After the tragic death of their daughter Alice (Connolly) in England, veterinarian Patrick (Gillen) and chemist Louise (Birthistle) relocate to the tiny Irish village of Wake Wood. While settling into rural life they stumble across a creepy local ritual that might reunite them with their daughter for three days. They talk to the village elder (Spall) and agree to the rules, but they have a secret that could be their undoing. Then when they get Alice back, they decide to keep her. Although there's a heavy penalty for breaking the rules.
The filmmakers cleverly play on familiar mythologies and movie imagery as they quietly freak us out from start to finish. Even the tiniest details glimpsed at the edge of the screen are key elements in the overall atmosphere, and we quickly begin to feel the isolation and claustrophobia of this small village, whose border is marked by towering wind turbines that whoosh menacingly as they remind the characters not to cross the boundary.
Meanwhile, Gillen and Birthistle give beautifully offhanded performances that feel utterly real, adding a heart-wrenching layer to the story. We identify with them as we follow their search for a way out of this bizarre situation, and then we're horrified as things begin to twist and turn in very nasty directions. Spall is also terrifically restrained as the devilish patriarch, and Crowley and McCabe add texture as locals who have experience with this kind of thing.
The only aspect that lets the film down is its obvious low budget, which leaves some of the violent action moments feeling undercooked. Although much of this may actually be due to some rather ropey editing. But there are plenty of scenes that convey a real sense of yucky grisliness, and Chris Maris' cinematography beautifully captures the lush dampness of the locations. But in the end, the originality of the story and the conviction of the cast overcome all of this to really grab hold of us.
Run time: 90 mins
In Theaters: Friday 25th March 2011
Distributed by: MPI Media Group
Production compaines: Hammer Film Productions, Exclusive Film Distribution, Vertigo Films, Bord Scannan na hEireann / Irish Film Board, Fantastic Films, Solid Entertainment, Film I Skane, Radio Teléfis Éireann
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Fresh: 17 Rotten: 4
IMDB: 5.5 / 10
Director: David Keating
Producer: Brendan McCarthy, John McDonnell
Screenwriter: David Keating, Brendan McCarthy
Starring: Eva Birthistle as Louise, Ella Connolly as Alice, Amelia Crowley as Mary Brogan, Aidan Gillen as Patrick, Brian Gleeson as Martin O'Shea, Ruth McCabe as Peggy O'Shea, Timothy Spall as Arthur, Dan Gordon as Mick O'Shea, Tommy McArdle as Tommy, John McArdle as Ben, Aoife Meagher as Deirdre, Siobhán O'Brien as Pharmacy Customer, Alice McCrea as Lady Customer, Johnny Fortune as Mechanic, John Hand as Arthur's Helper 1, Darragh Hand as Arthur's Helper 2, Steven McDonnell as Boy in field, Simple The Bull as The Bull
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