Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Recent Horror Review: WAKE WOOD (2011)

Wake Wood (2011)
Director: David Keating
Seen via: Dark Sky DVD (R1)
Rating: 6/10

Here's another film that's been on my watch list for a while. This is Hammer's second horror feature since their revival, and it continues their streak of strong films that just fall short of being memorable. Let Me In was a surprisingly inoffensive remake that unfortunately neutered (ha ha) one of the most subtle elements of the source material. The more recent Daniel Radcliffe vehicle The Woman in Black was an enjoyable piece of atmospheric horror that retread some pretty well-worn ground. It's nice to have what's shaping up to be a production house capable of churning out reliably solid horror films that aren't insultingly stupid or aimed at the quick-and-dirty direct to video market. Still, I'm waiting for them to really hit a home run, and unfortunately, Wake Wood is not it.

Wake Wood starts off boldly by introducing us to a couple who have recently lost their daughter to a vicious attack by a mad dog. By moving to the pastoral town of Wake Wood, they hope to regain a sense of peace and escape the memory of their daughter's death. That's the thing about death though - it follows you. Having their daughter ripped from their lives so suddenly has shattered them, and no matter how much they run, they can't escape the gaping hole that she used to occupy.

So when they're offered the chance to be reunited with their daughter for three days, the choice seems clear. They won't have her back forever, but it'll allow them to say their goodbyes and make their peace with her passing. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, when you're resurrecting the dead, quite a bit. The magic in Wake Wood is a dirty, earthy sort. Spells and rituals are primal, pagan things that require sacrifices proportional to the boon they produce and (like birth) involve grime, sweat, pain, and blood. There's a fair amount of gore in this film, which I was not at all expecting. It conflicts at times with the more serious tone that's established up front, but is consistent with the overall allusions to nature as a brutal, unforgiving force within the world of the film.

A horror film that deals with the resurrection of a child is undoubtedly going to draw comparisons to Pet Sematary. While Wake Wood initially offers a mature, unsensational take on the idea, in the end it can't figure out what to do itself, turns the kid into a monster, and falls back on a disappointing conflict. So yeah, essentially what King did, but in Ireland. It'd be fine, except we were set up for much more in the beginning. Throwing worn out horror film tropes around at the end feels like a cop-out.

Still, it's a pretty solid flick. And if the new Hammer hasn't yet produced a masterpiece, I'm willing to stick with them. After all, being buried for over twenty years could take its toll on anyone, and this corpse is still taking some time to wake up.

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