Today: February 25, 2024

The Wicker Tree

It’s taken nearly 40 years for The Wicker Man director Robin Hardy to come up with a spiritual companion piece to his seminal folky horror film but it’s regrettable that the wait was less than worth it.

By Guest Writer – Christa
Ktorides

It’s taken nearly 40 years for The Wicker Man director Robin Hardy to
come up with a spiritual companion piece to his seminal folky horror film but
it’s regrettable that the wait was less than worth it.

The Wicker Tree is stepping into
a sizable shadow cast by its unsettling predecessor. Mirroring the original
film’s plot to a degree – devout Christian comes a cropper at the hands of
Scottish pagans – it has the same director and even features Christopher Lee
in a tiny role so it’s not unrealistic to hope for a quality follow up. Sadly
what we get instead is a wholly unscary, poorly executed mess.

This time proceedings take place on the
Scottish mainland where visiting born again Christian country singing pop star
Beth Boothby (think Britney Spears with a sprinkling of extra bumpkin) played
by Brittania Nicol and her dumb as a sack of squirrels cowboy boyfriend
Steve (Henry Garrett) come to spread the Lord’s Word and try to convert
the apparently entire heathen nation of Scotland to Christianity. They meet a
kindly aristocratic couple, Sir Lachlan Morrison (Graham McTavish) and
his wife Delia (Jacqueline Leonard) who invite the pious pair to stay
with them and take part in the upcoming May Day celebrations.

It’s here that the premise begins to fall
apart for it is made abundantly clear from the get go that the Morrisons (a nod
to the original film’s missing child Rowan Morrison perhaps?) are up to no
good.

An attempt to add some eroticism goes badly
awry with a game Honeysuckle Weeks (Foyle’s War fans will be
wide-eyed at her almost constant state of undress) as an employee of the
Morrisons taking an interest in dull Steve and trying to inject something of
the original film’s seductive slant but this fails thanks to the uninteresting
Steve who seemingly goes from devoted fiancé to love cheat in the blink of an
eye.

The real problem the film has is that we
simply don’t care enough about the central couple to be fearful for them. We
don’t even really know what the pagan community are hoping to achieve with
their May Day ritual. Plot threads are left dangling and unexplored, there’s
some gumph about nuclear power stations and infertility but the audience are
left fairly clueless about the community’s motives. This isn’t about a failed
crop of apples.

The tone of the film is all over the place,
with horror sitting uncomfortably with comedy. When the horror finally does
arrive it’s dealt with in a perfunctory manner with little panache or care. The
sinister, unsettling vibe of the original is sadly nowhere to be found nor is
the punch to the gut that the audience felt when Sergeant Howie realised his
cruel fate.

The Wicker Tree is a sad waste of time, it’s superior to the rightly vilified Nicholas
Cage
remake but it lacks in all departments neither comedy, musical nor
horror film. Grim and not in the way it’s supposed to be.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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