Title: Wake Wood
Director: David Keating
Starring: Eva Birthistle, Ella Connolly and Amelia Crowley
Release Date: March 25th
Wake Wood is the latest film from the recently revived Hammer studios. Hammer became notorious in the 60s for their ‘Hammer Horror’ films – low-budget pictures featuring gratuitous amounts of violence and Christopher Lee. Sir Chris doesn’t make an appearance in Wake Wood, but it certainly embraces the gory aspect of its heritage.
Indeed this is not a film for the faint of heart, and the tone is set early. It opens with a particularly disturbing scene involving a young girl and a vicious dog. The girl in question is the only child of the main characters, played by Aidan Gillen and Eva Birthistle. After her untimely death, the distraught couple move to the small rural town of Wake Wood to escape their grief.
It’s obvious from the get-go that there’s something suspicious about the residents of Wake Wood, and after a clichéd car breakdown, our protagonists stumble across a pagan ritual. Soon afterwards, the results of the ritual are revealed, and the grieving parents are offered a chance to spend three more days with their deceased daughter.
Now this plot may sound familiar, and if it does you’ve probably seen the 1989 Stephen King adaptation Pet Sematary. Almost the exact same thing happens in that film, and Wake Wood makes no effort to acknowledge this.
If you’ve seen Pet Sematary, or any horror film ever, you already know that things don’t always run smoothly when resurrecting the dead and what comes out of the ground may not be exactly what you put in. This presents the film’s biggest problem: we know almost immediately what is going to happen, and it feels like the film takes an awfully long time to get there.
Even the blood and guts get a little boring in the middle stretch of the film. The gore is extremely realistic and convincing, but after the initial animal attack, there isn’t much violence to it. We are treated to a cow’s caesarean section and a pagan re-birthing ritual that is grotesque enough to turn stomachs, but it lacks any sense of tension.
Things pick up towards the climax though and the movie is not a complete failure. Ella Connolly plays the demonic youngling and she gives an impressively creepy performance. Her inevitable third-act rampage finally adds a bit of excitement and fun to the film, but it feels like too little too late.
In a nutshell: Impressive gore effects and an intensely creepy performance from a young actress fail to save this ultimately boring horror movie.
– Adam Kearney