Wake Wood starts out with an unnerving premise and goes downhill as the film’s tyke goes on a killing spree. Her name is Alice, and she has had a happy life. Why does she kill?
Well maybe if you were resurrected during a Pagan ritual, you’d have problems too. After Alice (Ella Connelly) is killed in a dog attack, her parents Patrick and Louise (Aidan Gillen and Eva Birthistle) would do anything to have her back.
They move to Wake Wood, the kind of community that exists primarily in horror movies, cloistered and isolated, with weird locals who come into the house uninvited.
“How would you like to get you daughter back?” asks creepy villager Arthur, played by Timothy Spall (not a direct quote). “That’s not funny,” replies Patrick. a believable response. But conveniently, Louise caught a glimpse of a resurrection ritual. She believes him.
The ritual can bring the deceased back for three days, so the bereaved can say their goodbyes. It requires that another person’s body be used in the process of resurrecting the girl. Conveniently (or not so conveniently), an older man in the village was recently crushed to death by a cow.
The ceremony is prepared, but the child’s parents lied about one important detail — Alice has been dead for more than a year, which creates a rift in the Pagan magic. Will Alice come back a normal little girl? Or the bad seed reborn?
You should have been able to figure out the answer to this question without my little commentary in the first paragraph. And forgive me, but I don’t buy that a seven-something year old girl, albeit an undead one, could rip a woman’s heart out of her ribcage. Which also happens in the movie. Keep up with me, folks!
Notice how I’m using the word “convenient” a lot? “Wake Wood” runs on unlikely occurrences, close calls, and horror cliches, like “car breaks down,” “woman runs into *gasp* her husband,” and the inevitable “child kills animal” archetypes. All this and a scene pulled straight from Carrie.
Ella Connelly, as the girl, has all the cuteness and wide-eyed sincerity of a young Dakota Fanning, but Dakota Fanning she is not. Although she could act happy and sweet, she wasn’t really convincing as an infernal child-gone-wrong.
Which brings us to the ending. Eva Birthistle is the highlight of this film, portraying grief and distress naturally. Timothy Spall is a great actor in an underdeveloped, criminally underwritten role, therefore hindering his capacity for greatness.
Aidan Gillen, who did a commendable job playing a mentally ill stutterer in the indie Buddy Boy some years back, practically sleepwalks through this role.
His apparent mindset: play the part, jump the hoops, collect the paycheck. There’s little passion or commitment to this role. Now that I think about it, his character in Buddy Boy was a bit stiff, a little under-reactionary.
But it fit the character, and Aidan Gillen had some spark playing the nervous wreck. Gillen now plays Patrick as detached to the extreme, facing horrific and astonishing occurrences with mild anxiety. He plays a concerned husband, but that’s about it. Despite it’s initially chilling premise, Wake Wood fails to deliver. Although it has potential as a thriller, it ultimately fails as a movie.