January 29, 2012

Filthy Review - The Wicker Tree

The Wicker Tree (2010)

Review by Jude Felton

The grand old year of 1973 was memorable for a couple of things. The first was that I crawled, kicking and screaming, into this crazy world. The second, which is slightly more interesting, is that horror fans were treated to the triumvirate of The Exorcist, the oft-overlooked Don’t Look Now and Robin Hardy’s classic tale The Wicker Man. Of course, it is the latter of the three that bears mention most heavily in this review, as Hardy is back, almost 40 years later, along with producer Peter Snell, with his companion piece to that movie in The Wicker Tree.

Now, comparisons will no doubt be made to his earlier movie even after all this time. To me though that is a little unfair, although not unexpected. The Wicker Man is an iconic movie, the imagery was incredible and the lead cast of Christopher Lee, Edward Woodward and Britt Ekland were fantastic. If we were talking about the remake of The Wicker Man, which limped onto screens in 2006, I would understand. I rarely get too upset over remakes, but that flat-out hurt my eyes to watch.

The Wicker Tree, however, is not a remake but a companion piece based on Hardy’s novel Cowboys for Christ, and although it follows a similar(ish) plot it does have enough going on to stand on its own. In this movie former wild child Country singer turned born again Christian, Beth Boothby, and her fiancé, Steve, leave their native Texas to fly over to the badlands of Scotland to help spread the word of God to the heathens that live there.

Their destination in Scotland is the small town, or village, of Tressock, a town dominated by a nuclear power plant and its boss Sir Lachlan Morrison. The two young Americans are welcomed with open arms into this secluded corner of the world, in fact they arrive just in time for the town’s annual May Day celebrations.

It goes without saying that all in the town is not as it seems, it’s full of eccentric characters and incredibly horny characters, but very few children. Could this be due to the power plant, or something more sinister?

Whilst watching The Wicker Tree I did find myself noticing the similarities in terms of the plot, and if you are familiar with The Wicker Man you might have a rough idea of where the movie is heading. That being said, it is an enjoyable ride to see through to its climax. The characters, whilst occasionally clichéd, are fun to watch and the underlying humor, whilst sometimes very subtle, runs throughout the movie. Yes it is a dark movie, and does a great job of creating an imposing sense of doom throughout, and on occasion fairly visceral, but it is the dark humor that really carried the movie for me.

To look at The Wicker Tree is quite beautiful, the setting is idllyic, although I found it to be a snapshot cliché of how the UK is perceived from the outside world. Maybe that was Hardy’s intent though, as we do follow the tale through the two Americans eyes. Still, it is nicely shot, the pacing and editing has a controlled feeling to it, which makes a really pleasant change and yes Christopher Lee does pop onto screen briefly.

To me The Wicker Tree is a return to a style of film, and filmmaking, that is rarely seen today, and it works very well. It won’t have the impact that its 1973 predecessor had but that is not to say that it is not worth your time. I recommend watching this, and I do recommend it, as it is intended and that is as a companion piece. I feel you will get more enjoyment out of it rather than by looking at it as a belated sequel, of which it isn’t.

It was a brave decision to make this film, but one that I feel paid off. 

The Wicker Tree is released by Anchor Bay and is currently on a limited release at theaters.

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