SPOILER ALERT! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! SPOILER ALERT!
After the death of their daughter Alice, Patrick and Louise move to a remote town called Wake Wood. They discover that the town's people are practising a Pagan ritual which allows the dead to be resurrected but only for 3 days. When offered this unique opportunity which will allow them to see their daughter once more and say goodbye properly, they gladly accept the agreement to stay in Wake Wood and never leave. But what will they do when their 3 days are up?
Wake Wood is a 2011 Hammer Production. It is the 3rd production from the newly resurrected Hammer Productions. It stars Aidan Gillen, Eva Birthistle and Timothy Spall. It was directed by David Keating.
There's none of that slow build up malarkey, it gets straight into the story. We're introduced to this young happy family. It's Alice's birthday, and she's gone to visit a dog that her dad has made well again as he's a vet. But she opens the cage and the dog attacks her, in a rather grisly fashion I might add. Yeah, it's not nice. But this is all within the first 5 minutes.
Within the first 10 minutes, they've moved to Wake Wood and begin to come across some odd locals. So from early on the audience begins to feel weary of the inhabitants of Wake Wood. It all starts when a woman and her niece enter the pharmacy where Louise works and the woman asks for a new inhaler for her niece. But she hands over a prescription that ran out last year, when Louise brings this to her attention the woman just simply gives her a blank look. Looks like we're in for another one of those flicks about a village full of weirdos, or are we? Well they're not weirdos as such, but it comes about that Arthur the village leader performs a ritual to bring back the dead but only for 3 days. He explains that they must have been dead for less than a year for it to work. So yeah, they are strange folk in the sense of meddling with rituals to resurrect people but they're not as bad as those who would burn people in a wicker man for example.
We see that a woman has had her partner brought back and that another woman plans to have her husband brought back. Arthur explains that they come back exactly as they were. Now I presume that they will want to be intimate with their loved ones so my question is this. Is it still necrophilia? Well I think it's a fair question.
AH! DEATH BY BULL! A man gets crushed between a gate and a bull, and if that wasn't bad enough when the others manage to get the gate open the poor fella falls on the floor and gets stood on by the bull. So yeah, he's pretty dead. Nasty business working with animals.
During the agreement, Arthur tells Patrick and Louise that they won't be able to take Alice past the Wake Wood limits and that if he is to perform this ritual for them they must remain in Wake Wood and never leave. Which without hesitation they agree to the terms, but as it develops they have other plans. At a later point they try to leave with Alice but once they pass the wind turbines which mark the Wake Wood limits, Alice sustains all her injuries that originally killed her. So Patrick and Louise quickly return her to Wake Wood where her injuries vanish and she returns back to normal. It's then that they realise they can't leave.
I liked the method of resurrecting Alice, there was none of that reading passages or sacrificing a goat or whatever. They have to get a recently dead body, crush the rib cage, rip out the spine and other nasty stuff. Then they place something belonging to the dead person they are resurrecting into the dead body. They then burn the body, then start cutting it up and hay presto the resurrected person comes out covered in blood, almost mirroring an actual birth. I thought this was great, a dark and grisly method of bringing back the dead.
The parents do have an odd dim moment that made me laugh, they go and play hide and seek in the woods with their daughter...and LOSE HER! In the middle of their panic to find her and the shots of her wondering around on her own, I was rather banking on another dog turning up and for them to find her and be like “NO, NOT AGAIN!” but no, all was well. [thumbs up]
The town's people come to Patrick and Louise's home telling them that they believe something went wrong, that something is a miss and that Alice must be returned to the woods otherwise there will be consequences. Patrick and Louise refuse, but will soon come to regret it. The next day, Alice goes on a killing spree killing some animals and some of the locals. She turns up in Arthur's home and demonstrates some supernatural powers (changing the radio station, flickering the lights, ringing the door bell, closing doors – all with her mind), she kills one of his visitors and before she manages to kill Arthur he banishes her with the use of some powerful words. It's from this point where we see that the people of Wake Wood aren't the villains of this story, Alice is. There were some suspicious things earlier like when she went up to Louise and asked her when the baby is due, and Louise didn't even know she was pregnant. But it's here that we see that even Arthur is afraid of her. She has returned from the grave but not as she once was, she's come back evil.
