I’ve always been bothered by The Wicker Man. I saw it for the first time in my early 20s. I had always heard about it but never taken the plunge til I dated my first mutual film nerd. He loved it. He also loved movies like The Last House On The Left and The Hills Have Eyes, so maybe I should’ve taken note. I’m willing to bet I am one of the only people you’ve ever met who feels the same way about those two films that I do about The Wicker Man. What can I say, I guess I’ve always been a weird bird when it comes to certain films. There’s sometimes a strange distinction between what upsets me and what doesn’t. For example, A Serbian Film. So many people get up in arms about the child abuse themes. For me? The baby looked fake so I was completely taken out of it. E.T. on the other hand…puts me in tears. So upsetting watching E.T. being taken away from his new family. So now do you see who you’re dealing with?
So if A Serbian Film left me “meh-ey” and E.T. killed my soul, why would The Wicker Man get under my skin? Much like my disdain for Wes Craven’s early films, The Wicker Man leaves me with a dirty, sick feeling. With all of them, the sexuality is so overt and rightfully so. Even someone like me who loves porn (yes I said it, I ain’t ashamed) can be skeeved out by these then there has to be something to it right? Well in The Wicker Man it isn‘t relegated to the sexuality. Although I do get a little antsy when Britt Ekland dances seductively outside of Sergeant Howie’s door. It’s more than that, it’s mixed with the cult undercurrent that progresses as the film does. Maybe it’s the Atheist in me that gets skeeved out as well. It’s terrifying to think of how religion can sour a brain. What I’m getting at is that 1973’s The Wicker Man bothers me in an uneasy way. It’s not a film I enjoy watching by any stretch of the imagination. Especially the ending. Leaves such a helpless feeling.
So when I was given the chance to check out The Wicker Tree, the follow-up to The Wicker Man, at first I was unsure if I wanted to give it a go. But curiosity got the better of me and I took Anchor Bay up on their offer. On a side note I have to say I was very impressed that they overnighted a copy to me, that was a welcome surprise as opposed to other companies who don’t take the speedy approach. Needless to say I didn’t have much time to overhaul my expectations, so I went in pretty blindly. I purposefully didn’t find any information on this one other than that it was written and directed by original director Robin Hardy. And not to give too much away, but that’s really where any similarities end.
I watched The Wicker Tree twice in a row, and I was still left sort of lost. The film plays out as a closer relative to 2001 Maniacs than the long awaited follow-up to The Wicker Man. It starts with us meeting Beth Boothby and her fiancee Stephen. They’re a lot bit country and a little bit rock n roll; missionaries on their way to help bring the word of Christ to the people of Scotland. Though a moot point, it seemed strange to me because Scotland has always been a primarily Christian country. However once you find out that they were invited there, it makes a bit more sense. A bit. I don’t like to get lazy when it comes to talking about movies, especially new movies that people are interested in knowing if they should spend their hard earned money on. But I really don’t know how else to sum up my thoughts on The Wicker Tree except for bullet pointing out some plot points.
*Beth and Steve are committing themselves to chastity. Well, trying to, Steve is pretty horny.
*Beth is a singer, and she ain’t bad. But she’s trying to shed her stereotypical trailer trash past and career.
*As in the original the townsfolk are plotting against them.
Spoiler alert! Steve macks it to another chick, they convince Beth she’s something special, they attempt to sacrifice them both much as Sergeant Howie was in the original. I won’t say whether they succeed or not. The ending actually resembles a Tales From The Crypt episode more than anything.
So after all of this, you might expect I’m going to tell you to stay away from it. No, not exactly. Is it high art? No. Will it compare in any capacity to the original? Not on your life. Is it a fun film? Actually, yeah it kind of is. Like I’ve said, if you like films in the vein of 2001 Maniacs you’re going to really like this one. It’s that film but with Scottish accents. If you’re expecting something to compare to the original, then avoid this because they’re two completely different films. If you highly respect the original, this one will irritate the hell out of you. On the other hand if you’re indifferent you’ll likely be forgiving. Christopher Lee has a cameo, but blink and you’ll miss it. All in all I say stay for the laughs, not the deep symbolism or dirty cult feelings, cause you won’t find them here kid.