For all its pre-Christian paganism, demon child imagery, blood and guts, David Keating’s rural horror movie is at heart an involving portrait of a young couple struggling to come to terms with the death of a daughter. After Alice (Ella Connolly) is killed by a dog, veterinary surgeon Patrick Daly (Aidan Gillen) and his pharmacist wife, Louise (Eva Birthistle), move from the city to a small Irish border town. But it’s the threshold between life and death that preoccupies Louise; she has heard rumours of an ancient ritual that will bring Alice back, if only for three days. The superstitious villagers are in thrall to softly spoken Arthur (Timothy Spall), whose creepy, avuncular manner has something of the country squire to it. It is Arthur who presides over the resurrection ritual, which involves sewing the daughter’s disinterred corpse and her living mother inside the carcass of a cow. However, as in Stephen King’s ‘Pet Sematary’, itself derived from WW Jacobs’s horror tale ‘The Monkey’s Paw’, the couple soon realises that ‘not everything that comes back is the same’.
This third release from the revived Hammer is an Irish-Swedish co-production, shot in the winter of 2008 and only now dug up and released. Given that Brendan McCarthy’s solid script taps into a familiar vein of British rural horror, it’s hard to understand this delay. True, there’s little new here, but the performances are convincing, the cinematography by Chris Maris (‘Frostbite’) is suitably sludgy and atmospheric, and make-up designer Kaj Grönberg’s visceral re-birthing scenes are somehow both disgusting and moving.