A 2011 film by David Keating, Wake Wood sees Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones) and Eva Birthistle (Waking the Dead) play a couple whose daughter was murdered by a dog. They move to the Irish village of Wake Wood where Gillen takes on the job of a rural vet and Birthistle runs a pharmacy. However, they can’t get over the death of their daughter, and when they find out that the citizens of Wake Wood have the power to bring back the dead for a short period, they jump at the chance. However, once Alice is back in the world of the living, it becomes clear that something has gone terribly wrong.
Knowing this summary I was expecting a Midsomer Murders / Wicker Man-style weird rural community in Ireland. Unfortunately, for the most part, it was just a wishy washy horror that had some surprisingly graphic gore in it. It’s a great idea, but I got the general feeling that the story that could have been unravelled was instead just reduced to some bullet points for the first half, so Patrick and Louise just appear in Wake Wood without any sort of explanation as to why they decided to move there, they have very little dialogue to give us a sense of their characters, and Timothy Spall turns up playing somebody called Arthur who has the air of a lord of the manner and an accent that attempts to be Irish for a short while before being dropped, but there’s no explanation as to who he actually is.
After their car breaks down Patrick and Louise, when looking for assistance, see a strange ceremony taking place in Arthur’s yard and the rebirth of a young man. Arthur is then waiting for them in their living room when they get back, and tells them that they could get Alice back for three days, and she would appear to be a perfectly normal little girl and would remember most of her previous life, but she then needs to go back to the woods. Again no explanation at all is given as to how the villagers came across the power to bring back the dead, especially when a fresh corpse is required to be mutilated in a very bizaar fashion, with the spinal cord being cut and the chest crushed, in order to bring back the deceased.
Once Alice, played by an impressively creepy Ella Connolly in her first film role, comes back all seems okay for the first day, but things rapidly turn bad with animal mutilations and then human murders, and this is where the film lifts briefly from a blandly shot and oddly choppy movie to a slicker and more sinister one as she lurks in dark shadows in a creepy contrast of sweet innocence with her little yellow mac and emotionless expression, and Patrick and Louise run around the night following the trail of guts and gore. It turns out that they lied when they told Arthur how long she’d been dead, which was more than a year, but he never pointed out that there was a cut off point before they undertook the ritual and what is actually wrong with Alice isn’t explained.
I think there are two problems with Wake Wood – the shooting and the script. As I mentioned before, it’s very blandly shot for a lot of it, with the quality of an amateur film, and there’s a constant feeling of a lack of story or dialogue. Gillen seems strangely muted, he doesn’t really do much, and I can only imagine that it’s because he doesn’t have anything to work with. For example, when Patrick and Louise get back home from witnessing the rebirth to find Arthur in their living room I would be expecting outrage that he’s there, but Gillen just doesn’t do anything. It’s incredibly frustrating.
There were some good points, but sadly most of the film was lacking and could have been so much more.