This review is a part of Split Reel’s coverage on the Espoo Ciné International Film Festival in Espoo, Finland (19.8.-28.8.). Wake Wood was included in the Méliès d’Argent Competition.
An idyllic Irish village, Wake Wood, turns out to be anything but as a grieving couple try and rebuild their life after the tragic loss of their daughter Alice.
As Patrick (Aidan Gillen), a veterinarian and his wife, Louise ( Eva Birthistle) turn to Patrick’s employer Arthur for help when their car breaks down in the middle of the forest, Louise accidentally witnesses an ancient pagan birth ritual. Confused and scared they return home where Arthur (Timothy Spall) awaits them in order to let them in on the secret of Wake Wood; here the dead can come back to life for three days.
But of course, there’s a catch. Only those who have been dead for less than a year can be returned safely. Desperate to see their daughter Louise and Patrick lie to Arthur as they swear it’s been less than a year since the tragic day. Once they get their daughter back, as she’s reborn from inside the corpse of an old man, everything seems to be perfect once again. Patrick and Louise have their little girl back. But as time passes, they start to realise that what they brought back, isn’t really their daughter.
This is followed by 40 minutes of splatterific violence.
There’s really nothing new about Wake Wood. The whole raising-a-dead-child-turns-out-to-be-evil idea, but this time it’s been done in a quite original and at times gruesome way. As Alice is portrayed as a truly evil version of herself, and not posessed by any demon or devil or spirit, we get to see a nice performance of a complete lack of empathy and morality from a talented, young actress.
The paganist rituals seem realistic enough in their down-to-earth ways and spinal chord-cutting. A lot of the village scenes are quite gory, and I found the rituals to be more chillworthy then the actual killing rampage, although that’s not in any way subtle either.
Visually the dark, sometimes even green look of the film, altough not original, gives a nice, gritty edge, and in my opinion the film has actually been edited to near perfection. I appreciated the aspect of not showing every cruel act committed by Alice at first but rather letting the film build up to a Indiana Jones meets The Hostel-like finale.
Feel-wise Wake Wood reminded me of 70’s-horror more than anything else, and has a nice traditional, vintage feel to it.
I rarely see anything that even remotely resembles horror in the cinema. Not that I’m not a fan of the genre, but I’m never sure how I’m going to react to certain types of violent or extremely gory scenes. Some I’m completely fine with, but at times (like with [Rec]) with a particular style of filming, lighting and graphic imagery I tend to prefer the possibility of fast forwarding past the intense, distressing bits.
I found Wake Wood to be a refreshing, albeit at times a bit slow addition to the “I’m a sweet kid but actually I like to kill animals and people”- genre.
Hammer Film Production is doing a pretty OK comeback since its glory days back in the 60’s and 70’s, already having delivered one of the better horror’s (even though it’s a remake) of recent years, Let Me In.
You Will Like Wake Wood If…
– you enjoy a vintage feel to your horror.
– you know what Hammer Films is.
– just the idea of a rural Irish landscape gives you the chills.