Review: The Wicker Tree

Directed by Robin Hardy

Anchor Bay DVD and Blu Ray 30 April

Belated ‘sequel’ to The Wicker Man that’s as much black humour as horror.

Widely regarded as one of the best horror movies of all time, and deservedly so, The Wicker Man was always ripe for a follow-up – in fact the surprise is that it’s taken so long to appear. The closest we’ve come is a misguided remake back in 2006 starring Nic Cage, which has become an unintentional cult comedy. Originally a novel called Cowboys for Christ written by the director of the original, Robin Hardy, his own ‘spiritual sequel’ adaptation explores much of the same territory, but in a very different way.

When born again Christians Beth (Brittania Nicol) and Steve (Henry Garrett) travel fromTexastoScotlandto convert people to the word of the Lord, they receive quite a frosty welcome. Lucky for them that Sir Lachlan (Gavin McTavish) and his good lady Delia (Jacqueline Leonard) want to welcome them to the isolated community of Tressock with open arms. Unlucky for them that said community follows pagan rituals and May Day is fast approaching.

Corrupted by the locals – Beth moves in with the housekeeper and her girls, and Steve is seduced by the horse-riding Lolly (a splendid turn by Honeysuckle Weeks) – they naively agree to be the May Queen and her Laddie, without understanding the dire consequences. Will they survive or will the gods of old get their sacrifice once again?

The Wicker Tree was always going to suffer from comparisons with its predecessor, but actually – in spite of the shared themes and the cameo from Christopher Lee – it’s a totally different animal. Taken as such, this is actually a pretty decent movie which offers as much black comedy as it does horror. The way these two Redeemers are obviously surrounded by cultists but wander around with big smiles on their faces saying everything is “Awesome”, for example. And when butler and resident taxidermist Beame (the always reliable Clive Russell) asks “Where is my bowl of eyes?” when he’s preparing to stuff someone, you can’t help but chuckle.

But it is at the end that The Wicker Tree does come close to capturing the surreal and disturbing nature of the 1970s film – with an excellent climax involving the titular and iconic tree. Once again, the suspense comes from not knowing whether either of the main characters will survive, and considering Edward Woodward’s fate pretty much anything could happen. The other selling point is Hardy’s visual flair: the film looks superb, especially on blu ray. So, if you leave your preconceptions behind, you’ll definitely have a good time with this one.

Branching out into new territory, this deserves to be judged on its own merits 7/10

Paul Kane

Click here to order The Wicker Tree on Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk

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