the final quarter of the movie, when the cause, and nature, of the catastrophe becomes fully apparent. The acting demands placed on Connolly prove too much, though the sudden rush of deaths at the end is also to blame.

For such a subtle film to suddenly feel the need to go all-out on gore simply feels wrong. This is definitely a case where less blood and violence would almost certainly have resulted in a more measured and harder-hitting film. Fortunately, what comes before the dénouement is well-acted and intriguing enough to make this a movie worth watching, especially for Hammer fans who want to see how their beloved label fits into a modern world.

The special features on the disc include some deleted scenes, a solid 20-minute interview featurette and a couple of decent trailers that are sure to draw you in!

“Wake Wood” (2011) is released in cinemas now, and on DVD on 28 March 2011, courtesy of Momentum Pictures. The main feature has a total running time of 90 minutes approx, carries an ‘18’ certificate and retails for £15.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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