Star - Timothy Spall
Genre - Horror
Run Time - 90 minutes
Certificate - PG13
Country - United Kingdom
Awards - 1 Wins 0 (4 nominations)
Amazon DVD - £4.00 DVD
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Wake Wood sees the return of the mighty Hammer House of Horror to the genre, hopefully more successful than the return of the Carry On franchise. Problem is they are no longer mighty and so their film only able to be as bold and grand as the small office they are no doubt working out of on some grotty North London Industrial Estate. Although the broadsheet critics were relatively positive about Wake Wood and Hammers return the fans were clearly not, the disparity of the Rottentomatoes.com critics giving it a ripe 80% approval rating to the websites users embarrassing 'splat' of just 38%, evidence of, which is a little harsh as it's really not that bad.
For me a good horror film doesn't have to be scary or bloody to be a hit but original, creepy and atmospherically shot, lifting you out of your comfort zone. It needs that increased heart rate and ethereal quality. Hollywood is obsessed with slasher movies stacked full of busty blondes and handsome jocks killed in order of cool and so any change is good from that tiring cliché. Apart from Cabin in the Woods they haven't made a horror film I like since Jeepers Creepers. At least Wake Wood is unconventionally fresh and leaves you guessing.
Aidan Gillen ... Patrick
Eva Birthistle ... Louise
Timothy Spall ... Arthur
Ella Connolly ... Alice
Ruth McCabe ... Peggy O'Shea
Brian Gleeson ... Martin O'Shea
Amelia Crowley ... Mary Brogan
Dan Gordon ... Mick O'Shea
Tommy McArdle ... Tommy
John McArdle ... Ben
Aoife Meagher ... Deirdre
Young professional couple Patrick (Aidan Gillen) and Louise (Eva Birthistle) have had their life blown apart, their young daughter Alice (Ella Connolly) killed in a tragic accident. Now childless they relocate to Wake Wood, he the local vet, she the local chemist. Their relationship is strained a year on and just waiting for the split to come. The villagers are politely welcoming but occasionally aloof.
When Louise finally decides to leave Patrick her car breaks down just on the edge of the village. As night falls she walks back to the house through the Gothic fields and witnesses a barbaric and bloody Pagan ritual in a nearby farm, but Louise unseen by the perpetrators.
The next day at work she notices other strange things going on in town and a conversation with locals Peggy (Ruth McCabe) and Martin (Brian Gleeson) O'Shea reveal darker Pagan secrets, resulting in the revelation that there are powers beyond which Louise understands going on in Wake Wood, Peggy claiming, no less, that Pagans in the village can bring back little Alice to life. Louise wants to believe, why wouldn't you when your kid has gone forever, why most women believe in ghosts.
But for this to happen she must meet the most powerful man in the village, local farmer Arthur (Timothy Spall), the one leading the macabre ritual she witnessed before. For the ritual to happen he demands a fresh dead body, rather conveniently a local farmer meeting a timely and gruesome end at the rump of a disturbed cow and so the time is soon. When Patrick begrudgingly agrees to support this wife in this outlandish ceremony, perhaps in the hope it will help him to win her back, things get very weird and occult indeed. Arthur demands Louise and Patrick bring something very personal to that ceremony and they strictly follow the rules of which they are asked. If they do they will get little Alice back, but for only 5 days...after which she must return to where she came and the parents never allowed to leave Wake Wood there after for their gift.
Well, I quite liked this guys and a good sign the Hammer people have got some new ideas in their heads after the long break, if not the budget. I suspect it suffered early on with the cinema audience, as it's not a multiplex film in any way, very much a straight-to-video horror but in a positive way. You can certainly see that this type of date comedy horror will suffer now that Blockbusters has gone under and will struggle to find platform to release on. The Americans own most of the multiplexes here are only going to stuff their listings full of American blockbusters and romcoms.
I think the problem with the critics here is that the comedy appears not deliberate and the horror situations create the comedy. But I quite like the ideas around Pagan rebirth explored and Wake Wood does have echoes of the old 1970s Hammer Horror in that unique British horror genre way in style and atmosphere. The camera work uses the flickering shadows and suspicious and secretive locals thing well and a touch of the Wickerman and Straw dogs here. The central ideas of rebirth are creepy and done well, special effects wise, and Timothy Spall ghoulish enough to believe in as the role of the chief Pagan. The rest of the cast are two dimensional and aloof in the way they need to be in this genre and the actors playing the young couple perfectly fine, bridging that emotion of fear of the unknown but prepared to risk all for the love of their child.
The film moves forward nicely and the intrigue of how the kid can come back to life gripping, squelchy and crude in the horror traditions of the Faustian-pact. A foreboding soundtrack and spooky village add to the tension and although the humor subtle and occasionally not meant you do giggle as much as you admire the edge here. For me its well worth a look and an escape from that well worn horror cliché, enough good and creepy scenes to say Hammer are indeed back. It's no Wickerman, that I would agree, but not bad all the same.
