The Wake Wood

Author: David Keating & Brendan McCarthy
Genre: Horror/Suspense
Storyline: 9
Dialogue: 8
Characterization: 8
Writer’s Potential: 9

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Grieving parents discover that they can bring their daughter back for three days, but it comes at a price.


PATRICK DALEY and LOUISE DALEY, a couple in their 30s, present daughter ALICE with a hamster, a gift for her ninth birthday. Patrick is a veterinary surgeon, and their home doubles as a clinic, so animals are everywhere. On her way out to school, Alice tries to feed a dog — and it attacks, killing her.

Sometime later, Patrick and Louise arrive in the Wake Wood, a rural community. They move into their home, but they’re a bit at odds with one another. Louise takes a job at the local pharmacy but has trouble concentrating on the work. Patrick works on local farm animals, meeting stylish, middle-aged ARTHUR and his elderly friends, TOMMY and BEN. Together, they birth a calf. Just as the pharmacy closes, Louise meets MARY BROGAN and her odd niece, 15-year-old DIERDRE. Mary Brogan hands Louise an expired prescription, confusing her. Patrick comes home to find Louise wrapped up in Alice’s old clothes, sobbing. She wants to divorce Patrick — the whole thing is too hard with him there. He agrees to drive her to the train station, but his car breaks down on the way. They end up having to hike through the country, coming upon Arthur’s house. Patrick tries ringing the doorbell a few times, but they get no answer. Patrick pulls out a cell phone to call, while Louise decides to look around back. As she goes back, she sees Arthur and a large group of townspeople surrounding a strange figure near a bonfire. She hears birds overhead, begins shaking uncontrollably as her nose bleeds. She runs, grabbing Patrick and telling him to run, too.

They run all the way back to their new home. Arthur’s sitting inside the house, frightening them both. He acts oddly passive-aggressive with Louise, suggesting he knows what she saw. The next morning, Patrick is sufficiently creeped out enough to leave with Louise. He asks her to wait a few days until he settles up and gets the car repaired. The mechanic is confused, because the car seems fine. Louise helps a customer when Mary Brogan and Dierdre come in. Dierdre says strange things and begins convulsing. Louise expresses concern, but Mary shrugs it off. Dierdre mentions Alice by name, scaring Louise. She asks Mary how she could possibly know. Mary says some cryptic things about “what goes on” in the Wake Wood, and when Louise presses her, Mary tells Louise to have another baby. Mary says she can’t.

Patrick calls, asking Louise to help on a job. Louise helps Patrick and MICK and MARTIN O’SHEA (father and son) with a fevered bull. The bull loses control and kills Mick. Patrick tells Arthur he’s leaving, and Arthur accepts that. Then he mentions that he can bring Alice back to them, so they can say goodbye. Patrick thinks he’s nuts, but when he leaves, Louise tells him what she saw — what she thinks was a birth from a dead person. They agree to see Arthur, who asks a series of puzzling questions while adding numbers on an abacus. He tells them that it can’t be longer than a year between death and resurrection. Patrick says she died eleven months, two weeks, and two days ago. The resurrection also can’t happen without a fresh dead body, Arthur explains, and since Mick just died, Patrick and Louise have to convince PEGGY O’SHEA to let them use his remaining life force to bring back Alice. She reluctantly agrees.

Arthur tells them they need something physical from Alice, but because she’s been dead so long, it has to be a little more than a lock of hair. Patrick and Louise sneak into the cemetery and dig up Alice’s grave. Patrick cuts off one of her fingers. They go to Arthur’s house, where the whole town has seemingly gathered. They use a huge tractor to pull Mick apart, so they can sever his spinal column for use in the ritual. Arthur says some spooky things, drops the finger into Mick’s gruesome body, then demands living blood, preferably female. Louise offers her hand. Arthur sets Mick’s body on fire. Ravens caw and fly around as an egg expands from Mick’s chest. It “hatches,” presenting Alice.

Louise cleans Alice up, then puts her to bed. The next day, the family has fun together, playing with water guns, playing soccer, hide-and-seek, etc. Alice asks Louise if she heard music. Louise is confused. Alice elaborates that all night, while she slept, she heard voices singing her name. Patrick runs into a group of farmers participating in a dog fight. One dies, but Patrick rescues the other, sticking the injured dog into his car. Alice asks if she can help stitch him up. Patrick shows her how. Alice asks if she can keep him, names him Howie. Patrick agrees. At night, their happiness renewed, Patrick and Louise make love.

The next morning, Peggy O’Shea shows up and invites Alice to ride ponies at her farm. Patrick and Louise don’t want her to go, but when Alice threatens to throw a tantrum, they agree. Alice enjoys riding the ponies. Martin distracts Patrick and Louise while Peggy takes Alice into the horse barn and asks her some strange questions of her own, abacus in hand. Peggy gets more and more spooked by Alice’s answer to these questions, and Alice goes back into the house, telling Louise she doesn’t like “that woman.” Peggy says gravely that Patrick and Louise must “take her back” immediately.

As they leave, Alice runs ahead while Patrick and Louise discuss what to do. Louise wants to just leave town — the O’Sheas farm is on the edge of the Wake Wood anyway, so they can just disappear. Patrick tells Louise to go get the car while he chases Alice. She approaches the edge of town, and as she passes the welcoming sign, the bite marks and scars of her dog attack re-form, terrifying Alice and Patrick. He rushes and brings her back across the sign, into the Wake Wood town limits. Alice vaguely remembers the dog attack. She asks if Patrick killed the dog; he did. At home, Louise catches Alice convulsing like Dierdre.

