e-mail:Smokey X. Digger
The Wicker Man1973, Dir. Robin Hardy
I've been reviewing way too many good movies lately.
It's not my fault though. I keep seeking out these movies that are regarded as B classics, and they turn out to be damn good movies. But you see kids, there's a lesson to be learned from this.
The Wicker Man is an extremely effective movie. It's low budget, there are no wild special effects to speak of, but it kept me riveted from start to finish. The point (which has been made again and again) is, a movie need not cost a zillion dollars to be good. A movie need not be chock full of state of the art computer graphics to be good. A movie need not be cast completely with age 19 and under fresh young WB faces, the acting caliber of which is closest to that of a trained ape to be good. With the year 2000 almost gone, possibly the worst crop of movies ever, have we learned nothing? After watching (or perhaps not watching) excrapaganzas like Battlefield Earth and The Cell fall flat on their CGI faces, why did we not flock to Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai? Why did Blair Witch II suck so bad? Why are there six thousand copies of Stigmata, which wasn't even made this year, polluting the new release shelves at Hollywood Video, and not one frickin' copy of The Virgin Suicides? If every pinhead who went to see Little Nicky would just ... oh yeah, I was going to review a movie, wasn't I?
"Provocative and bizarre" and "a must see", trumpets the box of The Wicker Man, and the box is right on all counts. This cult classic from 1973 is one strange and engrossing movie. It has fallen into semi-obscurity perhaps because of its low-budget origin and left-of-center subject matter, but that's quite enough hyphens for this review. This film has its basis in the cult / outsider story, wherein someone observes the activities of a culture that they find completely abhorrent but strangely attractive. Not attractive just because of the naked girl doing seductive dance in the next room at the local inn, but we'll get into that later.
Set on an island off of Scotland, The Wicker Man has its rustic charm. There's the small schoolhouse (in which they teach kids about phallic symbols), the chemist's shop (in which you can buy fetal puppies and foreskins), the churchyard cemetery (in which people have sex out in the open), and pub / inn called The Green Man. Oh yeah, and there's a big frickin' maypole. So, despite its rustic charm, its safe to say there's something fucked up going on here.
Sgt. Howie is a devout Christian cop from the mainland who comes out to the island to investigate an anonymous letter about the disappearance of a local girl. The people of the island are of course not helpful, but little clues pop up along the way to suggest that they may in fact be hiding something. So Sgt. Howie shacks up at the local inn, where the patrons sing bawdy songs about the innkeepers daughter Willow, played by a mighty hot Britt Ekland. That night, as the Sgt. tries to sleep, Willow does a seductive nude dance, which is not an entirely unenjoyable experience for the viewer. But keeping my mind out of the gutter, I return to the review. After learning beyond a shadow of a doubt that these people like their folk tunes (the guys at Stomp Tokyo suggest that this could be a horror musical, but that brings up a questionable association), Sgt. Howie decides to pay a visit to this Lord Summerisle that he keeps hearing about. On the way, he sees a very strange ritual being played out.
Lord Summerisle is played by Christopher Lee. If you've only seen him in his monster roles, this will be a pleasant change of pace. He is however, having an absolutely horrendous hair day (how's that for alliteration!). He politely explains to the Sgt. that on Summerisle, they worship the older gods. That got me hankering for some Lovecraft-esque Elder Ones, but God knows we have enough bad Lovecraft movies. already. Anyway, Howie's Christian sensibilities are offended, and he vows to clean up this island of filthy heathens. What happens next just completely screws with whatever expectations you might have.
IN CLOSING: To get back to the point I was making before this review interrupted me, The Wicker Man is an excellent, effective, and engrossing movie. So engrossing that I even forgot there was a wicker man until it showed up, and you better believe it packs a punch. This film is definitely a B masterpiece, and it should be sought out by any fan of intelligent horror.
A review by someone who knows what they're doing: Stomp Tokyo