Wake Wood (2011)
Directed by David Keating
Starring Aidan Gillen, Eva Birthistle, Timothy Spall, Ella Connolly, Ruth McCabe, Brian Gleeson, Amelia Crowley, Dan Gordon, Tommy McArdle
There had been so many times over the years that we’d heard that Hammer Films, the famous British studio, was rising from the grave, like so many of the creatures they put in their movies. So many times in fact, that most serious horror fans didn’t pay too much attention to the latest announcement. And even if the studio did resurrect itself, would it be able to really continue the incredible work that its forefather did before it? But then in 2007, it really did happen. Hammer Films was back. Granted, it really was in name only for the most part, since all of the original members of the studio are long since retired, passed away, or just forgotten. But the new CEO promised to not forget about its heritage and to continue the work they had started. We all know there would be no way to bring back the style and feel of those films from yesteryear. Or could there?
The first title to be announced under the new Hammer name was Wake Wood. It would be a co-production with a couple other companies, and was actually made before Hammer signed on, but it technically be Hammer’s first upon their resurrection. For some reason, it seemed to take longer to get released than one would think. Before it did, Hammer had two more films come out: Let Me In (2010), the remake of the Swedish film Let the Right One In (2008), and an original film, The Resident (2011), starring Oscar winner Hilary Swank and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. While Let Me In was a pretty decent film for a remake, the only nods it had to the famous studios was its use of great character actors in supporting roles. The Resident just didn’t seem to have that much going for it, even though it co-starred one of Hammer’s original stars, Christopher Lee. Not a terrible film, but just not too memorable, and just didn’t seem to have that Hammer feel. Could it be that the old glory of Hammer was dead and buried? Then Wake Wood finally got a release here in the states.
The film takes place in Ireland and stars Aidan Gillen and Eva Birthistle as husband and wife Patrick and Louise, who lose their young daughter in a violent animal attack in the very beginning of the film. Understandably, they are both devastated and have trouble coping with this great lost. They move to the village of Wake Wood, to try to start fresh. But their lives are still filled with such an emptiness that just won’t go away, especially for Louise. As a parent, there can be no greater loss than that of your child. One can only imagine the horror of having to go through something like that.
Then one evening, Louise witnesses something strange going on in this little town. Something very strange. She sees some sort of ritual with some of the townspeople. The next day, Louise meets one of the local women and her “niece”, who seems a bit off. Even more so when the woman mentions to Louise that her daughter Alice has a wonderful voice. It seems that there is some ancient paganism, witchcraft, or something unnatural going on in this secluded town. When one of the town’s leaders tells them that he could bring their daughter back to them, but it would only be for three days, which would give them time to properly say their goodbyes. While Patrick is doubtful of this whole thing, Louise will do anything to see her little girl again. But like in all good stories, it comes with rules and most definitely a cost.
Both Gillen and especially Birthistle’s performances make our heart ache seeing them going through the torment of losing their child. When they hear some impossible story from Aidan’s boss Arthur, that he could bring her back, they will do whatever necessary…even lie. We’ve been a fan of Timothy Spall ever since seeing him in Ken Russell’s Gothic (1986). While he doesn’t do too much work in the horror genre, he always is entertaining to watch. And here in Wake Wood, he continues that trend
Another noticeable addition to this movie is the soundtrack. Composer Michael Convertino has worked in just about every film genre out there. With Wake Wood, he creates something that seems to be playing the background throughout the movie. Using a simple beat, almost like two pieces of wood knocking together, he creates a rhythm that fits the movie perfectly. It is not immediately creepy or scary sounding, but blends in with the movie so well that it heightens whatever is going on.
If Hammer Films never went under in the late ’70 and had continued to make movies, then this film would have been one they would have produced. It fits the banner perfectly: a village with an ancient secret; a couple of outsiders discovering that secret; and having to deal with their actions. The film works so well because first and foremost, we actually have a decent story. Something different that is being churned out through the Hollywood sewer system. It may have a nod or two to other movies or themes, but it does it in a way that is completely fresh and new, which was a very welcomed discovery. This is not your typical horror movie where a monster is running around. There are many things here that are not laid out in black and white. What amazed me the most is that that since this film was released on DVD that there has not been more press about this. This is one film that truly deserves to be under the Hammer banner. Highly recommended.