Wake Wood (2011)
Dir. David Keating
Written by: David Keating, Brendan McCarthy
Starring Aiden Gillen, Eva Birthistle, Timothy Spall
was pretty impressed by this low-budget Irish WICKER MAN / PET SEMATARY
riff. It concerns two parents of a recently mauled-to-death adorable
precocious child who move to a creepy/quaint Irish village called Wake
(wait for it) Wood, where they discover that the locals have a way to
bring back the deceased. For a little while.
few things make this simple setup interesting. For one, even though the
ceremony for raising the dead is profoundly creepy (the weird and
disturbing details of it are the film’s greatest strength) the townsfolk
aren’t exactly portrayed as an evil cult out to get our innocent yuppie
parents. In fact, the townsfolks (particularly Spall, looking dapper in
his three-piece suit and bowler) seem pretty nice and straightforward
about what they’re offering. It’s the parents who end up lying about how
long their daughter’s been dead in an effort to skirt the rules and get
in a few more precious days. Not one of their better ideas, in my
opinion. Although in fairness, the townfolks really ought to mention,
“be sure you do the math carefully, because anyone who has been dead
over a year will definitely come back as an evil killing machine.”
resurrected girl kills people in fairly dull and unimaginative ways
(what do you expect, she’s just a beginner), but surprisingly the
majority of the film is more about emotional horror than ax murders.
It’s obviously low budget, but the cast* is strong enough to really
drive home the unspoken horror of having to stay alive after the people
you love have died, and the unnatural, wild hope that you can somehow
bring them back. Combine that with the deeply weird resurrection
ceremony and the impending sense of doom that hangs over the whole
thing, and you’ve got something that packs unexpected punch. Given the
effective emphasis on great atmosphere and strong emotional performances
in this and THE WOMAN IN BLACK, I’m beginning to think that this Hammer
Studios revival may actually be the real deal -- a production company
that cares about getting the details right, not just buying up famous
properties and remaking them.
strength is in the details -- the convincingly isolated township with
its single row of lived-in shops, the menacing wind turbines on the edge
of town, the casual horror encountered by the veterinarian husband as
he performs a c-section on a cow, stitches up the mangled face of a
run-over mutt, and so on. There’s an authenticity and a significance to
these details which make the whole film feel weightier than its cliche
premise would suggest. And even if it starts to lose you towards the end
with it’s DON’T LOOK NOW knockoff murderous child in a yellow coat,
stick it out to the end. There’s a venomously clever little epilogue
that sums up the whole thing with a genuine dark perfection.
As always with this Chainsawnukah season, be sure to check out Dan P's alternate take!
it’s exciting to see The Wire’s Tommy Carcetti get to use his real
accent, but it should also be noted that somewhere in here is Brian
Gleeson, son of Brendan.