3 out of 10
Release Date: 25th March 2011
Director: David Keating: (THE LAST OF THE HIGH KINGS)
Cast: Aiden Gillen, Eva Birthistle, Timothy Spall, Ella Connolly, Amelia Crowley and Ruth McCabe
Writer: Brendan McCarthy
Trailer: WAKE WOOD
Wake Wood was Hammer House of Horror‘s second official film since it was re-launched with Let Me In in early 2011. It was also the first release for the British wing of the brand. The Resident was the third and The Woman In Black was the fourth and most recent. Unfortunately, despite having a very spooky premise, Wake Wood is neutered by it’s execution. It has the worst cinematography I’ve ever seen in a studio film and the editing has been done with a rusty knife and fork. The sound is terrible and the majority of the acting looks like it was done in one take with no rehearsal. So how did this intriguing stinker with a good story get into the hands of this group of amateur prats? Looking back on the director’s credits I see he’s responsible for a pretty damn good coming of age tale called The Last Of The High Kings back in the late 1990s, so I’m at a loss at to how it’s come out this way.
The plot, as I said is great. A young couple, a vet, Padraig (AIDEN GILLEN – THE DARK KNIGHT RISES) and Louise, a pharmacist (EVA BIRTHISTLE – THE CHILDREN) move to the remote Irish village of Wake Wood to start again after the death of their 9 year old daughter, Alice (ELLA CONNOLLY). She was savaged by a neighbourhood dog. Their choice would seem to be coincidental but an introduction to the local squire, Arthur, another twisty, creepy turn by Timothy Spall (VANILLA SKY) gives them a chance to see Alice again. If their lost loved one has been in the ground less than twelve months, they can be returned, memories intact, for three days in order for the family to say goodbye properly. Once the child is back though, events don’t quite go to plan.
The ritual of bringing back the dead is imaginatively staged and interesting to watch (it’s probably the only reason to watch Wake Wood). Between this and Outcast, I think I’ll become an expert in the occult before too long. The dynamics of the return and some unusual rules are also adhered to and easy to follow, and believable for the storyline’s sake. However there is so much wrong with the film in other areas. The acting from all concerned is OK but everybody is let down by an undercooked script and scenes that seem chopped or badly assembled. Early scenes are rushed through at the expense of a suspenseful build-up. We get no sense of characterisation beyond a few lines that boldly underline that the mother can’t move on that she thinks her husband is trying to forget her. A bad soundtrack sounds pasted into the film with no thought for dramatic tension. On the whole Wake Wood feels like a rush job.
When the plot hits it’s stride and all it’s cards have been shown, a series of events are sellotaped together with no rhyme or reason. The motives or even plot dynamics become unclear. Has Ella returned to curse the village for disturbing the dead or is she a demonic killer. We do find out eventually but it’s badly structured and it’s clunky. The coda too is pretty insulting if the remaining characters are staying true to type.
3 out of 10 – A mixture of great ideas executed in such a fashion that it looks like a rush job. A film no one cared about therefore making it a very strange choice to launch the UK side of Hammer House of Horror again. It does have a better plot than The Woman In Black though but that had a comparatively huge budget to spend on production and people to hype it. A pity because it also serves a wasted opportunity as it’s a rare horror these days that comes with new ideas.
WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?
- Aiden Gillen: Maze Runner 2, Still, Calvary, Mister John, Game Of Thrones (TV), Shadow Dancer, The Dark Knight Rises, Treacle Jr, Blitz, Twelve Rounds, The Wire (TV), Shanghai Knights, The Low Down, Queer As Folk (TV), My Kingdom, Some Mother’s Son, Mojo, Circle Of Friends
- Eva Birthistle: Day of the Flowers, Waking The Dead (TV), The Children, Imagine Me & You, Breakfast On Pluto, Borstal Boy, Ae Fond Kiss
- Timothy Spall: Mr Turner, The Love Punch, The Rise, Love Bite, Ginger and Rosa, Comes a Bright Day, Harry Potter – parts 3 – 8, Reuniting The Rubins, The King’s Speech, Heartless, Alice In Wonderland (2011) (voice), Apaloosa, The Damned Utd, Sweeney Todd, Pierrepoint, Lemony Snickets Series of Unfortunate Events, The Last Samurai, Nicholas Nickleby (2002), All Or Nothing, Vanilla Sky, Rock Star, Lucky Break, Chicken Run (voice), Loves Labours Lost, Topsy Turvy, Still Crazy, Wisdom Of Crocodiles, Hamlet (1996), Secrets & Lies, Life Is Sweet, The Sheltering Sky, White Hunter Black Heart, To Kill a Priest, The Missionary, Auf Wierdesen Pet (TV), Quadrophenia
- Ruth McCabe: Run & Jump, Philomena, Breakfast On Pluto, Inside I’m Dancing, Intermission, The Closer You Get, Titanic Town, An Awfully Big Adventure, Circle Of Friends, The Snapper, My Left Foot