Only the most patient viewer could probably discover bona fide excitement with Wake Wood, an awkward horror picture, the latest from Hammer Films. Borrowing key ideas from Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, filmmaker David Keating manufactures his own take on occult acts of ghoulish rebirth, establishing a motion picture of grisly possibility and rural isolation, hampered by lethargic execution.
Wrecked by the violent death of their young daughter Alice (Ella Connolly), vet Patrick (Aiden Gillen) and pharmacist Louise (Eva Birthstle) have retreated to the remote village of Wakewood, hoping to sever any connection to their past. Observing strange behaviors around town, the couple stumble upon a cult ceremony late one night, witnessing town patriarch Arthur (Timothy Spall) direct the resurrection of a recently deceased man. Without thinking, Patrick and Louise urge Arthur to bring back Alice. While handed only three days to enjoy their daughter’s company, the pair delight in the reunion but soon find Alice’s activities peculiar, with their little angel showing unusual signs of aggression.
To enjoy Wake Wood is to accept a complete lack of questioning from anyone in the script. Faced with an extraordinary opportunity to revivify their mauled daughter a year after her cruel demise, and Patrick and Louise react as though they were simply offered milk with their tea. There’s no air of insanity to the picture, which is a missed opportunity. Keating plays the premise coolly, relishing the goopy gore shots and slasher staging, but refuses to introduce needed volatility, unable to summon a thrilling atmosphere of unpredictable danger once Alice returns to the land of the living. Instead, most of the actors appear to embrace the extraordinary acts of revival as everyday business, which reads as pure absurdity during pivotal moments of discovery.
The gruesome acts of collection to prepare for Alice’s bizarre return allow Wake Wood to embrace the genre, summoning suspense out of grave robbing and black magic procedure. Keating shows confidence with these early scenes, setting up the premise with a sensible air of glee, preparing to unleash hell once Alice reenters the picture. Sadly, the payoff here is undercooked, hindered by unenthusiastic performances, especially from Gillen, who seems incapable of articulating shock. Once the rules are established (e.g. Alice can only stick around for three days and can’t leave the town), Wake Wood should naturally launch into overdrive, escalating the unease of the dead child and her increasingly peculiar acts of behavior. Keating doesn’t even try, instead constructing a few murder set pieces hobbled by crummy editing and Connolly’s acting inexperience.
The AVC encoded image (2.35:1 aspect ratio) presentation is quite lackluster, losing critical detail due to overall softness and overly amped contrast levels. Colors are also unsatisfactory, with bleeding problems and unnatural skintones, though outdoor incidents reveal more stability. Shadow detail is muddy throughout, losing textures on grisly events and costuming. Banding issues are detected as well.
The 5.1 DTS-HD sound mix is fairly subdued for a horror picture, with a frontal force that’s valuable for dialogue exchanges, offering crisp voices and direct emotion. More violent events lack enthralling dimension, with minimal directional effort outside of occasional atmospherics, while shock attempts sound blunted. Scoring is light but effective, never intruding on the dramatics. A 2.0 PCM track is also included.
English SDH and Spanish subtitles are offered.
Deleted Scenes (13:57) provide breathing room with characterizations, showing more community worry and intimidation, also supplying an extended version of the resurrection sequence.
A trailer has been included.
If Wake Wood can’t offer logic or operatic reactions of disbelief, it should at least make a grand effort to disturb. Criminally, the picture just doesn’t gather the energy to mount a chilling attack, leaving the second half of the movie either unintentionally hilarious or simply comatose. Keating offers a slick kicker of an ending, but it’s too little, too late for this unadventurous misfire.
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