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WAKE WOOD
DVD region 2. Momentum.

Wake WoodWhen 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 their revival.

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.

Wake WoodGillen 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.

DAVID FLINT

BUY IT NOW (UK)

 

 

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