Sunday 3 April 2011

Wake Wood (2011)

Apparently this is one of the first new productions from the revitalised Hammer company, although you'd be hard pressed to tell that from the print I saw, which didn't mention the Hammer name at all.  What it did have, to my annoyance, was a seemingly endless stream of pre-credits introductions.  You know the kind of thing: "A Such-and-such Production - fade - In association with Such-and-such Media - fade - and Such-and-such Entertainment".  It really irritated me because absolutely no-one, other than the execs who work at these companies, gives a monkey's.  I'm all for letting the audience know who created the film, i.e. the director, DP, writer and so on.  But the production companies?  Really?  Especially when there are so many of them.  It does make you wonder how many non-creative personnel it actually requires to make a film these days.

Anyway, forgive my little rant.  On to the movie.  Whisper it quietly but there is something of a resurgence in British horror these days.  I don't mean the false dawns of crap like FUNNYMAN (1994) or any of the recent Danny Dyer efforts; I mean authentically regional horror films with flair and intelligence.  I'm talking about the film equivalent of farmers' markets: homegrown produce that may look a bit less polished than the stuff you'd get in the supermarket, and perhaps even a bit rich for some tastes, but authentic, made with care and British through and through.  THE CHILDREN (2008) was a decent effort, and THE REEDS (2009) was two-thirds of very good film.  WAKE WOOD continues this encouraging trend.

It was directed (and co-written) by David Keating and stars Eva Birthistle and Aiden Gillen as parents grieving the accidental death of their young daughter.  Moving to rural Ireland in a bid to rebuild their lives, they are (naturally) stunned to be offered the chance to be reunited with their daughter, but only for three days and only as long as very strict rules are obeyed - to the letter.  In true GREMLINS style, one of those rules is broken.

Timothy Spall explains the rules
I really enjoyed it.  True, it borrows liberally from other movies (notably THE WICKER MAN, ROSEMARY'S BABY, PET SEMATARY and THE DAISY CHAIN (2008)) but it does manage to do something new with those elements.  I liked the idea of the village secret actually being a benign one: what they do is altruistic and doesn't hurt anyone, at least until Birthistle and Gillen show up.  I also liked the matter of fact way the rebirth is brough about; Timothy Spall plays the de facto town elder and you can imagine the ritual having being handed down for hundreds if not thousands of years.  That the film showed the random brutality of real life was refreshing too.  Often horror films posit an idyllic world into which nightmares intrude; in this film the mysterious villagers offer a temporary respite from the endless grief faced by the bereaved, albeit one that goes awry.

"She must go back ... tonight!"
In actual fact, the gruesome events which follow the breaking of the rules is probably the film's weakest element.  Because everything had been depicted quite logically up to then, the unexplained descent into violence didn't seem quite right.  But it's a minor quibble.  The script is decent, the acting pretty good and there are one or two subtle but effective visual tricks.  Also, the postscript - which so often in horror movies is a cop-out merely pointing to worse things to come - is intriguingly ambiguous.  A good effort then and one which continues the good run that British horror has been on of late.

Trailer here.

No comments:

Post a Comment