DVD region 2. Momentum.
I was a kid, I worshipped Hammer Films, and nothing was more frustrating
in the 1980’s and 90’s than the frequent stories of
the company’s imminent revival that rapidly went nowhere.
So to see Hammer releasing three films theatrically in the space
of a year is immensely satisfying - my twelve-year old self would've
been beside himself with joy to see the Hammer logo appear at
the front of a new film, and my considerably older self is not
that much less impressed. Wake Wood was the first
of the new Hammer films to be shot (if we ignore internet misfire
Beyond the Rave, as I think most people have
agreed to do), though it’s the third to actually see release.
It’s also the most traditional Hammer-like production of
The film stars Aidan Gillen and Eva Birthistle as Patrick and
Louise, a couple who move to the rural village of Wake Wood after
their daughter Alice (Ella Connolly) is killed in a savage dog
attack. After settling into the community, one night they stumble
upon a bizarre ritual that turns out to be a rebirth ceremony,
bringing the dead back for three days to give their grieving families
a chance to say goodbye properly. The couple soon agree to bring
Alice back – but there are rules to this revival, and if
broken they will have terrible consequences. It soon becomes clear
that Alice is not ‘right’, and the couple have to
face up to that fact that their daughter may be a monster.
Wake Wood is a quietly creepy film, avoiding
flashy images or ridiculous effects (everything here looks very
real, including the often graphic gore), and while the story seems
to riff on elements of Don’t Look Now, Pet Semetary and
The Wicker Man, it’s never overly derivative, instead delivering
a spookily pagan tale that has enough plot twists – alongside
some obvious moments, it has to be said – to keep the viewer
entertained as it steadily builds to a satisfying climax.
and Birthistle are convincing as the emotionally numb couple who
are desperate for one last chance to see their daughter, and Timothy
Spall is on top scene-stealing form as the local farmer who performs
the ritual, keeping you guessing as to his motivations and trustworthiness
until the end. Connolly, as the dead child with a twisted soul,
looks suitably creepy and can switch from wholesome to murderous
in the blink of an eye.
Director David Keating keeps things moving along nicely, and if
I say that this in many ways resembles an extended episode of
the 1980 TV series Hammer House of Horror, that’s
not an insult. Like those shows, this modern film manages to tap
into the feel of older Hammer movies without being an imitation,
and feels very much like the film we all wanted a revived Hammer
to be making. If they can continue to come up with movies like
this in the future, I’ll be very happy.
The DVD features a few deleted scenes – which, unusually,
all seem worthy of having been left in the finished film –
alongside a basic featurette and a couple of trailers.
IT NOW (UK)