WARNING! I'M ABOUT TO DISCUSS THE ENDING! WARNING!
(If you want to avoid the spoilers about the ending then please skip the next 2 paragraphs.)
It comes about that Patrick and Louise lied, Alice had been dead for over a year. So there's the reason why she's come back evil. I didn't properly notice first time round but there were hints at various points. There was the death date on her grave stone – 2008, but I just presumed that the film was set either then or in early 2009. And just before they arrive at the grave there's a shot in their car when Patrick asks Louise “Do you think she knows?” referring to the widow who's husband's body they are going to use to bring back Alice, as when she met them she said “Something isn't right” when she examined them. I liked that, everything was there for the viewer to pick up on, but it's subtle and therefore easy to not properly register, so it's still a surprise.
After an ordeal in the woods Louise manages to get Alice in a weak state after tricking her to pass the wind turbine, she then takes her to the area in the woods where she needs to be buried. When she gets there they are all there waiting, she buries Alice and I thought that was the end of it. At this point I was expecting a sort of similar ending to Premonition in the sense that she went through this whole ordeal to help her get over the death and also gets pregnant so it's sort of like one life has been lost but a new one will be born. But no, Alice's hand pops out of the ground and drags Louise down with her. Fuck, that was good. But that wasn't the last of it, we see (sometime later) Patrick taking one of Louise's hairs from her hairbrush to get her resurrected. Then I thought that was the end, but no, there's more. When Louise comes back we see that she's quite heavily pregnant so we see that he's left it near on 9 months to bring her back. Then we see Patrick sat on the bed with his operating equipment next to him, Louise comes into shot and says “I'll be there in a minute” then Patrick turns and looks at the camera. End. That I think is brilliant, I did not see it coming and I loved it. I thought that was such a brilliant ending, the idea that he brought her back at a point in the pregnancy when he will be able to perform a caesarian. Some people might not like the ending, but I thought it was great, and it wasn't as out of the blue as you might think. It was actually foreshadowed early on, the idea that the dead continue to grow and develop. This was shown when Alice first came back and Louise is cutting her hair and says “Your hair's gotten so long.” So with that in mind, it would make sense for the pregnant Louise to continue being pregnant in the afterlife and for her baby to continue growing and eventually be born. It's not so great the idea of being born straight into the afterlife mind. Which is why I think it's a sort of happy ending. Alice said she didn't want to go back to being on her own, so she took her mother with her. This then left Patrick on his own, but after the caesarian not only will Patrick no longer be alone but the newborn baby will have a life in our world. And on top of that, both parents will have a child to look after.
Wake Wood is for me the first proper new Hammer. For starters, it's British made. Also you know it's been made on a low budget, it's not as pristine and clean as Let Me In or The Resident. It's rough around the edges and gritty, and that for me is Hammer all over. Wake Wood is a throwback to the classic Hammer films, and that is brilliant. The story is great and the acting is brilliant from not only Aidan Gillen, Eva Birthistle and Timothy Spall but also from newcomer Ella Connolly who was great as the creepy resurrected Alice. Although I like Let Me In and The Resident, this for me is a return to form for Hammer and I hope that this is where the future lies for the company. Hopefully the American ones were just to get the company back in the public domain and on it's feet. Now they've released a low budget British film, hopefully this is where the path for Hammer lies. My only quibble with Wake Wood is that it's a Hammer right? Where was the Hammer ident at the start? Hell, I don't even think Hammer's name went up in the opening credits! It's the most Hammer-y new Hammer we've had and Hammer's name is nowhere to be seen [waves fist in angst]. People have compared this to Don't Look Now, I can't agree nor disagree with that as I've never seen it, but I do want to, even more so now I've seen Wake Wood. But the one I was able to compare it to was The Wicker Man in the sense of an isolated town where the locals practice Pagan rituals. So yeah, Wake Wood was a good film, very good in fact. So go buy it!
Wake Wood 5/5