Wake Wood

Wake Wood


Reviewed by: Owen Van Spall

Films and TV shows based on the concept of reanimating a deceased loved one are nothing new, and usually follow the tried and true narrative road of the reawakened person being somewhat 'not normal' having crossed over to the other side - leaving the audience to await the inevitable mayhem and try to spot the clues as to who/what the returned individual has become exactly, alien, demon or angel.

Wake Wood wears its influences proudly on its sleeve - its plot borrows wholesale from “bringing back the dead” tales of yesteryear, in particular the 1989 horror film Pet Semetary, itself based on a a Stephen King novel. It deploys the trusty 'demonic child' theme, with plenty of nods towards The Omen and Don't Look Now among others. It is no surprise to find that Wake Wood producer Brendan McCarthy claims to be a horror aficionado and regards Carrie, The Others and A Nightmare On Elm Street as among his favourites. Also at the heart of this film are the classic horror narrative devices of the “pact with the Devil”, the bizarre secluded pagan community, and the consequences (never good) of man trying to play god and defy nature.

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The titular Wake Wood is a village in contemporary rural Ireland which has just become home to Patrick and Louise Daly - who have come to take over the veterinary practice. They are also hoping the rural seclusion will help them recover from the tragic death of their daughter Alice. The couple can’t have another child. Before long, they stumble upon the village tradition which enables its inhabitants to bring a person back from the dead for three days, so long as the ritual is carried out less than one year after their death. This is overseen by the avuncular but mysterious head villager and farm owner Arthur, who warns Patrick and Louise that those who agree to the ritual can never leave Wake Wood.

Inevitably, Patrick and Louise ask if the villagers might bring their child back. But it soon becomes clear that something 'isn't right' with their Alice, and the outsiders find themselves up against the villagers who want to return their daughter to the ground.

Wake Wood is a true mish-mash of more classical horror fare, with a low budget CGI-free feel, some curious and eerie pagan paraphernalia, and some intriguing locales (the film was shot in the picturesque yet somehow foreboding Pettigoe, a tiny Irish border town that the producers felt was “too big for its residents”). But there are no real surprises to be had, and the film is further let down by some awkward dialogue, obvious signposting and a clutch of syrupy, unconvincing family montages.

It is always intriguing, however, to see the legendary and newly-revamped Hammer Studios involved in a project (in association with Vertigo Films in this case), and this is a hark back to their more psychological “Faustian pact” horror fare of old as opposed to the campy gorefests.

Reviewed on: 30 Mar 2011
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Wake Wood packshot
A Pagan ritual offers a grieving couple the chance to spend three more days with their dead daughter, but when the moment comes, they will do anything to keep from letting her go again.
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Director: David Keating

Writer: David Keating, Brendan McCarthy

Starring: Eva Birthistle, Ella Connolly, Amelia Crowley, Aidan Gillen, Timothy Spall

Year: 2010

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Ireland, UK


Glasgow 2011

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If you like this, try:

Don't Look Now