It`s pretty much a fact that Wicker Man (the 70s verison that is) ranks up there as one of the greatest horror films. It`s location and mood is bar none the first and last word in sinister village based films and not to mention a hell of a awesome end. Now while this is a very hard film to ever top, I believe the film Wake Wood comes very close to the same creepy vibe and wonderful locations. So maybe this could be looked at like a long lost cousin to the Wicker man?
The plot follows a couple who is still reeling from the brutal lose of daughter by the jaws of a hungry dog. In the "wake" of the tragic events they decide to move to the remote town you of guessed it Wake Wood. The parents soon learn there's a mysterious ritual to bring the dead back to life. Only one catch, you can only bring your loved one back for three days, giving the person time to properly say goodbye. Now little Alice is back to her loving family but theres a evil lying under her sweet innocent smile, can they stop her or is it already to late for the sleepy town and its inhabits.
Character actor Timothy Spall is pitch perfect in his role as the towns leader. His performance is surprising subtle and no sign chewed scenery in site.
A film like this lives or dies by the eerie isolated yet believable settings, and this film more then delivers. The locations were shot in County Donegal Ireland and is amazing with its natural lush green pastures and lovely meadows. It adds a interesting contrast to the underlying evil and secret happenings that go on in the town.
The stand out scene would have to be the ritual to bring Alice back. Its literally a rebirth, its truly chilling.
The scene in a less capable director`s hands could have been very cheesy and special effects driven with lots of CG crap. What we have here though is a very somber yet nightmarish moment. It really pulls us into buying in to the absurd notion and that's what a good filmmaker does.
Like most works of art, there's bound to be flaws. While the film starts strong it seems to run out of steam close to the end. Throughout, the film has a subtle yet moody handle on itself with alot of restrain but towards the end takes a sharp turn into slasher town. Now don't get me wrong, that's not a bad thing, but it feels very forced and the blood shed that does happen is only a tease to any real gore hound. Did the studio pressure the director to film them to boost the genre appeal? The end itself is also kind of a head scratchier, which you might think might adds to the mystic but it doesn't. With such a interesting mytos the filmmaker created surely something better could have been done to wrap things up.
While it may not be the classic Wicker Man is, I believe in time it will find its own audience and have its own place at the horror film table.