By Ross Hughes
HAMMER FILMS PRESENTS
Directed By: David Keating
Written By: Brendan McCarthy and David Keating.
Staring: Timothy Spall, Aidan Gillen, Eva Birthistle, Dan Gordon
“Having mucked about with films like The Resident, Hammer goes back to its roots with this eerie tale of town folk!”
Welcome back Hammer Horror, its been a while!
Its shocking that the film studio Hammer is still held in high regard in the horror genre, despite many years of not actually doing nothing. This British institution that spawned so many classic horrors in the 60’s and 70’s faded away doing my childhood, unwilling to fight back against the rising force of such creatures of the night like Freddy and Jason, which instead of embracing this new turn into horror, a cherished brand sulked away, with many believing that all we had left was memories of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee hammering it up splendidly in many films!
Over the last couple of years though, Hammer has started to stir again. Like the Vampire they always had a fondness for, the studio has had its stake removed from its heart and started to rise again, to show the world they are back, giving the world new nightmares and a taste of fear. The results have been mixed so far with Beyond The Rave seen as a test of the water kind of horror while The Resident offered nothing nothing new to the psycho genre. The best success was the remake Let Me In, but as the film followed virtually the same blue-print of its original, it was again hard to credit the studio for its new outlay!
Then comes WAKE WOOD, a film that will delight all horror fans because its Hammer going back to its roots. With shades of the 1971 film Blood On A Satan’s Claw, the film is centred around a young couple and their beautiful little girl in which a shocking tragedy follows grief which results in terrible decisions and more death! Its a basic formula that works every time and you can see why WAKE WOOD has arrived with such high critical acclaim!
Patrick and Louise (Gillen and Birthistle) are happily married with a daughter who they love and adore, but one day she gets attacked by a dog and dies from her injuries. Even before you are sitting comfortably you are greeted to this scene, an horrific set -piece that makes you think you are seeing more than you actually do!
Grief stricken, the couple move in hope to start again to the quiet Irish town of Wake Wood, Patrick takes on the role as the local Vet while Louise takes a job at a local Pharmacy. Its here that every horror fan can recall the pain as that of Don’t Look Now, the film tries hard to capture that image and for the first half, you can not help but admire the attempt because it does actually work. Wake Wood is at its best doing the first hour because it builds a wonderful creepy atmosphere that you can not shake. There is something not right with this town, a taste of The Wicker Man is in the air and this notion is fulfilled when one night their car breaks down and Louise comes across a ritual on the land of Arthur (Spall). In what seems like a bizarre ritual she witnesses what is like a birth of a grown man coming out of a burnt cocoon in all its gory fashion. Scared she runs home without telling Patrick, and then later, when they witness a death at a farm, its here the two decide Wake Wood is not the town for them!
But just as they are about to leave, Arthur arrives with a proposition, an offer they just can not refuse. He can bring their dead daughter Alice back for three days and no more! A chance for them to hold their daughter one more time, a chance to even say a proper goodbye that they were robbed of! Its a question that parents watching this will have running through their head – “What would you do?” Of course if they said no and just packed their bags and left, then there be no film, so the two agree and soon Alice is home, but playing with fire means you are going to get burnt, and sadly, their choice brings a whole heck of trouble!
Before I get to the last quarter of this film, Wake Wood works wonderfully for the majority of the time! What I loved is the simple terror it generated from such simple images. Patrick doing a gruesome C-Section on a cow was a particular weird horror set-piece that also hinted of the general theme of this movie. Birth is the main aspect that figures heavily through out the running time, more so towards the quite deranged climax, and Wake Wood is fantastic in the initial setup. Spall is fantastic as Arthur, dealing with things he should really leave alone, coming across at first likeable but with always a hint of creepiness that will make you instantly question his motives!
You also can not beat a film that shows how a quiet good looking town with nice folk can hold something so sinister. Even the wind turbines that stand proud over the landscape have this eerie feel, like they are the beacon of evil that must be obeyed! Everyday objects become a face of evil, and that shows how much effort has gone into creating this atmosphere!
Sadly though it all comes apart at the last half. While its superior to that of a film like Pet Sematary, you can not help but be disappointed that the film goes down the predictable route. We all know where this is going as soon has Alice returns, but you still hope for something new to unfold and sadly it doesn’t.
What I loved though is while Don’t Look Now is heavily influenced, the film in the last half becomes a blue print of Alice Sweet Alice! With the young daughter running around with a yellow rain coat with the parents shouting the name “Alice!” I had a wry smile at the in-joke and how two films so similar from years gone by have now spawned a third!
Wake Wood saves itself from an end shot that will chill you to the bone, a moment that links both beginning to end with its horrific simplicity!
OVERALL: I can not see no horror fans not liking Wake Wood! Its a perfect throw back to films of old, and many of the older generation will lap up the detail that has been put in. Only a little tweak of modern touches could have made this one of the best films of the year, but what it does do is announce that Hammer is back, and its back in style!