Starring Aidan Gillen, Eva Birthistle and Timothy Spall

Directed by David Keating

Written by David Keating and Brendan McCarthy

Hammer Films/eOne


It would be tragic to dismiss the Irish film Wake Wood as Pet Sematary meets The Wicker Man, but the comparisons are obvious. Young parents Patrick and Louise (Gillen and Birthistle), mourning the death of their daughter Alice (Ella Connolly), move to the small town of Wake Wood where the residents have a secret: a pagan ritual gives them the power to resurrect their dead loved ones for three days. Patrick and Louise avail themselves of the chance to see their daughter again, but it soon becomes apparent that Lucy hasn’t come back right.

Timothy Spall as Arthur

Director David Keating makes the most of his low budget, concentrating on casting great actors instead of staging expensive spectacle. That said, he proves a dab hand at creating a couple of disturbing set pieces, both twisted takes on birth. Gillen, seen recently on HBO’s Game of Thrones and The Wire, impresses as the father who will do anything to save his child but soon recognizes the error of his choices, while Mike Leigh regular Timothy Spall is the voice of wisdom and authority as Wake Wood’s leader. They carry the film even as it pivots occasionally towards absurdity.

Fortunately Wake Wood is more than the sum of its genre influences. The intimacy and claustrophobia of town life, where everyone knows each other’s business, is effectively evoked, as is the deep sadness, desperation and excitement of Patrick and Louise as they wrestle with the decision as to whether or not they should bring back their daughter. That her resurrection leads to tragedy is inevitable and played not for shock but for pathos.

Set this on the shelf next to The Wicker Man certainly but understand that it has earned its place there.


Rating: 3.5/5


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