Carl the Critic: Talks About "Wake Wood" [Caution: Contains Plot Spoilers]
"Wake Woods" Trailer
Have I mentioned that I have a fondness for horror films?
Well I do, although not for the blood, gore, carnage, and nudity like most American Horror fans, but because horror provides a unique opportunity to explore our personal morality and express our beliefs about what is right and wrong, while still having blood, gore, carnage, and nudity. Somewhere in the 1960s horror films began to lose sight of this, remembering about the blood, gore, etc. but forget about the film's morality which in turn makes the horror film feel soulless, hollow, empty, and "Hostel" (2005).
That is what is wrong with some (especially American) horror films today, but thankfully the balance is being restored with the recently revived "Hammer Film Productions", the British film production company that specializes in creating Gothic horror films with great atmosphere, and campy acting. In 2008, the company released a show called "Beyond the Rave" which... I have never heard of before but wikipedia says it's a real thing so it is.
Anyway, in 2010 Hammer released its first known film since its revival "Let Me In", based on the Swedish novel "Let the Right One In" (which was also the title of the Swedish movie). After that proved successful, in 2011 Hammer made two more horror films: "The Resident" and "Wake Wood".
Because I didn't see "The Resident", I decided to review a movie that had the poster of a creepy girl standing alone. I'm going to get into the story... wait for it... NOW!
Story with Spoilers
This film had me at frame one, (which was just blackness). The film starts by introducing us to the couple Patrick and Louise (played by Aidan Gillen and Eva Birthistle), who are moving to the little town of Silent Hill… oops I mean Sleepy Hollow… No wait I know this it’s on the tip of my tongue… Oh yeah it is Wake Wood, (silly me), and while they are driving there we get a back flash to when their daughter Alice (played by Ella Connolly) was still alive. It was her birthday you see, she was about nine years old, she gets a hamster and a necklace for her birthday, all the while Alice his all cheery and full of life. Alice was on her way to school when she decided to give a slice of ham to a viscous German Shepard that has a taste for Irish girl’s jugular. Patrick and Louise feel responsible for the death of their daughter, and because she died a very young, they didn’t really get a chance to properly say good-bye.
So anyway, Patrick is a vet who works for a man named Arthur (played by Timothy Spall), and Louise is a pharmacist in the town of Twin Peaks- I mean Wake Wood, which is like any ordinary town you’d see in the state of Maine. As soon as they enter the town there is a shot of the sign “Welcome to Wake Wood” with giant white windmills in the background. While staying in Wake Wood Louise is still trying to get over the fact that her daughter has died a horrible death, and now at this point you’re probably wondering “when did Alice die? I mean I know it was her birthday, but was that a week ago? A month? A year?” The film doesn’t specify this until later for a reason and we’ll get to that in a bit.
All you need to know is that one night Louise wants to go to “the station”, when all of the sudden their car breaks down. Luckily, Patrick’s boss Arthur lives not too far and so Patrick and Louise climb over some barbed wire (which is always a great idea), walk pass the “pet semetary”, and eventually make it to Arthur’s house. When Patrick rings the doorbell however, no one answers even though Arthur’s car is parked right in front of the house. So Louise decides go around back to see if Arthur is there where she stumbles upon what looks like a cult and some weird ritual involving blood, and naked man crawling out of a dead body. Whatever it is, Arthur seems to be the leader of it, and this freaks the hell out of Louise. She runs into Patrick and they walk all the way home (you might be wondering why didn’t they do this before? The best answer I have is that Arthur’s might have been closer). And so Patrick and Louise forget about going to “the station”, and they go home to find Arthur sitting on a chair waiting for them… They might want to invest in a security system. Arthur says that he came by to see if everything is all right, Patrick assures him that he is, while Louise is silent the whole time.
The next day Louise gets one hell of a surprise when sees a parade of people banging sticks together, and a strange teenaged girl comes up to Louise and (quite literally out of nowhere) tells Louise that “Alice has a lovely voice.” Louise, getting reasonably suspicious, confronts the girl’s aunt Mary (played by Amelia Crowley) and asks her “why does her niece know Alice’s name?” Mary tells Louise to forget about it, and to try to have another child, but for reasons of “because the script says so” Louise can’t have any more children. Mary then refuses to explain how she can get her daughter back, then Louise suddenly gets a call from Patrick regarding a shave that he wants Louise’s help with. Louise says, “I can’t” and then Patrick responds with “I’ll pick you up at ten!” (Patrick might need a new cellphone).
