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(aka "Wakewood" or "The Wake Wood")

 

directed by David Keating
UK/Ireland/Sweden 2011

 

After veterinarian Patrick (Aidan Gillen, 12 ROUNDS) and his wife Louise (Eva Birthistle, THE CHILDREN) lose their daughter Alice (Ella Connolly) to a vicious dog attack, they move to the small Irish village of Wake Wood where he takes over the vet practice - taken over from well-to-do Arthur (Timothy Spall, GOTHIC) - and she takes over the local pharmacy. Louise has not gotten over her daughter's death and resents Patrick for trying to move on. She wants to return to the city. While Patrick is driving Louise to the train station, their car breaks down near Arthur's home. When there is no answer at the door, they look around the property and Louise stumbles upon a pagan rebirth ceremony conducted by Arthur. Arthur explains to Patrick and Louise that he can bring their daughter back for three days so that they can have closure. Despite Patrick's misgivings and warnings from Mary (Amelia Crowley, ELLA ENCHANGED) - whose dead daughter has already been reborn and departed - Louise wants to go through with the ceremony. The rules are: 1) that Alice must have been dead less than a year, 2) she must not stray beyond Wakewood's borders, and 3) the ceremony binds them to the town for the rest of their lives. They need a fresh cadaver for the ceremony, so they must approach Mrs. O'Shea (Ruth McCabe, MY LEFT FOOT) whose husband was just killed by a mad bull. She senses something wrong, but Arthur pressures her to consent (by possibly denying her the opportunity for her husband's return). The ritual is a success and Alice is returned to her parents. Arthur warns Patrick not to make her departure difficult. Thoughts of escaping Wakewood with Alice are scuttled when they discover what happens when one of the reborn cross the border. Mrs. O'Shea spends some time with Alice and warns her parents that there is something really wrong with her, but they refuse to send her back early. When animals and people start dying in gruesome ways, Patrick and Louise realize that what they brought back might not be their little girl.

Hammer returned to the big screen with LET ME IN, the well-mounted but unnecessary remake/adaptation of the Swedish film/novel LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (Hammer's THE RESIDENT has gone direct to DVD/Blu in the US via Image Entertainment, and Hammer is doing an adaptation of the Susan Hill novel THE WOMAN IN BLACK with Daniel Radcliffe [the source novel was already adapted by Nigel Kneale into a creepy TV movie with Adrian Rawlins]). WAKE WOOD has already drawn some comparison by critics to THE WICKER MAN, but the pagan element here is neither so enticingly rendered nor is the outcome that much of a surprise. Of course, the couple will some how break the rules. Of course, something has gone wrong with their daughter's rebirth. Of course, people are going to start dying gruesomely. What does surprise is the revelation of whose fault it was and how. There are some occasionally lovely images in the cinematography, but in general it has a TV movie feel (Hammer's eighties series HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR already tackled the creepy kid scenario with "Growing Pains" minus the pagan trappings), not in the production values, but in the intimacy of scope. The small handful of pagan locals never feel like a true menace (they are not meant to be, but they should seem to pose some threat when the parents still believe everything to be fine with Alice). The gore effects are gruesome but not lingering and the CGI is applied deftly. Gillen, Birthistle, and Spall are all good, but it seems more to their credit than the script's characterization. Gillen is able to make the viewer gloss over his character's huge leap from humoring his grieving wife wanting to go through with this fantastic ritual to his own acceptance and extraordinary participation. Barthistle has already had experience with creepy kids in THE CHILDREN (an entry in one of the LionsGate "8 Films to Die For" cycles) and is affecting during the climax. After his nattier turns in Ken Russell's GOTHIC and Harvey Cockliss' British NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET retread DREAM DEMON, Spall lends an air of gravitas to the proceedings; but as Hammer Films go, he's not quite Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing (maybe more of an Andre Morrell, George Pastel, or Michael Ripper) or - in regard to the
WICKER MAN comparisons - he's no Lord Summerisle. The script might have spent a little time exploring what character flaws could make such a calculating character blunder in a manner that would have such deadly repercussions (according to the featurette, the filmmakers said Spall came up with a full background for his character, so he probably knew even if it wasn't allowed to come through onscreen). Crowley and McCabe are also fine in their supporting roles. Connolly doesn't bring anything new to the creepy kid role, but the eight-year-old actress turns in a disciplined and professional performance. Screenwriter/producer Brendan McCarthy had previously produced the recent Irish horror pics OUTCAST (which similarly contrasts pagan magic and desolate modern settings) and ISOLATION. Out of co-production necessity quota necessity, the opening flashback sequence was shot in Sweden, but the bulk of the film was shot in the Irish village of Pettigo (with much of the shooting closed to the press, hence the picture suddenly popping up after only a few blips on the web). Fans may want to check out the somewhat similarly-themed Japanese film KAKASHI or possibly the Wales-set German/UK co-production THE DARK with Maria Bello and Sean Bean.

