After the brutal death of their only child, couple Patrick (The Wire’s Aidan Gillen) and Alice (Ella Connolly) decide to leave their family home and start again trying to hide from their painful past.
Deciding to lay roots in the remote Irish hamlet of Wake Wood they settle down, with Patrick working as a vet and Alice in a chemists living a life isolated both emotionally and geographically.
Unable to move on and with their relationship at breaking point, the breakdown of their car in the middle of the night leads to them to the village leader Arthur’s (Harry Potter & Sweeney Todd’s Timothy Spall) house where they discover the entire community amassed, engaging in a strange and disturbing pagan ritual.
Visiting them the next day the enigmatic Arthur explains that Wake Wood has a secret tradition secretly preserved for centuries which enables the grief-stricken to bring the dead back for a period of three days allowing them to say a final farewell to the departed before they make their final journey to the spirit world.
Offered their one and only wish Alice and Patrick decide they will do anything to have their only child back even if it means breaking the strict rules of the ritual and facing the dark and terrible price they will have to pay.
Wake Wood is produced by Hammer Films and after several aborted rebirths (Beyond the Rave anyone?) the company seems to have finally returned to our screens with a fresh batch of films including Let Me In and The Resident, hoping to scare the masses and make their name once again synonymous with horror and judging by this movie they are definitely on the right track.
The loss of a child has been the opening impetus of many horror movies throughout the history of horror, with the quest for the return of that infant another key theme right back to The Monkeys Paw – the brilliant and heavily influential short horror story by author W. W. Jacobs published in England in 1902 and beyond.
The most famous film on this subject, Don’t Look Now, is an obvious influence on Wake Wood. However the pagan rituals and occult worship draws parallels with the wonderful The Wicker Man.
As mentioned in the excellent documentary by Mark Gatiss, A History Of Horror, Britain has its own rich folklore, creepy myths and horrific legends and apart from a few examples (including the aforementioned The Wicker Man, Witchfinder General and Blood on Satan’s Claw) this paganism and witchcraft is rarely drawn on which is something Wake Wood attempts to rectify and should therefore be commended for.
Competently directed and plotted Wake Wood may not be overly original or unpredictable. However thanks to a solid cast it is a well made film which delivers on chills and thrills, especially in the third act where the gore and blood is amped up helped along by a very creepy and evil little girl.
Proof that Hammer is definitely well on its way to climbing back up the blood soaked ladder of success, especially with the imminent release of The Woman In Black sometime this year, here’s hoping they continue to bring well made British horror in all senses to our screens for some time to come.