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Movie Reviews

Wake Wood



Released: 2011

Directed By: David Keating

Starring: Timothy Spall, Aidan Gillen, Eva Birthistle

Certificate: 18

Reviewed By: Ryan Gelley

Hammer is back!  The production company that made Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing  household names as Dracula and Van Helsing returned to action recently, to the delight of genre fans everywhere. Last year’s remake of the brilliant vampire coming-of-age story Let The Right One In (retitled Let Me In) was almost as good as the original.  Recently, Hammer produced a film starring Hilary Swank and Jeffrey Dean Morgan called The Resident, and the reviews have not been as kind.  So (not having seen The Resident),  i was fairly confident that Wake Wood, Hammer’s latest offering, had at least a 50/50 shot at pleasing me.  I underestimated its chances.  I enjoyed Wake Wood, and am more confident about the future of Hammer than ever.

A couple’s young daughter is  mauled to death by a dog, and they move to the small town of Wake Wood for a fresh start.  It’s not long before they begin to notice that the townsfolk are a little odd.  Soon the newly widowed Louise (Eva Birthistle) witnesses a demented, gooey, supernatural ritual that she can’t quite fathom, and was not meant to see.  This scene instantly shifts the movie into a completely new gear in a bold flourish reminiscent of genre-benders Martyrsand The Last Exorcism. “OK”, i said to myself  “its that kind of movie now”.  The first act has deservedly drawn comparisons to The Wicker Man, as both feature a cult-like community who shun the outside world while participating in forbidden magic(k?)s.  I was also reminded of In The Mouth Of Madness and Silent Hill at times, but for all it’s references and homages, Wake Woodis more original and engaging than 90% of today’s horror films.

Louise and her husband Patrick (Aiden Gillen) are assured by the creepy Arthur (the brilliant Timothy Spall) that he can resurrect their daughter for a short time.  They agree to the stipulation that they stay in Wake Wood forever.   Arthur whips out the coolest necromantical abacus I’ve ever seen, and soon their daughter is slimily birthed from within the cadaver of a dead local.  Fans of the supernatural horror genre will confirm that all magical pacts have strict rules.  If the rules are not followed, events turn grim quickly.  Wake Wooduses this popular “You must abide by the ancient eldritch laws of whatever the fuck” device, yet makes it as interesting as possible, constantly seeking to subvert the viewer’s expectations.

Along with it’s fine actors, strong screenplay, and goops of gooey gore, Wake Wood also has a fantastic ending.  Great endings in horror films are rare.  Earlier I mentioned Martyrs and The Last Exorcism, fine examples of how to leave the viewer with questions, and clues to the answers, but never absolutes.  Wake Wood invites participation and interpretation, setting it apart and lifting it above the pack of stale, formulaic horror that forms the bulk of today’s output.

Wake Wood is not a perfect film.  For example, you see the boom in the lower left corner of frame, quite clearly (at least to my friend David Nowacki, who pointed it out), at approx 5:30.  Keating uses some strange and distracting wall-eyed camera wankery that I found slightly unsettling.  Overall, though, there were very few drawbacks here, and a lot to like.  I hope my desire to see Hammer 2.0 succeed has not swayed my opinion of this film.  I can’t guarantee cinephiles will enjoy it, or praise it to the extent I have, but I’m convinced most horror fans will consider Wake Wood‘s 90 minutes time well spent.

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