Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Wake Wood

Wake Wood (2011)
Dir. David Keating
Written by: David Keating, Brendan McCarthy
Starring Aiden Gillen, Eva Birthistle, Timothy Spall

I 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.

A 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.”

The 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.

It’s 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!

*Obviously 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.


> or = HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS LEVEL GORE: Maybe just enough kills to count.
OBSCURITY LEVEL: Uh, low-high I think. DTV, not gimmicky enough to call attention.
SATANISTS: ...something creepy and culty, but I don't think Satan is involved.
ZOMBIES: Yeah, definitely.
SLASHERS: Ends with quite a bit of slashing, yes.
CURSES: Magic, but no specific curses.


  1. *insert comment I left on Dan's blog*

    I am really enjoying the dual reviews though! I enjoy seeing both perspectives on these things. Will be especially interested to see the write-ups of V/H/S, since you seemed to have diametrically opposing views on that one.

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