The long-awaited resurrection of British horror label Hammer Films has finally happened. Production has just begun on The Wake Wood. This is Hammer's first horror movie since To the Devil a Daughter starring Christopher Lee in 1976 and its first feature of any sort since The Lady Vanishes in 1979.
The cast of the new film, which is now shooting in County Donegal, is headlined by Timothy Spall (Harry Potter, Secrets And Lies), Aidan Gillen (best known internationally for his role in HBO's The Wire) and Eva Birthistle (Ae Fond Kiss, Middletown.)
Funding has come from the Irish Film Board (BSÉ/IFB), which has invested $1.1 m (Euros 760,250) through its Production Fund and a further $285,000 (Euros 195,000) in Regional Support funding. The latter is a supplementary fund aimed at incentivising feature films already funded by BSÉ/IFB to shoot outside the Dublin-Wicklow area in the Republic of Ireland. Vertigo Films has taken UK and Irish distribution rights and is planning an autumn 2009 release.
David Keating is directing The Wake Wood from a screenplay he co-wrote with Brendan McCarthy, who came up with the original story. Brendan McCarthy is producing the film along with John McDonnell through their Fantastic Films banner. Simon Oakes and Guy East are Executive Producers.
International rights will be handled by Hammer's sales arm, Exclusive. Early footage is likely to be screened by Exclusive at the AFM in November
It is over a year since Hammer was relaunched with Oakes and Marc Schipper, formerly of Liberty Global's Chellomedia, heading the management team.
'We have spent a year or so bedding down - sorting out the library and the issues around the back catalogue and repositioning the brand in terms of its DNA for the future,' Oakes commented. 'I've been asked a lot of questions about whether we would make old Hammer films. Well, clearly not - they were of their time and great but we're moving on.' He added that The Wake Wood has 'qualities of The Wicker Man in terms of type of film and genre. I was very keen at the beginning of this journey to say that we wouldn't be making slasher films and so forth. The story and the feel (of The Wake Wood) seemed to have Hammer written all over it.'
'Our plans for the theatrical release are very ambitious. It is a really good script and a very talented director,' Vertigo's Rupert Preston commented. 'The Hammer brand certainly does mean that you get mainstream press interested in the film.'
Hammer has access to over $50 million of initial funds through its main backer, Cyrte Investment of the Netherlands. It has a development slate of more than 25 projects sourced out of both Europe and the United States. Hammer expects a number of these projects to go into production during the course of 2008 and 2009.
The Wake Wood follows vet Patrick and pharmacist Louise, who are still grieving after the death of their nine-year-old daughter Alice at the jaws of a crazed dog. They relocate to the remote town of Wake Wood where they learn of a pagan ritual that will allow them three more days with Alice. The couple find the idea disturbing and exciting in equal measure, but once they agree terms with Arthur, the village's leader, a far bigger question looms - what will they do when it's time for Alice to go back'