The Wicker Tree
Drama / Horror
The Wicker Tree
Drama / Horror
Young Christians Beth and Steve, a gospel singer and her cowboy boyfriend, leave Texas to preach door-to-door in Scotland . When, after initial abuse, they are welcomed with joy and elation to Tressock, the border fiefdom of Sir Lachlan Morrison, they assume their hosts simply want to hear more about Jesus. How innocent and wrong they are.
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June 19, 2018 at 03:46 PM
Sometimes, dead is better.
Admittedly, you could have taken a 6 inch brush and coloured me sceptical for this one. I am a huge fan of the original Wicker Man (less so of the Nicolas Cage version) and so it was with apprehension and doubt that I ventured into this sequel of sorts. The one saving grace may have been the close involvement of Robin Hardy, the original author and director of the Christopher Lee classic.
Lee was pencilled in to star in this movie but unfortunately health problems excluded him from doing so, his appearance is stripped down to a very incidental flashback scene, yet his name still rides high in the opening credits. This is only the first disappointment that you will experience when it comes to The Wicker Tree.
It is essential to be fair and state that it is far from the worst horror movie you will see this year, as it has a certain amount of redeeming features. The problem is the unfortunate fact that it will always have to stand comparison to the original, a movie which has cemented itself as an indisputable classic.
One of the primary difficulties which The Wicker Tree stumbles to overcome is the overall tone of the movie. It can't seem to decide whether it's a knowing and acerbic in-joke, a serious thriller or a humorous homage to its predecessor. This is one of the main reasons that it fails to have any definite resonance with the viewer, although it doesn't make it difficult to watch. There are some beautifully composed shots of the unforgiving Scottish countryside and a particularly handsome raven, but there's so little going on under the surface that it quickly becomes the equivalent of a rushed meal at a fast food restaurant, complete with the subsequent guilt, nausea and comedown.
The American leads are satisfactory in that all they have to do is play vacuous Evangelist Christians, sent over on a mission to the remote Scottish village. The villagers are played for comic relief rather than any form or actual menace and so the inevitable 'scene' that we're all waiting for the entire movie is played out like a community centre theatrical production of The Wicker Man, only with a slightly bigger budget and more actors.
If you're a Hardy obsessive, by all means give it a shot. If you're unfamiliar with the movie's origins, you'll probably get a few laughs out of it, but that's hardly what one would expect when a story comes from such good original stock. A missed opportunity.
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Oh dear !
Difficult to describe just how bad this attempt to bring up to date the Wicker Man story is without totally dissecting it and going into detail, but frankly it's just not worth that kind effort. Some of the acting is okay - though the two American leads are both pretty poor - and the direction is competent, that's all the positives done and dusted ! The storyline doesn't work very well, the music is absolutely woeful and completely wrong - unlike in the Wicker Man where it was perfect and added greatly to the atmosphere - and the sense of realism you get from the original is totally missing here. The film feels and looks a bit like a fairly low budget Hollywood remake, a real surprise considering they were both made by the same director. I'm not going to waste any more time and energy on this very poor effort, except to say that it's only highlight for me was a comedy scene and if you love the truly classic Wicker Man, do yourself a big favour and stay well away from the Wicker Tree !
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Sadly, a weak companion-piece to the seminal original film
I think the thing that is most disappointing about The Wicker Tree is that it's taken such a long time to come to the screen. Its production spanned several years. The working title 'Cowboys for Christ' is actually quite an accurate description of the film so it seems that the basic idea has remained the same. In fact, it's based on a novel written by Robin Hardy, the director of the first movie The Wicker Man. I haven't read the book but I am very familiar with the original film which remains one of the best movies of the horror genre. The fact that Hardy announced that he would return to director duties and make a spiritual follow up to this seminal classic generated some anticipation. Sadly, the result is a far cry from the original and not a good film on its own right.
There are several problems with this production. The first one is that the story just isn't very good. Its plot trajectory is similar in some ways to The Wicker Man but only in the sense that you kind of know where this is going and it only serves to dispel any possible mystery and tension. In fact, generally speaking, this feature has almost no suspense at all. For some inexplicable reason it seems to have been played for laughs, except not very good laughs because I would hardly say this works as a comedy. At best it comes across like an episode of 'Monarch of the Glen' with some added nudity. It really is that bland unfortunately. It has all the atmosphere of a TV drama. Where the first movie had terrific music and a compelling mystery, this one has a dreary soundtrack and no intrigue. The horror side of the story is only half-heartedly introduced in the final reel. The wicker tree itself seems almost irrelevant while the murder scene is bizarrely underplayed – I mean a subtle depiction of cannibalism? Hmmm, okay.
Another key issue is the two leads. The two evangelical country and western singers are a dreadful couple of characters to base the story around. It feels like they were used in order to appeal to the American market. Whatever the case they are detrimental to the feel of the film and the actors playing them put in poor performances. They are not alone, however, as most of the cast are very below par; the one shining exception being the excellently named Honeysuckle Weeks who plays the nymph Lolly. She was in actual fact terrific and had a strong erotic presence throughout, her scene in the river being easily the best moment in the film and the only part that had any real zest about it. Honeysuckle was the only performer in this that you could imagine adding value to the first movie. The only actor to return is Christopher Lee but sadly he has no more than a brief cameo and unfortunately his scene doesn't really add up to much.
It's watchable. But it's dreary. And it feels massively like a missed opportunity. To expect The Wicker Man II is unrealistic but it isn't too much to have expected something with at least a bit of character. Other that Honeysuckle Weeks, there is sadly a short supply of that here.