As good as it feels to review a new Hammer Films production, it feels even better to be done with it. I love me some cruddy horror movies, but I fell asleep twice during Wake Wood before making it all the way through. It was my fault for being tired, but it was this film's fault for forgetting to be exciting. Director David Keating hadn't touched a fictional project in 15 years. Those were the good times.
For a movie that could be described as a British Pagan Pet Sematary, Wake Wood could have been purely disastrous. I was ready for a trite storyline performed by horrible actors, but with some possibly cool special effects. The exact opposite happened. Decent acting for an average plot was completely destroyed by lackluster direction and retarded editing. The effects were far from special. Cable porn is more convincing.
Let's not waste time here. Patrick (Aidan Gillen) and Louise (Eva Birthistle) are the grieving parents of Alice (Ella Connolly), a nine year old who got her throat ripped out by a dog (actor unknown). This dog attack is our first indication that we should take all horrific elements with a bucket of salt.
After Alice's death, Patrick and Louise move to the non-idyllic village of Wake Wood, where Patrick takes a job as an old-school veterinarian who excels in large animal births, and Louise works at a pharmacist. The village is populated by wide-eyed weirdos, and Arthur (Timothy Spall), the wise old sage who sets the film's events into motion.
Arthur tells of a ritual that would allow Alice back into her parents' lives, but with limitations. She must have died less than a year before, she can only return for three days, and she must not be taken outside the town's boundaries. If you can imagine, every one of these stipulations is challenged or defied. Otherwise, this movie might not have existed. I guess I'll uncross my fingers now.
Since this is such a mirthless experience, it does no good to dwell on the plot, which is as straightforward and uninspiring as one could avoid hoping for. The theme here is parental love and grief. It doesn't take genius-level thinking to understand such obvious forms of depression, so there needs to be some other aspect for viewers to experience here. Gillen, Birthistle, and Spall all bring their A-minus game, which forces the curiosity as to why anyone thought this project was worth working on.
I won't completely rip Keating for the budget-less "stunt" horror that is beyond amateurish. I can only say that it all should have remained offscreen. In one scene, a penned-up steer backs its ass up and crushes a man against the gate, and it's dreadfully unsuspenseful. This film follows the school of thought that if someone gets hurt, they immediately start bleeding from the mouth and eye sockets. Add to this some truly spastic editing that refuses to keep focus for longer than a second at a time. Whether it's sex, violence, or memories of Alice, disjointed jump-cuts are the norm.
There are people who will find this movie interesting, and they're not complete morons. Had it come out around the time of the original Wicker Man film, it may have achieved near-relevance. But moviegoers are far beyond such simplistic storytelling these days. Save this for the Chiller channel, where the mundanity will feel at home, and network editing will be minimal.
As a Blu-ray release, Wake Wood is unremarkable. I didn't rail against the cheesy score in the paragraphs above, but know that the mediocrity sounds okay in "hi-def." As for features, there are 13 minutes of deleted scenes that run the gamut from entirely useless to doubly entirely useless. Nothing worth mentioning, nothing worth expanding upon. Let the dead stay dead, and leave this one on the shelf.