Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Review - The Wicker Tree (2010 - Dir. Robin Hardy)

Let's get this straight out of the way: The Wicker Tree is not as good as The Wicker Man. But you can say that about 99.999% of films. Robin Hardy set such a high standard it would be unreasonable to expect another film of such exceptional quality. Just as Joe Dolce could never hope to hit the giddy heights of 'Shaddap You Face'. Maybe not.

Is it any good then? Well, I liked it. It grew on me more and more as the film progressed. I suspect it will improve on repeat viewings. The tone of The Wicker Tree is more comedic than The Wicker Man - one scene involving a gentleman's middles perhaps goes a tad too far down this route - but it still has an unsettling atmosphere and has its fair share of erotic moments.

Beth Boothby (Brittania Nicol) is a pop star - with many hit parade top tunes to her name - who just so happens to be a born again Christian. Steve (Henry Garrett) is a cowboy. Who just so happens to be engaged to Beth. They have silver chastity rings so jiggery pokery is off the menu. They decide to become missionaries (eh? Didn't we say no hanky panky?) and set off to Tressock, Scotland. If you've seen The Wicker Man, it's fair to say you have a fairly good idea of what's coming next: songs, comedy moments, rudies and horror. Hardy leaves the horror to your imagination without resorting to gratuitous splatter scenes. This fits perfectly with the tone and feel of the film. 

As with The Wicker Man, this film deals with a clash between a current religion and the pagan Gods, who are used very cynically to explain away a sticky situation that the big bad boss man, Sir Lachlan Morrison, finds himself in. It also poses the question, 'Can you escape from fate?'. I think that the answer is given, in that everyone plays their part in the game, but I won't reveal the final outcome. If fate is definitely real, I would just sit playing PS3, eat coconut macaroons and drink Tizer all day rather than going to work. Fate will take care of the rest. If you can't change your fate you may as well have a laugh in the meantime.

The ending - again, it's never going to be as mind-numbingly horrific as The Wicker Man's but it is very atmospheric. I felt that it was a little bit rushed, possibly because I wanted to spend longer in the unsettling atmosphere surrounded by the gorgeous imagery. The titular tree is a stunning piece of design (originally drawn by Robin Hardy). It deserved more screen time. The ending, especially the final shot, reminded me of Hammer and Amicus productions. Very British. Which contrasts nicely with the casting of two Americans as the lead roles.

Sadly, Christopher Lee couldn't play the part of Sir Lachlan Morrison due to a back injury. What a difference that would have made. Graham McTavish is okay in the part and by the end, when he gets all shouty, I didn't mind him too much. But you can't help wondering... 

Robin Hardy would like to make a third film, to make it a trilogy. What a great fella. He's in his eighties and is still able to make a film of this quality and think about making another. After seeing The Wicker Tree, I would look forward to it. A salute is definitely the order of the day.

If you like this you could also try:
The Wicker Man (if by some miracle you haven't seen it - do I even need to bother saying that this is the original, not the 2006 waste of time), Dead of Night, Dr. Terror's House of Horrors, Theatre of Blood.

1 comment:

  1. I was sold the minute I heard it involved a cowboy going to Scotland. Definitely sounds like it's worth a watch - does the soundtrack sound anything like 'Entertainment for the Braindead'?

    The tree looks the spitting image of the old man and lady statue in the middle of the Doncaster Arndale Centre.