Following on from remake Let Me In and the recent Hilary Swank chiller, The Resident, Hammer Films’ third latest cinematic offering, Wakewood, hits cinema screens tomorrow.
After the death of their young daughter in the film’s opening scene, Patrick (Aidan Gillen) and Louise (Eva Birthistle) retreat to the countryside and set up shop in the quiet backwater town of Wakewood in an attempt to patch up their disintegrating marriage. One night, during a disagreement where Patrick is driving his wife to the train station, their cars breaks down and they inadvertently stumble upon a kind of pagan-y sacrificial-cum-rebirth ceremony, preceded over by the town’s leader (Timothy Spall, complete with an Irish brogue that come and goes during all his scenes).
Confronted by Tim and his townsfolk back at their home, the couple are informed that if they wish, they will be granted the opportunity to spend three days with their deceased daughter, whom the residents of Wakewood can bring back to life. After much soul-searching (which roughly equates to around two and a half minutes of screen time) the couple agree to go ahead with the process. After their initial happiness and joy of this seemingly miraculous rebirth, they soon come to realise (surprise, surprise) that their little poppet is not quite the cherub she was in her past life.
After a long absence away from the silver screen, Hammer Films are under new management and back as fully-fledged players in the horror market. Why, oh why, then did they insist on attaching themselves to such an inert film as Wakewood? To make matters worse, the film isn’t even an original Hammer production, and was an acquisition by the studio!
It’s a film which falls flat at pretty much every level. It’s badly shot, badly lit, badly edited, badly acted and worst of all, apart from the grisly effective rebirth scenes, isn’t remotely scary and just ends up being a horrible bore. It never manages to summon up an atmosphere which you could describe as “chilling” and any traditional jumps achieved are via the post-production process, where it’s a case of cranking up a “whoosh” or “thuds” a notch or two on the sound mix. The rest of the film plays like a game of spot the rip-off of other superior films in the genre like Don’t Look Now, Pet Semetery, The Omen, Carrie and of course, The Wicker Man.
Frustratingly, the town whose title the film is derived from, never factors into the story at all. We get no sense whatsoever of the community and why they are fully supportive the black magic used and the supernatural rituals. Unlike other horrors with a similar setting, the location, crucially, never comes to life to become a character in itself.
Aidan Gillen and Eva Birthistle as the grieving couple have nothing in the way of chemistry together and performance wise, are barely phoning it in here. Gillen in particular is incredibly disappointing, and one would imagine the sole reason for doing the film (apart from the obvious monetary one) was that location-wise, it was a car journey away from his home. He does absolutely nothing with the role. In fact, they both deal with the reanimation of their once deceased child with the utmost of ease and act like she’s just been away to a relatives’ house for a couple of weeks and not in the ground for almost a year. They seem to take this supernatural proposal and eventual outcome completely in their stride.
When it’s inevitably revealed that the little girl has gone “bad”, the audience are told this through a kindly old neighbour who seems to have been able to discover this fact by waving what looks like a mini abacus in front of the child. The film really is that weak and unimaginative.
If Hammer is serious about re-establishing themselves as a reputable brand they should avoid anything which even closely resembles Wakewood in the future, in much the same way that audiences should steer clear here.