Imdb.com - 5.5/10.0 (4,872votes)
Metacrtic.com - % critic's approval
Rottentomatos.com - 80% critic's approval
Little White Lies -'A creepy, poignant story of life and death which surprises with the strength of its ideas'
This is London -'Low expectations are the key to enjoying Wake Wood. You have been warned'.
Radio times -'A compelling twist on the Faustian-pact dilemma that builds to a truly memorable, if starkly horrifying, ending'.
The Mail -'The film cleverly brings together WW Jacobs's celebrated short story The Monkey's Paw with The Wicker Man, and it's both touching and scary'.
Daily Mirror -'Thoroughly unsettling from start to finish, Wake Wood will please horror fans with its muted palette, ominously creepy atmosphere and neat nods to the best of 70s British horror'.
Shadows on the Wall -'With deliberate echoes of classic Hammer horror, this moody and inventive thriller gets under our skin with its deeply personal plot, which pays as much attention to horror as emotion.
Total Film -'The biggest surprise is not that it's hair-raising, but that it's heart-rending too.'
Independent 'The enveloping creepiness of the village setting scores points, which the film proceeds to squander in careless plotting, imprecise effects and a denouement of arrant silliness'.
Movie Metropolis -'Wake Wood at least shows that Hammer is ready to be a player again in the field of horror'.
RELEASED: 2010, Cert. 18
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 90 mins
DIRECTOR: David Keating
PRODUCERS: Brendan McCarthy & John McDonnell
SCREENPLAY: Brendan McCarthy & David Keating
MUSIC: Michael Convertino
Eva Birthistle as Louise
Aidan Gillen as Patrick
Elia Connolly as Alice
Timothy Spall as Arthur
FILM ONLY REVIEW
When Louise and Patrick's daughter Alice is killed after being savaged by a dog, they move to the tiny village of Wake Wood where Louise takes a job at the local chemist and Patrick joins the vet practice which also caters for the farming community.
There are some weird people in Wake Wood, and through them, Louise and Patrick discover that with the help of Arthur, a rather odd local man who appears to be some kind of unspoken leader in the community, they can arrange to have their daughter brought to life again and be with them for three days only. Arthur informs them that in order to qualify, various rules and regulations must be strictly adhered to.
Desperate to have their daughter alive and close to them again, even if only for three days, Louise and Patrick tell Arthur a little white lie which contravenes his rules, and they pay a high price for the consequences, as when Alice comes to life, she turns out to not be the daughter they loved and remember.
After having read some internet reviews on Wake Wood and generally being a fan of Irish films, I decided to see what it was all about, noting that people seem to have mixed feelings on its merits. It seems that the production was a joint Irish/Swedish effort, although the film is set in Ireland and with the exception of Timothy Spall, and as far as I can maintain, all of the actors are Irish.
Wake Wood starts off very well, with Patrick, Louise and their little daughter Alice enjoying some leisure time together. Alice runs off and is savaged by a large German shepherd dog....this scene is extremely well-filmed, and very disturbing to watch. Also, once Patrick and Louise move to Wake Wood after the horrible death of their daughter with Patrick becoming the local vet, there are a few scenes which jarred me, and I'm sure other prospective viewers would experience similar feelings to my own. These scenes largely revolve around Patrick being called upon to treat farm animals suffering from various maladies, and although of course it wasn't really happening, the use of camera angles and makeup looked extremely convincing. Perhaps I'm just squeamish!
The atmosphere throughout Wake Wood is strangely disturbing, and I found myself absorbing Patrick's and Louise's grief over losing their much-loved daughter. I can't say that the acting was above average in quality from any of the cast members, but the mood which pervades throughout the film is eerily sinister.
One thing which I found very distracting whilst trying to hook into and stay on the level with the storyline, was that I feel Timothy Spall, despite me overall having a strong admiration for him as an actor, was mis-cast as Arthur, the strange man who made it possible for Patrick and Louise to have their dead daughter back with them for three days. Spall attempted an Irish accent which sounded reasonably authentic for the most part, but he occasionally slipped out of vernacular, which rendered his role less convincing than it otherwise could have been. Also, regarding the way Spall was dressed, I couldn't get it out of my head that his appearance strongly resembled a cross between Van Morrison and Alfred Hitchcock!
I'd like to have seen a bit more depth from the characters of Patrick and Louise, although Elia Connolly was good as Alice and really cute, too. A couple of the secondary actors who played the parts of creepy villagers were also good, but I feel that the main cast fell down somewhat.
For me, the music to Wake Wood was borderline irritating, edging around the avant-garde and being quite percussive. A repetitive keyboard sound kept jangling on my nerves, and because of that, I'd have preferred it if there had been no music at all.
