Dir. David Keating (2009)
A couple's daughter dies a tragic death, and they move to a town that has a startling secret: the ability to return a deceased loved one to life for three days. It comes with a catch, though...
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Wake Wood is a movie I've seen the previews for in seemingly every horror flick I've watched as of late, and I can see why: Hammer Horror is back. Hammer is a huge name in horror, and it's nice to see their name on anything nowadays, especially movies like this one. Little Alice dies on her birthday after being attacked by a dog, and her parents, Patrick (Aiden Gillen from Game of Thrones) and Louise (Eva Birthistle, from 2015 Best Picture-nominated Brooklyn), are understandably distraught. They move away from their home, trying to start their life anew in a different town. Things are not going well, and you can tell from the onset that their relationship is struggling, which is often the case after the death of a child. Patrick is a ranchhand of sorts in their new hometown of Wakewood, where he delivers cow babies (I couldn't think of a better way to put his job, but that totally works for me. He delivers cow babies.) Louise is a pharmacist, and runs a pharmacy in the quaint little town (which is a much easier job to describe). They try their best to blend into the scenery, but their grief is palpable, and eventually Louise has had enough and wants to leave her marriage. Patrick offers to bring her to the train station, and their car breaks down on the way out of town.
As luck would have it, while walking to look for help, Louise stumbles upon the people of the town performing a strange ritual where a man comes tumbling, naked, out of a bloody sack, seemingly a type of birth. When they return home, they find Arthur, one of the town's leaders, in their living room, who says he is just checking on them to make sure they're doing ok. Several days later, after Louise has seen the rebirthed man walking around town alive and well, arm in arm with his girlfriend, Arthur comes to the couple with a proposition: Would they want the townspeople to bring their daughter back to life for three days, knowing that with their agreement, they'd have to stay in Wakewood forever?
It certainly seems like a fair trade off, so they agree. However, the man tells them that not only does their daughter only get three days, no more, and they are forced to live in Wakewood forever, but for the three days their daughter is raised from the dead, she cannot leave the town either. The man tells the couple that as long as their daughter has been dead for less than a year, they can perform the ritual, and they will be able to spend three more days with her before saying goodbye forever. The couple says their daughter has been dead for eleven months, two weeks, and two days, so they're just inside the timeframe.
Well, when people are desperate to get what they want... sometimes they lie. And sometimes, those lies have terrible unforeseen circumstances. Their daughter comes back a little off from what they remember, off in this instance meaning straight up homicidal. When Alice goes crazy and starts offing people left and right, leaving behind a body count of which some slashers would be jealous, they reveal that their daughter was actually dead over a year, and that seems to have not been the best lie to tell at that particular moment.
Director David Keating hit this one out of the park. It's delightfully creepy, and the acting, especially from Gillen and Birthistle were stellar. They both killed their roles, playing the very believably heartbroken parents who have lost their child. We have a wonderful tale of grief, and the lengths that loving parents would go to for just a few more days with their deceased child. We also have a warning, about how you should always be careful what you wish for. Because your wish may murder you and everyone else around you.
Beautifully shot, excellently directed, and flawlessly acted, Wake Wood is a fantastic entry into the scary child sub-genre, but its so much more than that. It's creepy, it's moving, and it's the reason why so many people love this genre: it goes way deeper than just the scares. This flick started what 2014's The Babadook finished, weaving a tale of grief and dealing with those feelings, albeit with stupendously different results. And it's surprisingly gory, too, as befitting a true Hammer Horror film. A little something for everyone.
Who this movie is for: Hammer Horror fans, Gothic horror lovers, Monkey paw owners
Bottom Line: Hammer Horror is back in a big way, and Wake Wood is a fantastic film that deserves far more attention than it has received. Gory, beautiful, and heart-rending, this one was near perfect. Makes me almost like Littlefinger. This is definitely one that shouldn't be missed.