Supernatural horror from Hammer Studios captures relentless claustrophobia
The resurrected Hammer Studios really are upping the pace, swiftly following The Resident with British supernatural shocker Wake Wood. Very much a riff on Stephen King’s Pet Sematary (which also got an excellent big screen adaptation from director Mary Lambert).
A young couple (played convincingly by Aidan Gillen and Eva Birthistle) move to the tiny village of Wake Wood in rural Ireland after losing their young daughter in a savage dog attack. Gillen’s position as a vet means he’s soon a trusted member of the community as they learn of a pagan ritual which brings a loved one back from the dead for three days to say a final goodbye. Unfortunately they don’t stick to the rules of the ceremony with tragic bloody consequences.
Timothy Spall plays the village elder rounding out a solid cast in this British/Irish production which feels suitably indebted to the Gothic Hammer films of the 50s, 60s and 70s. Where Wake Wood succeeds is in portraying a relentless feeling of claustrophobia, both internal and external, as characters are trapped by their circumstances and environment. However it takes on a slightly hysterical tone once their daughter, Alice (Ella Connolly), returns from the grave as it switches from supernatural chiller to bloody horror while never fully committing to its absurdities leading to an uneasy balance of atmosphere and action.
Out now on selected release.