We then cut to one of the more gruesome deaths in the film, involving a character named Mick O’Shea (played by Dan Gordon) and a ridiculously hairy cow that crushes him to death. The idiot basically asked for it though, he was told not to get in the cage with the hairy bastard and he just goes “f*** you” and goes in anyway.
After he dies, Arthur says to Patrick, “You did everything you could” (I for one thought they could tranquilize the cow but that’s just me). Patrick then tells Arthur that he wants to leave Wake Wood, to which Arthur tells Patrick “I can bring your daughter back, for three days as long as has been dead for less than one year.” Patrick turns down the offer but Louise wants to see her daughter again.
Remember when I said that the film doesn’t specify how long Alice has been dead for? Yeah, remember that, it’s very important. Anyway we cut to the next scene where Louise and Patrick discuss the issue, and Louise brings up that they have to lie to Arthur. Okay, so now let’s put two and two together and we get that Alice has been dead for over a year (we don’t know how long over a year she has been dead, we just know by now that she has been dead for over a year.) So as you can imagine there’s going to be some sort of consequence for this. Let’s find out!
Louise and Patrick then got to Arthur’s house, and Arthur goes though the preparatory stages of the ritual, which involve… some sort of abacus looking thing. When asked how long Alice has been dead, Patrick says, “eleven months, two weeks two days”. After Arthur runs his fingers over the abacus, he tells them the game plan. They get three days at the very most with Alice, and they are not allowed to leave the town of Wake Wood. When Patrick asks “why only three days?” Arthur explains that it is the life force of a fresh cadaver, and that it might have something to do with mirroring actual stages of human life: Birth, Life, and Death.
Arthur also explains that in order for his voodoo zombie magic to work, he needs a freshly dead body (thank God there happens to be that Mick O’Shea corpse is still around) and a relic, something personal of Alice’s (in this case, they use Alice’s finger).
After they get what they need (and introduce us to another character, Peggy O’Shea (played by Ruth McCabe) who is eventually persuaded to give up her husbands corpse to a couple she doesn’t trust) the ceremony begins and the scene is very strange and graphic, but also kind of interesting. I should also point out that the music, composed by Michael Convertino, is quite good, and adds a great deal of tension to this scene in particular. After doing the entire ritual, Alice is re-born. By the way I should mention that this is like the first five minutes of the movie, it has some issues with pacing occasionally.
The first day after Alice’s rebirth, everything seems pretty normal. Everything is all fun and games until Louise and Patrick loose Alice. When they find her Alice is staring at a dead raven, which is the first real subtle hint that something is not really right with Alice but nothing too serious. So on the drive back, Patrick hits a dog, which he brings home and stitches up. At this point, Alice asks, “Can I do it?” which is another subtle hint that there’s something not quite right with Alice, but not too serious, it’s not like it’s uncommon that a child has a fascination with their parent’s work. After her father tells her to put on a pair of gloves so she can stitch up the dog, she then says two more things that really make me suspicious of her:
· “People shouldn’t hurt animals should they?”
To which the father responds with, “No they shouldn’t!”
· “And animals shouldn’t hurt people either.”
To which the father responds with, “Well that’s kinda different you, know?” (In my mind I am wondering if Alice remembers having her jugular ripped out by a hungry German Shepard).
Arthur then drops by and sees that Patrick and Alice are stitching up the dog.
Alice goes to get ready for bed and Arthur so wisely says, “Don’t make it hard to say, ‘Good-bye.’” Which for me this is a good point; Patrick and Louise know they have three days right? Why are they acting as though Alice is alive forever?
Anyway after Alice is asleep, Louise and Patrick have sex… right next to where Alice’s sleeping… At least that’s how the film was edited, it was kind of gross, and incase the earlier moments weren’t enough to convince you that there’s something not right with Alice, we get a creepy shot of her staring at her parents sleeping.
The morning of the second day, Peggy comes over to check up on Alice, and ask her if she wants to ride on her pony. This entire scene is built upon the suspension that something will go wrong with Alice. She might die again, and we’re not even sure if Arthur’s magic can bring back Alice a second time. Fortunately though, Alice seems to be fine until Peggy interrogates Alice. She begins by asking, “All right Alice, what is your name?”… Uh this is kind of weird. She asks more dumb questions, the last of which being, “Alice are you a normal little girl?”
Offended by such a personal question Alice begins to walk away. Louise and Patrick decide to leave town but then they discover that if Alice attempts to leave Wake Wood, the bite marks from the dog re-appear as they did before, but if Alice is brought back they go away, and this is the plot device used to keep Alice and her parents stuck in Wake Wood.
