Contributor; London
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Wake Wood is exactly the sort of flick Hammer Films should be making - a gloriously old-fashioned throwback to shady locals, creepy kids and pagan rituals. Despite ruthlessly pillaging from countless genre pics - everything from Don't Look Now to Pet Cemetery gets a look in - it somehow succeeds on its own merits.

After their daughter is mauled to death by a savage dog, vetenarian Patrick (Aiden Gillen) and his pharmacist wife Louise (Eva Birthistle) move to the quiet rural idyll of Wakewood in Ireland. Both working again, they gradually meet an assortment of locals before stumbling across an alarming ritual. It turns out the community is involved in an ancient tradition that allows the recently deceased to be brought back to life for a period of three days so their loved ones can bid them a final farewell. Buoyed by the discovery, Louise sets about bringing her daughter Alice (Ella Connolly) back with the help of Arthur (Timothy Spall) and some reluctant locals. But things don't quite run to plan and before long there's trouble brewing, and blood flowing.

There's much to like about director David Keating's film. Performances are excellent and played straight throughout despite the occasional excesses (and I'd expect nothing less from Hammer) with even Spall reigning in his potentially over-the-top performance to a level of creepiness that doesn't become reductively comic. In fact, the balance between the film makers knowing what sort of film it is (come on, read that plot again!), and the whole thing tipping over into pure silliness is handled perfectly. For me Gillen will forever be Tommy Carcetti from The Wire, but he puts in a haunted and grim performance of the grieving father willing to do anything to rescue his family from despair. Birthistle too effectively conveys desperation and numbing grief without resorting to perpetual sobbing and absurd theatrics.

 Whilst there are a few decidedly cheap looking shots that reveal the less than stellar budget, there's enough directorial flair to overcome any budgetary shortcomings. The effects are mostly old-fashioned and wonderfully gooey, and though not the most visually memorable film you'll see, it does generate a suitably unpleasant sense of foreboding. It's is a dark and gripping picture that sits well within the Hammer tradition.

Wake Wood is a film to let yourself get carried away with. The plot doesn't hold up to much scrutiny and if you continuously pick at the innumerable cinematic reference points you'll probably go mad. Although ultimately incidental, it's nonetheless a fun and nervy piece that thrills from start to finish.

Vertigo Films will be releasing Wake Wood at UK cinemas on 25th March 2011 and the DVD release will follow on 28th March 2011 courtesy of Momentum Pictures.

Special Features include: interview with cast and crew; deleted scenes; trailer; teaser trailer.
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