Wake Wood certainly is an unusual film with a storyline that is new to me, so it came across as original. The concept of bringing somebody back from the dead has been done before, but it is the way it happens in Wake Wood which is different. The story is very easy to follow and the sinister atmosphere has been very well created, plus there are a few parts where I did jump out of my skin....not over any of the horror elements contained within, but more where ordinary, everyday things happened with a suddenness that I found very jarring. I have noted that some people feel Wake Wood has strong similarities to the 1973 film The Wicker Man, but aside from both films being very similar in mood and atmosphere, that's as far as such went for me.
There is some violence in Wake Wood which is very well put across, being disturbingly graphic in nature, resulting in me having to turn my head away from the screen once or twice. However, this violence is of an incidental nature, not 'slasher' or sensationalist in content and although quite sickening here and there, is an essential part of the storyline.
I did very much like the contrast between the sinister atmosphere present throughout the film, and the tranquility of the beautiful rural Ireland location. I would like to have seen some Irish comprise part of the score, say for instance, for the makers of the film to have included perhaps a pub scene complete with a resident ceilidh band....that for me would have enhanced the Irishness of the film and created another contrast with the sinister elements.
All in all, I half enjoyed and half didn't enjoy Wake Wood. There was no problem with the overall concept of the storyline, but I felt the results of bringing Alice back to life could have taken a different, perhaps more subtle path. Also, I'd have preferred a different musical score or for it to be done away with altogether, for some of the acting to be sharpened up and the characters awarded more depth. However, there is no doubt about it that Wake Wood is different, and scores very high on the chill factor, exuding a creeping, sinister atmosphere which hung around me for quite a while after the film had finished. I did find the ending very disturbing for whatever reason, despite it being somewhat over the top.
I think Wake Wood may appeal to some fans of horror films, yet may bore others. There are stretches within which need some padding and expanded upon, but it has a decent build-up and scores ten out of ten on the chill factor scale. However, as a whole, I feel I can only award three stars....largely due to lack of depth regarding the key characters, Timothy Spall sometimes forgetting to put on his Irish accent, acting which could be sharpened up, the irritating music and one or two tiny holes in the plot. My commendations are specifically directed at the overall atmosphere and the unusual content, together with some of the more shocking scenes being very well put together. Even though I have mixed feelings about this film, it may come as a surprise to say that I possibly would like to watch it again some day, simply to re-absorb its overall chilling atmosphere.
Do I recommend Wake Wood? I'm stuck in the 'partly yes and partly no' camp, so I think it probably best to advise people to let their instincts guide them.
At the time of writing, Wake Wood can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £2.80 to £20.73
Used: from 8p to £10.00
Collectible: only two copies currently available @ £1.99 and £5.99 (both appear to be used)
Some items on Amazon are available for free delivery within the UK, but where this doesn't apply, a £1.26 charge should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
I am a massive Horror fan I could not wait to see the first Hammer Horror offering for 30 years so splashed out the £3.99 to watch Wake Wood on Virgin Media Movies on demand.
As a woman in her ahem 30's I was not around to appreciate Hammer Horror in it's time and although I enjoy a Hammer Horror I never really found them as scary as I am sure audiences at the time did. So I was intrigued to see if the legendary British Hammer studios could frighten the pants off a 21st century audience who had been introduced to Freddie Kreuger, The Blair Witch and Jigsaw since their last production.
Wake Wood is the story of a grieving couple Patrick (Aiden Gillen) and Louise (Eva Birthistle) who move to the rural Irish village of Wake Wood after the death of their 9 year old daughter Alice at the jaws of of mad dog. Whilst there the couple discover a strange Pagan ritual practised by the Wake Wood inhabitants which could see them re-united with their daughter for 3 days so that they can say a proper goodbye. I don't want to give anything away but as you would imagine things do not go exactly to plan.
I am sorry to say I found Wake Wood really disappointing. The story was very predictable with a sense that I had seen it all before. Within the first 30 minutes I knew exactly what was going to happen and the twist could be spotted a mile away.
The film deals with themes of birth and death displaying both as being as horrific as the other. The rural locations provide a very spooky setting it is all misty countryside and darkened woods so there is a some what scary atmosphere. The film has the traditional gore that you would expect from a Hammer Horror - Aiden Gillens character is a vet and there are some particularly gruesome scenes with animals. At one point Patrick has to delivery a calf by caesarean section and the noise the scalpel makes certainly made my toes curl. If you are a fan of blood and guts you will not be disappointed and the special effects are good if low budget.
I found that the lead characters were not very well developed so it was difficult to understand their actions or sympathise with them. There was very little chemistry between the leads which may have been more apparent due to the unavoidable comparison between them and the fantastic Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland in Don't Look Now. The child playing Alice does very well but her character does not come close to other children of horror such as the brilliant Esther in the Orphan. Timothy Spall also puts in a great performance as the strange community leader Arthur but unfortunately he cannot rescue what is essentially a poor script.
I am sure Hammer Horror aficionados will disagree but for me Wake Wood shows that Hammer have not really moved with the times. I would describe the film as The Wicker Man meets Pet Cemetery but it does not come close to being anywhere near as good as either.
Wake Wood 2011 is directed by David Keating