Legendary British film studio Hammer has until recently lain dormant, presumably on quilted red satin in a dusty crypt, for thirty years. However, since re-vamping (get it?) in the last few years, they’ve given us Let Me In, the perfunctory remake of 2008’s Swedish vampire movie Let The Right One In and the bafflingly pointless The Resident released last week with Daniel Radcliffe’s horror debut The Woman In Black still to come later this year.
They’ve also given us Wake Wood. The only original script nu-Hammer have released so far, Wake Wood stars Eva Birthhistle and Aiden Gillen as Patrick and Louise, two parents stricken with grief after their young daughter is mauled to death by a dog.
Seeking a fresh start, the couple move to a rural village in the Irish countryside, named Wake Wood. Patrick is a vet, working with flatcapped, tweed-waistcoated Arthur (played by Timothy Spall, doing his best Terry Wogan impression). Patrick and Louise soon discover the villagers banging sticks in a fire-lit courtyard, chanting and crowding around a strange, blood-splattered figure.
Freaked out, they attempt to leave Wake Wood, but Arthur tempts them back with a promise to raise their daughter from the dead. However, the rules dictate she must only return for three days, or they will face the ominous ‘consequences’. They, of course, cannot refuse, and the corpse of a local is soon bandied about like a decomposing Mr Potato Head in order to re-birth the girl they’ve lost.
Although essentially a scare-em-up that expends its energies on atmosphere and pace rather than gore, there’s plenty of splatter, spleen and rotting flesh for the so inclined. The various rituals and rules of the local population are woven convincingly through the narrative and even Spall plays it understated, after his recent jaunt as a cartoon Churchhill in The King’s Speech. With compelling leads and a menacing performance from Ella Connolly as the dearly departed daughter, the film carries all the hallmarks of solid popcorn horror.
The sucesses aren’t done justice by a poorly realised setting, with no sense of place in Wake Wood, and fairly unimaginative direction from David Keating. Genre fans will be ticking all their favourite boxes – backward village, ancient rituals, demonic child syndrome – before filing it on the DVD shelf between Pet Semetary and The Wicker Man.