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Wake Wood (Blu-ray Review)

With 2011 stinkers like Sucker Punch and Thor (IMO) out there, I don’t get as excited about upcoming films as I used to, but one press release, I did not so long ago, really peaked my curiosity.   After watching the movie’s trailer I found myself actually looking forward to a film other than The Hangover: Part II.   Basically, the film’s logline did me in.   It simply reads: GRIEF-STRICKEN PARENTS TRY TO BRING THEIR DAUGHTER BACK FROM THE DEAD IN A THRILLER FROM THE MOST FAMOUS NAME IN HORROR.  Now dissected, there’s a lot in that logline for me to love.   You have a story about bringing someone back from the dead.   I’m always fascinated about that subject, as I want to learn how to do it myself one day.   You have a tale about grief-stricken parents.  What kind of person can’t sympathize with that?   And finally, you have the last line that tells you this film comes from the most famous name in horror.  Now come one!   Admit it.   Like mine was, your curiosity is peaked to the max already, isn’t it?   I can’t be the only one!

The reason we are all congregated here today is really quite simple.   We are here to celebrate the July 5th Blu-ray release of Wake Wood, the heart-pounding supernatural shocker from the reborn masters of horror, Hammer Films.  Now for those of you who are unfamiliar with Hammer Films let me school you for just a second.   That’s all it will take.   I promise you.   Hammer Films are responsible for such horror classics like The Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula, The House of the Baskervilles, The Vampire Lovers and many more.   Here’s hoping they release all these beloved classics and more on the Blu-ray format one fine day!

Film  

Wake Wood is one of Hammer Films’ first feature productions in more than three decades.  The film is both a UK and Irish production.  Ireland’s David Keating co-wrote and directs the movie that stars Timothy Spall, Eva Birthistle, Dan Gordon and Adian Gillen.  It was filmed in Ireland and Sweden.  The movie originally premiered in 2009 at the Lund International Fantastic Film Festival, but it wasn’t released theatrically in the UK until this year.  It has garnered overwhelmingly positive remarks from critics alike.  But the real question here is how did I like it.  Well, lets find out!

Wake Wood tells the tragic tale of Patrick and Louise Daley (Gillen and Birthistle), whose 9-year-old daughter, Alice (Ella Connolly), is killed by a pretty gruesome dog attack.  What kind of parents are they that they would allow this?  Anyway, in order to escape their grief, the couple moves to a rural Irish community called Wake Wood, hence where the film gets its name.  Duh!  However, things are not what they seem in the strange town of Wake Wood.  Louise kind of gets tipped off when a woman brings in a child into her pharmacy and a couple days later, that child mutters Alice’s name.  Needless to say, that doesn’t sit well with Louise.  Knowing about Patrick and Louise’s loss, the weird people of Wake Wood drop a bomb on the couple when they tell them they could bring their daughter back from the dead.  There’s a catch however.  Isn’t there always?  Their daughter could not be deceased for more than a year, she would only return for a short three-day stint, she could never leave the city of Wake Wood and the couple had to commit to living their forever.  I know, you are probably wondering the same thing I was.  Why three days?  Well, luckily for both you and me, the writers answered that question by saying that the three days is only achievable by tapping into the life force of a fresh cadaver.  Pretty cool, huh?  And lucky for the couple, the town just suffered a casualty.  How convenient!

Patrick and Louise Daley really don’t resist the proposition, as although they find the idea disturbing, they are equally excited in the same sense to have their daughter back.  But we all know how fast three days go by, right?  Basically, that’s the ultimate question here.  What will they do when it’s time for Alice to leave them forever…again?  However, that’s really the least of their worries as Alice starts to remember how she died and before the film is over, she has turned the town into quite a frenzy with her blood soaked tendencies.  Have I intrigued you yet?  Good!  I really think the film is worth a watch, especially on the Blu-ray format, but of course!

What I like best about Wake Wood is the suspenseful and creepy story.  I’m into taboo and sick, twisted subjects like this.  But you already knew that.  Despite the film’s apparent low budget, I was really surprised by how much I liked the movie by the end of its 90-minute runtime.  It had a very cool twist at the end, that I admittedly didn’t see coming.  Chalk up another bonus point for Wake Wood on my list!  The fact that the film felt fresh and unique and ultimately answered all my burning questions I had has me awarding this one a modest score of 4 in the film category.  You have to really warm up to the story to achieve the required suspension of disbelief, but I believe the film’s twisted ending warrants that, in my opinion.  What I did not care for was the piss poor, choppy editing techniques executed throughout, but thankfully it didn’t ruin the film’s story in the long run.  This is one title I can see myself revisiting again in the future and that’s truly all that matters.

Video  

MPI/Dark Sky Films brings the eerie chiller to the Blu-ray format with a pretty impressive AVC MPEG-4 codec framed in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  For a low budget film, this flick holds up pretty well.  But I guess you have to kind of expect that in this day and age with HD video equipment.  Anyway, I really don’t have too much to complain about here.  The biggest thing that hinders this film’s score, although albeit intentional, is the movie’s very bland and neutral color palette.  The black levels are not the deepest I have ever seen, but they are sufficient.  Fine texture is visible throughout in the pores of the actors, the fur on the animals, the crevices on the walls and more.  Even the special effects, as lackluster as they were at times, were bloody disgusting gross with the Blu-ray disc’s visual presentation.  The scene where a baby calf was born almost made me hurl for a quick second, but I was able to rapidly regain my composure.  Flesh tones were also spot on.  So all in all, not a bad outing in the video department for this low budget horror flick.  Let’s move on.

Audio  

The biggest thing to find fault here is the fact that a lossless audio track is not included.  But like the Transformers HD-DVD fiasco of years ago, the audio sounds dynamite thanks to the disc’s 5.1 Dolby Digital surround presentation.  It’s hard to find fault when a low budget film sounds as good as this.  The rear speakers were alive and kicking during the action moments and the LFE channel made its presence known subtly throughout.  Dialog was all loud and clear, but perhaps my favorite aspect of the disc’s sound field was the musical score humming throughout.  For an example, listen to the eerie track playing on the film’s website, http://www.wakewoodmovie.com/.  I think all horror fans will agree, that a good horror movie is very dependent upon its chilling soundtrack.  At least I think so!  And say what you want about Wake Wood and it’s production value, but the music is indisputably devilishly beautiful (in its own evil way) and I will pick a fight with whoever says differently.

Special Features  

This one is pretty easy to grade.  It did not get the coveted goose egg, but it came narrowly close.  If a disc has a special feature, then I award no goose eggs.  It automatically gets something for at least trying.  Goose eggs are reserved, in my opinion, for titles with ZERO special features.  So are you ready?  It’s a long list that we have to tackle below.  We better get started.

  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 13:57) – This one plays as one long continuous track.
  • Trailer (HD, 2:00) – This is the trailer that I initially fell in love with.  If you rent this one, watch this first to get yourself pumped.  Just do it!

Final Thoughts  

I hate being deceitful.  Let’s be honest here.  Wake Wood is not going to appeal to everyone.  Some people may not like it for its low budget.  Others may be turned off by the fact that it’s from another land.  Whatever your excuse is, there’s no doubt in my mind that true horror fans will eat this one up.  It has that Rosemary’s Baby kind of charm to it.  So I urge you.  No, I implore you.  Don’t write this one off so fast.  Give it a chance to digest in you.  And if you do…I can almost guarantee you will love its wickedness by the time the film’s credits role.  Rent this one first or buy it from me below.  I really don’t care.  But either way, I want you to show your support for Wake Wood.  It deserves a watch.

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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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