Hammer Films’ comeback enjoys a two-pronged boost this month, thanks to Wake Wood and this dread-soaked if derivative chiller about love, obsession and carpentry.
Hilary Swank toplines as Juliet, an ER surgeon living in New York. Discovering her long-time boyfriend Jack (Pushing Daisies’ lee Pace) has had an affair, she moves out of their apartment.
Searching for a new place to live – and perhaps a new life – she meets max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who runs an old, stately apartment building with his grandfather august (Christopher Lee).
Juliet moves in and, after a few fumbling run-ins, a sweet but awkward bond between her and max grows, nicely played by the leads. Alas, Max is from the Norman Bates school of landlords, spying on Juliet while she sleeps; it’s only a matter of time before a murderous game of cat-and-mouse kicks off.
Finnish director Antti Jokinen (making his feature debut) is mostly known for glitzy pop promos, so his decision to let the tension build for a good hour before exploding into gory violence comes as a welcome surprise.
Likewise, Swank and Morgan bring enough shading to the relationship drama that it almost seems a pity when the film lurches inevitably into scream-gorged slasher territory for the finale.
It also strains credibility more than a bit to cast the handsome, dashing Morgan as a sweaty, craven creep who drills peepholes into residents’ walls.
Still, the film serves as a fine example of Hammer’s classic horror film aesthetic – wonderfully ripe dialogue, fog-thick atmosphere, a talented, up-for-it cast (it’s a rare pleasure to see the studio’s signature star, lee, return home), a smattering of skin (Swank takes more showers then she needs to) and a few healthy dollops of grue.
Expect anything more and you’ll be let down; expect a serviceable genre piece and you won’t be moaning to the management.
A sturdy cast and moody camerawork propel this taut, slow-simmering thriller out of the exploitation gutter; the gonzo psycho-killer climax drags it back in. Generic, yes, but gleeful with it.