Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Wicker Tree

Everybody I have met thinks this film is awful.

They haven't seen it.

Although I suspect that if they had they would hold the same conviction.

But not I.

Even the marketing team hated it. Consider the quote they used on the DVD:
"You'll see faces, performances and scenes you'll never see in any other movie." Damon Wise -  Empire

Not a good sign.

That was the most positive thing they could find that someone said about this movie?

This is a little gem. A folk horror curio, it is out of place, out of time. They are not supposed to make films like this anymore. It shouldn't exist and yet it does.

It was billed as a sort of sequel to "The Wicker Man" which I would never need to write about on a site like this, as it is a masterpiece. Robin Hardy tried to recapture the magic of that film, the strange alchemy of folk, music and horror that made it such a vivid work. He couldn't do it. He shouldn't even have tried but in doing so he created something new and odd and utterly different from its majestic predecessor.

Although the beats of the plot are the same (Christians become sacrificial lambs to a pagan cult) the execution is quite different. To a certain extent it is the setting that is so unsettling. This is not an island community but one on the mainland, to us it is accessible but to the American missionaries it is as alien and cut off as Summerisle is to Sergeant Howie. This cult is not cut off from us, it is contained within a familiar heartland.

Another enjoyable quirk is that the two American missionaries are naive and unlikable, we rooted for Howie because even though he was a puritanical soul he at least had a genuine mission, to find the missing girl. These two are here to proselytise and their ways seem as alien if not more alien than the pagan cult they invade. We side with the pagan cult. We cheer them on in their devilry. What is more the ending reveals something that "The Wicker Man" did not toy with. The old ways DO work. It is a delicious turnaround.  The horror of "The Wicker Man" is that both groups are as deluded as each other, committing evil for unknown ends, the sacrifice at the end is as futile as Howie's communion at the start. In "The Wicker Tree" there is a clear winner and it is a strangely joyous scene that leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth.

This film has many faults which have been picked over by many but for me it was a fun and thought-provoking little piece that deserves a bit more attention and a lot more love.

Give it a try.

You might hate it.

Or you might, just might be like me.