Review: Wake Wood (18) ****

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On limited release

Hammer’s resurrection continues with this dark tale of paganism in rural Ireland in which a grieving couple find they can bring their dead daughter back to life via an ancient, blood-soaked ritual.

Aficionados of the gory, glory days of the old Hammer will recognise some trademarks: strangers in a strange land, dread secrets, black magic and a magnificent sense of appeasing the old gods.

Aiden Gillen and Eva Birthistle are Patrick and Louise Daly, the parents desperate for more stolen time with their child; Timothy Spall and Ruth McCabe the locals with (temporary) power over life and death. Set in a suitably gothic landscape of skeletal trees, moist earth and muttering neighbours, Wake Wood hints at what may yet go on in isolated communities where history and tradition have morphed into an accepted way of life (and death).

Boasting more than a touch of Stephen King’s Pet Sematery with a smidgen of The Bad Seed and The Wicker Man – swap Scotland for Ireland, and Christopher Lee’s Lord Summerisle for Spall’s Arthur, the town’s unofficial mayor – this marks something of a return to form for the new Hammer.

Producer Brenda McCarthy (who conceived the idea) and director David Keating have penned a script that hints at the changes that occur when the dead lie in the earth. The Dalys are warned that they can keep their child for only three days. When they break their word, their daughter slowly changes, and not for the better…

Fully embracing Hammer’s past reputation, this unusual, atmospheric chiller considers the nature of evil and how innocence can become corrupted when blinkered loved ones break the rules.

A success on the festival circuit in the UK and Ireland, Wake Wood is on limited release.