DIR: David Keating • WRI: David Keating, Brendan McCarthy • PRO: Brendan McCarthy, John McDonnell • DOP: Chris Maris • ED: Tim Murrell •DES: John Hand • CAST: Aidan Gillen, Eva Birthistle, Ruth McCabe, Timothy Spall, Ella Connolly
One of the first films to fly the newly reformed Hammer banner, Wake Wood is an Irish horror film quite unlike any you’ve seen before. In a lot of ways, it can be accused of being a magpie, picking little bits from other movies but the big picture can only be described as a true original.
The story sees a young couple, David and Louise devastated by the death of their daughter Alice who, in a horribly disturbing scene, is mauled to death by a dog. They move to the small rural town of Wake Wood, where David gets a job as the local vet to a town full of farmers. Soon after they move to the town they notice strange things happening and unusual behaviour within the community. After accidentally witnessing a ritual involving farm machinery, blood-letting and rebirth, they realise that there’s more to this town than meets the eye. They are told that the ritual can bring someone back from the dead but only for three days and the dead person must be dead less than a year. Despite the fact that Alice is dead a little longer than that they take their chances and go ahead with the ritual. As expected, things don’t go as planned for the reunion with their daughter.
The most memorable thing about this film is its very visceral use of gore. The deaths her are all painful to behold (especially unpleasant is a farmer being crushed by a bull) and the detailed look at the machinations of the ritual is commendable and my favourite part of the film.
The chemistry between David (Gillen) and Louise (Birthistle) leaves a lot to be desired and the breakdown between them feels slightly contrived but the film is at its strongest when exploring the supporting characters such as the evil-eyed Peggy O’Shea (Ruth McCabe) and the creepy ringleader Arthur (Timothy Spall). The supporting cast are wonderful and Ella Connolly does a great job with the dual task of charming us and scaring the pants off us.
From the genuinely disturbing imagery to the inner domestic strife, this film is unsettling throughout. David Keating’s direction doesn’t mean to make us jump, it dares us to keep watching. I must say I was distracted by the film’s tendency to indulge in homage to other films a bit too much, particularly Don’t Look Now and Pet Sematary but there is plenty to enjoy in this solid horror film. It is action packed and the special effects are top-notch. If you enjoy a good splatterfest then this will be for you. However, if you like your horror films subtle then perhaps avoid Wake Wood.
IFCO website for details)
Wake Wood is released on 25th March 2011