It's a long time since I read much horror fiction, although in my teens I devoured a number of the short story collections published by Pan, Faber and Fontana. As for horror films, many of them seem obsessed with gore and violence, so I usually give them a miss. But fictional horror at its best can be terrific, as Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson and others have shown.
My favourite horror movie is The Wicker Man, and the very recent film Wake Wood does have some echoes of its brilliant predecessor. The only daughter of a vet and pharmacist is mauled to death by a dog, and in an attempt to cope with their overwhelming grief, the couple move to a small and remote village where they can try to rebuild their life together.
However, it soon becomes clear that there are dark goings-on in the nearby woods. Somehow, the villagers have discovered the secret of bringing a person who has died within the last 12 months back to life – but for three days only. And there are some rather spooky conditions to be met by anyone who wants to avail themselves of this chance to say goodbye for the last time.
Needless to say, the couple cannot resist temptation, and enter into a sort of Faustian pact, which has foreseeably terrible consequences. It's hokum, of course, but done surprisingly well, and the final scene is genuinely memorable and chilling. Much of the power of the film derives from the performances of Aidan Gillen and Eva Birthistle as the bereaved couple, and of Timothy Spall, who presides over the village's rituals with a mixture of geniality and menace that avoids the risk of over-acting the part into absurdity. Although there are some graphic scenes, I would recommend this film to horror fans. It isn't in the same league as The Wicker Man, but it's still a pretty good example of its kind.