Last night I watched a recent supernatural horror film from the Hammer Films stable. An Irish / British co-production released in 2011, “Wake Wood” was directed by David Keating (“Cherry Tree”, “The Last Of The High Kings”) from a story penned by Brendan McCarthy.
As the movie opens the action switches between watching a couple driving in their car through the countryside to a small town called Wakewood and to seeing flashbacks of their daughter’s birthday.
Alice (Ella Connolly – “Eliot & Me”) goes to feed a dog in the backyard at her father’s veterinary practice on her way to school on her birthday, only to be savagely attacked and killed by the dog.
Her parents Patrick (Aidan Gillen – “Still”, “Game Of Thrones”) and Louise (Eva Birthistle – “Waking The Dead”, “The Last Kingdom”) are devastated at the loss of their only child and some months afterwards they up-sticks and move to Wakewood.
While Louise works in the local chemists Patrick works as a rural vet for Arthur (Timothy Spall – “Mr. Turner”, “The Damned United”), undertaking most of the farm visits etc.
Still struggling with their grief and loss, things are difficult for the couple, and when Louise becomes unnerved by a couple of things she notices about some of the locals she decides she wants to leave and asks Patrick to take her to the station.
On their way the car mysteriously malfunctions and the pair stumble across open fields until they find themselves at Arthur’s farmhouse. With no answer at the door Louise goes to check the yard, where she witnesses a strange and disturbing ritual taking place.
Following an accident where a farmer is killed by his bull, witnessed by both Patrick and Louise, the couple decide that the town is not for either of them – until Arthur tells them that he can bring a person back from the dead for three days, and will do so with Alice so that they can see her again and say goodbye properly.
There are some conditions attached, however. The body must have been in the ground for less than a year, they cannot leave the border of the town (marked by remarkably sinister wind turbines) during the three days and the couple must stay permanently in Wakewood thereafter. Patrick and Louise eagerly agree but are less than honest about one of the details necessary for the process to work smoothly.
Alice is reborn in the ritual that Louise had earlier spied and the couple are overjoyed. But gradually it becomes clear that things are not what they should have been and that their little white lie may be more costly than they could have ever imagined…
This film tells a folk horror tale which is similar in ways to the likes of “The Wicker Man” and “The Blood On Satan’s Claw” with aspects of paganism, sacrifice and ritual, not to mention seemingly odd locals in a remote location. There are also parallels to be made with Stephen King’s “Pet Semetary” but I felt that this movie, a low-budget affair, was different enough to stand on its own merits.
A genuinely creepy affair with some rather gruesome moments and a neat twist or two at its conclusion, this is a great film from the resurrected Hammer Films studio. Great stuff…