That night, Louise awakens after hearing a noise. She goes to check on Alice — everything’s okay there, but she hears another noise. She rouses Patrick, and they descend the stairs to find Peggy O’Shea, Martin, Tommy, Ben, and Arthur waiting downstairs, out for blood. Peggy insists again that they put Alice back in the ground — to be safe. Patrick demands their full three days, but even Arthur urges them to put her back; they won’t, so Arthur makes them promise to alert him if anything strange happens. The next morning, Patrick finds Howie in the yard, dead and skinned. He frantically digs a hole before Alice can see this, but Louise catches him in the act. Louise is horrified, moreso when Patrick says he thinks Alice did it. They agree, once again, to leave town with Alice — and if it works, it works; if not, they’ll still be gone.

Patrick asks to see Alice’s hands, but she won’t let him. Before they can leave, Patrick is called for a veterinary emrgency. Mary Brogan arrives to explain the re-burial ritual, saying they do what they call a “feather walk” — which is exactly what it sounds like — and they put Alice into something they call a “clutch” around her neck, which Mary insists will give Alice comfort. The clutch are crude sticks that go around the neck and cuff the hands. Mary also alludes to Louise being pregnant again. At the pharmacy, Louise takes a test and finds it’s positive. She’s astounded, moreso when Alice tells Louise she already knows about it. Alice is a fraid they no longer love her, then accuses Louise of lying to her. Louise trips over the O’Sheas’ abacus. She’s puzzled, but Alice agrees to take it back — running away before Louise can get any kind of answers.

At the O’Sheas, Patrick investigates the bull that killed Mick, which has been killed just like Howie. Martin’s confused, Patrick less so. Meanwhile, Alice visits Peggy, rides her like a horse and kills her by strangling her with a clutch. Patrick finds the body just as Louise shows up. Patrick tries to tell her about Alice, but she interrupts with the pregnancy news. Martin shows up at Arthur’s and tells her there’s something “wrong” with the outsiders. Alice shows up before they can discuss it further, and she controls Ben’s mind and forces him to die. Patrick and Louise try to go after Louise, but they find the road littered with dead birds. Alice appears and tells them she thinks if she kills enough, she can stay forever. Patrick tricks her and jabs her with a hypodermic that knocks her out. He brings her to Mary Brogan’s and tells her that they lied — Mary’s been dead for longer than a year. Mary takes them to the bonfire clearing. Unconscious Alice invades Patrick’s mind, pleading for him to set her down. He fights her, but he fails, dropping her. She kills Mary. Patrick loses consciousness, and Louise runs away. Alice goes after her.

Arthur and the others find Patrick and confront him about his lies. They stick him into a clutch. Louise hides, then tricks Alice into stepping out of the town limits. She “dies” again. Louise finds a spot in the woods to bury her, and Patrick and the others find her just as she seals up the grave — until the earth erupts and Alice pulls Louise down into the grave with her. Patrick and the others try to stop it, but they fail. Patrick tries to dig but can’t.

Patrick pulls some hair from Louise’s brush. They resurrect Louise, and she tells him everything’s fine, they’re waiting for him, and she’s still expecting the baby. They kiss.


This throwback to the “classic” horror style is both eerie and effective. Taking its emotional underpinning from a potential real-world trauma — parents grieving the loss of their child — helps to sell a premise that’s alternately terrifying and goofy. The writers do an excellent job of establishing these characters, the town of Wake Wood, and layering the suspense after Alice’s “resurrection.” The story logically proceeds from one beat to the next, but it is not as predictable as it could be. It’s marred only by an unnaturally upbeat conclusion. I have nothing against happy endings, but really, it’s not a happy ending — Patrick still only has three days with Louise. Hinting at the darkness of this seemingly sunny end would benefit it.

It’s not a perfect script, though; Patrick and Louise agree to chance Arthur’s weirdness much too quickly, with nothing to go on but Louise seeing something that may or may not be what she thought it was. Maybe if she sees everything much more distinctly — she is positive that she witnessed some kind of creepy life-from-death birth — it would be easier to believe them accepting Arthur’s proposal so quickly.

The fact that they lied about Alice’s death date is a pretty big detail. I find it hard to believe, in a community so distrusting of outsiders, that nobody would independently seek out that information and find out they’re lying. Obviously, if that happened, there’s no story, but the writers either need to clarify why nobody bothers or, perhaps, rely on a different impetus for Alice’s demonic 180 — what if it’s the mere fact that they are outsiders that causes this disaster? Beyond that, when the information is finally revealed, nobody dwells on it. Mary’s horrified, Arthur’s disappointed, and they instantly move on. I like the dishonesty element here because it gives Patrick and Louise intriguing flaws, but it’s not well-executed.

The supporting players aren’t all that well-developed, relying mainly on physical descriptions to distinguish each of them. It didn’t bother me much because this story focuses on Patrick, Louise, and Alice, but the lack of individuality will prevent audiences from feeling any real emotional impact when these people die.

These are all small details that can easily be fixed, but even if they aren’t, it won’t ruin many people’s enjoyment of the film.

This is legendary Hammer Films’ first movie in over 30 years, so it will definitely draw in hardcore horror fans. Since the “horror” elements are based more on psychological suspense than gore or shock value, it could also draw in audiences who like thrillers or even mysteries. It’s a rather adult-oriented premise, so I can’t see it interesting many people under 25.

Posted by D. B. Bates on October 16, 2008 7:17 PM