Starring Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Diane Cilento, Britt Ekland, Ingrid Pitt, Lindsay Kemp, Russell Waters, Aubrey Morris, Irene Sunters, Walter Carr, Ian Campbell
Directed by Robin Hardy
Expectations: Very high.
The Wicker Man may be 40 years old this year, but age definitely hasn’t tarnished its creepy take on the horror genre. It’s a very unique film, so it’s easy to see why it has stood the test of time right from the opening moments. But it’s where the film slowly ventures that makes The Wicker Man unforgettable, as the layers of story peel away and our main character finds himself closer and closer to understanding what is happening on Summerisle.
Honestly, I’m tempted to just call it a day on this review right here. It’s one of those movies where “To tell more would be a crime,” is perfectly apropos. Perhaps in this day and age, the secrets this film holds wouldn’t surprise or creep out modern viewers, but I’d still rather let people experience it for themselves. I also imagine many will have seen the 2006 remake starring Nicholas Cage, which I’m guessing probably has a somewhat similar story. I haven’t seen that one so I can’t attest to its quality, but I’d be willing to bet it’s nothing close to this one. Even a great reproduction is still a reproduction, but this 1973 original is wholeheartedly the real deal (and I haven’t heard anything about the 2006 remake that points to it being anything close to great).
The Wicker Man rarely feels like a horror film, at least not a traditional horror film, but it’s chock full of truly creepy situations and characters. The film builds remarkably well, taking us down a dark path slowly but surely. A healthy love of mystery and culture will help you enjoy The Wicker Man, as the film is not bloody in the slightest. It’s actually much more erotic and sexualized, but even that is probably telling too much.
It would also be helpful if you enjoy musicals because The Wicker Man has musical numbers woven deeply into the fabric of the film. This is at first strange and completely unexpected, but the songs are essential to the film. This was made in the early ’70s so there is a healthy, folksy vibe to the songs, but even though this dates the film, it also enhance its creepy, haunting vibe more than almost any other aspect of the film. 40 years on, some of the songs have transcended their roots into being unintentionally funny, but even the laughs are colored by the film’s manipulative nature. I often wondered if the laughs only seemed unintentional, when in fact I was playing right into the film’s hand.
The Wicker Man is also exceptionally well-shot, drawing us into the small town life depicted in the film with ease. It is often beautiful, finding striking images to capture and sear into your brain with no hope of forgetting them. The Wicker Man is a veritable ocean of these images; it’s no surprise that the film has continued to grow its cult following as the years roll on.
So enough prattling on in vague terms, just go watch The Wicker Man. It’s a fantastic piece of ’70s cinema that holds up remarkably well, and horror fans looking for something with a different feel will find a lot to like. The Wicker Man definitely lives up to its tall reputation.