Eric Cotenas

Poster

Theatrical Release: 25 March 2011 (UK)

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Comparison:

Momentum Pictures - Region 2 - PAL vs. Dark Sky - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

Momentum Pictures - Region 2 - PAL LEFT vs. Dark Sky - Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

DVD Box Cover

 

Distribution

Momentum Pictures

Region 2 - PAL

Dark Sky Films - Region 'A' - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:26:27 (4% PAL speedup) 1:30:07.041
Video

1.78:1 Open Matte format

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.88 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 21,698,083,731 bytes

Feature: 19,816,255,488 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 21.97 Mbps

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate DVD

Bitrate

Blu-ray

Audio English Dolby Digital 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio English 3409 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 3409 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Subtitles English, none English, Spanish, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Momentum Pictures

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Deleted Scenes (16:9; 13:58)
• Cast/Crew Interviews (16:9; 20:22)
• Teaser Trailer (16:9; 1:19)
• Theatrical Trailer (16:9; 1:32)
• Start-up trailers for OUTCAST, MONSTERS, and DAMNED BY DAWN

DVD Release Date: 28 March 2011
Amaray

Chapters 12

Release Information:
Studio:
Dark Sky

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

1080P Single-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 21,698,083,731 bytes

Feature: 19,816,255,488 bytes

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Total Video Bitrate: 21.97 Mbps

Edition Details:
• Deleted Scenes (16:9; 13:58 in 480i)
• Theatrical Trailer (2:00 in 1080P)
• Start-up trailers for Dark Sky Films

Blu-ray Release Date: July 5th, 2011
Standard Blu-ray case

Chapters 20

 

Comments

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Dark Sky - Region 'A' - Blu-ray - June 11': The modest single-layered Blu-ray transfer improves in most areas but being presented in the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio without PAL speed-up may be the most desirable asset for those seeking to see the film. It is richer and thicker - being darker in most scenes than the SD edition. The 1080P rendering supports some surprising depth although black levels are crushed at times.

Audio offers a lossless DTS-HD Master 5.1 at a healthy 3409 kbps 5.1 that grabs the spooky effects and shoots them around the room. Also included is a linear PCM stereo track at 2304 kbps that has some depth and is a bit tinnier. There are optional English or Spanish subtitles on the region 'A'-locked disc.

Extras duplicate the deleted scenes from the Momentum and only add an HD trailer beyond that. This is a good horror with a real The Wicker Man aura but it stands on its own ground as a chilling, suspenseful mystery as well. Fans of the genre should be keen.

***

ON THE DVD: Momentum Pictures features an anamorphic, progressive, dual-layer transfer opened up to 1.78:1 from the 2.35:1 aspect ratio (the deleted scenes are framed at 2.35:1 and lose information on the top and bottom of the frame, while the 1.78:1 feature transfer loses slivers of information on the side while featuring more on the top and bottom). The opened-up framing looks quite nice at times (see caps 2-5), but at other times it gives the film a TV-movie look. The 5.1 track is nicely enveloping (the wind and the cycling turbines that border the town play a lot into the mix) and optional English subtitles are provided.

There are roughly 14 minutes of wisely deleted scenes, the longest of which is an extended version of Alice's rebirth ceremony with some additional shots (some of it looks pretty ridiculous without the scoring and sound design). The Cast and Crew Interviews (featuring director David Keating, writer/producer Brendan McCarthy, producer John McDonnell, Hammer president Simon Oakes, and actors Aidan Gillen, Eva Birthistle, and Timothy Spall) is an EPK collection of sound bytes about scripting, casting, and shooting without being particularly informative. The theatrical trailer is scarcely longer than the teaser, but it conveys something of a story while the teaser just flashes images and sinister, ambiguous dialogue excerpts. Start-up trailers round out the package.

Dark Sky Films has picked up the film for release on US DVD and Blu-ray on July 5th (no region coding info available yet). A Region B German
Blu-ray is set for May.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


Menus

 

Momentum Pictures - Region 2 - PAL LEFT vs. Dark Sky - Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT
 

 


CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

Blu-ray Subtitle Sample

 

 

Screen Captures

 

Momentum Pictures - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Dark Sky - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


Momentum Pictures - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Dark Sky - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


Momentum Pictures - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Dark Sky - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


Momentum Pictures - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Dark Sky - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


Momentum Pictures - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Dark Sky - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


Momentum Pictures - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Dark Sky - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


  Momentum Pictures - Region 2 - PAL TOP vs. Dark Sky - Region 'A' - Blu-ray BOTTOM

 


More Blu-ray Captures

DVD Box Cover

 

Distribution

Momentum Pictures

Region 2 - PAL

Dark Sky Films - Region 'A' - Blu-ray



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