Peggy tells Arthur and the other cult members, and they go to Louise and Patrick’s house to convince them to give up their last day with Alice. When Patrick refuses, Arthur makes absolutely sure that he was honest about Alice’s death. After Patrick confirms that he told Arthur everything, Arthur is convinced.
Later that night, Patrick checks on Alice when she is asleep, and notices her hands are dirty. This seems weird at first, but then when we see the skinned remains of the dog that Patrick rescued with the skin left on the door of the shed. Yeah, Patrick probably wishes he had been honest to Arthur in the first place. However when Patrick confronts Alice, and asks her to show him her hands, she does and they appear to be clean.
After breakfast, Mary (remember her?) comes by and reminds Louise and Patrick that today is Alice’s last day. She gives them a stick with some braided rope on it, called “a clutch” which is supposed to make her return to death to be more comfortable (by making it tight around her wrists).
Patrick gets an urgent call and has to go to, and Mary leaves too, so it’s just Louise and Alice. Alice very creepy like asks, “When’s the baby coming?”
So yeah now Louise is pregnant. I guess Alice knows because she saw her parents “get-it-on” and knows that is where babies come from.
This is going on really long so I am just going to fast-forward a bit:
· Remember that hairy cow that killed Mick O’Shea? Well, Patrick discovers that someone gouged its eye out, tore at its jugular, and did other really sick things to it. So Patrick puts it out of its misery. Patrick finds Alice’s bracelet lying next to the cow. He also gets a needle full of… something, for Alice.
· Arthur discovers Alice is evil, and she even kills a guy who was staring at her. Alice just appears in Arthurs house, and blows a fuse in his house as well. She disappears AGAIN and says “see ya later.”
· Alice goes to Peggy O’Shea’s house where Alice proves that she is too smart for “the clutch” that Mary introduced us to mere moments ago. Alice also kills Peggy in a gory fashion.
· Around the same time, Patrick discovers that:
o Alice killed the pony she rode on earlier
o Alice kills Peggy
o Louise is pregnant
· Louise and Patrick go looking for Alice. And their car breaks down again. When Patrick and Louise get out of their car to discover hundreds of dead ravens on the road they were driving on. They find Alice, Alice asks her parents if she is dead, and Patrick injects her with the stuff in the needle.
· They bring Alice to Mary’s house; Mary leads them to where they need to go. Alice wakes up, does something weird to Patrick to make him trip, and despite Patrick choking and coughing his head off, Louise and Mary don’t seem to hear him. When they finally notice that Patrick and Alice are gone they go back for them.
· So Louise and Mary find Alice, and Mary does the stupidest thing you can do in this situation and because of it Alice rips her heart out without blinking an eye. This freaks out Louise, and she runs away.
· Arthur finds Patrick, and at this point knows that Patrick lied about how long Alice has been dead for. Apparently it was a big deal. Actually Alice has been dead for exactly “A year, a month, and a couple of days.” So as punishment, Arthur’s thugs hold him until Alice is back into the ground… Yeah some punishment.
· Louise tricks Alice to leave Wake Wood, causing her to faint. Louise then takes Alice’s dead body and buries it beneath the ground… Then Louise is dragged down with her and Patrick goes, “NOOOOOOO!” and Arthur goes, “you should have told the truth the first time so none of this shit would have gone down!” And so Louise, Alice, and the unborn baby are supposedly dead.
· Approximately nine months later, or at least I assume so, Patrick gets Louise resurrected from the dead, Louise is almost due, and we see that Patrick plans to get the baby out of Louise… Uh wouldn’t that baby be dead? I’m not sure how this whole thing works, quite frankly I didn’t know that you can carry a baby when you’re dead, but wouldn’t that baby only last three days as well? The film basically ends and yet I still have a ton of questions.
And so that is “Wake Wood”. I’ll admit that I might have a ton of questions, but I enjoyed it.
As far as Hammer Horror films go, the acting was very good, and the story was very consistent. It seems to know what its rules and limits are (even if the audience might not). The atmosphere is classic Hammer Horror, accompanied with a brilliant score that is chilling, simplistic, and memorable.
It's not perfect, or original but I really enjoyed this one and am glad I saw it. I hope the little girl, Ella Connolly plays another creepy girl, because I see potential in her.
So check it out on Netflex, or iTunes and let me know what you think? I give this film an 8.7 out of 10.